Labor and Employment Law Overview: Georgia

Labor and Employment Law Overview requirements for other states

Federal law and guidance on this subject should be reviewed together with this section.

Author: XpertHR Editorial Team

Summary

  • Georgia law prohibits an employer from discriminating against employees on the basis of age and disability. Employers must also provide equal pay protections. See EEO, Diversity and Employee Relations.
  • Georgia requires the use of E-Verify and permits preemployment criminal history checks and drug and alcohol testing. See Recruiting and Hiring.
  • In Georgia, there are requirements relating to the minimum wage and child labor. See Wage and Hour.
  • Georgia has laws that related to employee pay and benefits, including health care continuation, payment of wages, pay frequency, pay statements and wage deductions. See Pay and Benefits.
  • Under Georgia law, employees are entitled to certain leaves or time off, jury and witness duty leave, military leave, voting leave and a day of rest. See Time Off and Leaves of Absence.
  • Georgia generally prohibits smoking in the workplace and using hand-held cell phones and electronic devices while driving. Georgia generally allows an employee to carry a licensed firearm in a personal vehicle on a company parking lot. See Health and Safety.
  • When employment ends, Georgia employers must comply with applicable final pay and job reference requirements. See Organizational Exit.

Introduction to Employment Law in Georgia

Georgia has laws that provide greater protections to employees than federal law, including health care continuation coverage obligations for smaller employers, but generally follows federal law with respect to topics such as occupational safety.

Select Georgia employment requirements are summarized below to help an employer understand the range of employment laws affecting the employer-employee relationship in the state. An employer must comply with both federal and state law.

An employer must also comply with applicable municipal law obligations affecting the employment relationship, in addition to complying with state and federal requirements.

EEO, Diversity and Employee Relations

Key Georgia requirements impacting EEO, diversity and employee relations are:

Fair Employment Practices

Georgia prohibits employment discrimination based on protected characteristics, such as:

  • Age (ages 40-70); and
  • Disability.

The Age Discrimination Act applies to all employers, regardless of size.

The Georgia Equal Employment for Persons With Disabilities Code, which applies to employers with 15 or more employees, prohibits retaliation against an individual for opposing unlawful discrimination, filing a charge or participating in an investigation or hearing.

Equal Pay

Under the Georgia Equal Payfor Equal Work Act (EPEWA), an employer with 10 or more employees must pay the same wage rate to both males and females for equal work in jobs that:

  • Require equal skill, effort and responsibility; and
  • Are performed under similar working conditions.

The EPEWA explicitly says that covered employers do not have to pay the same wage rate to both sexes if such payments are made under the following:

  • A seniority system;
  • A merit system;
  • A system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; or
  • A differential based on any factor other than sex.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on EEO, diversity and employee relations practices in Georgia can be found in the Georgia Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Disabilities (ADA): Georgia, EEO - Discrimination: Georgia, EEO - Retaliation: Georgia, Georgia Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Georgia? Federal requirements can be found in Disabilities (ADA): Federal, EEO - Discrimination: Federal and EEO - Retaliation: Federal.

Recruiting and Hiring

Key Georgia requirements impacting recruiting and hiring are:

Criminal Checks

Under Georgia law, an employer may generally base an employment decision on an applicant criminal record. An employer may obtain criminal history information with the applicant's written consent.

If an employer makes an adverse employment decision based on such records, it must inform the applicant of the following:

  • That a record was obtained;
  • The specific contents of the record; and
  • The effect the record had upon the decision.

Drug Testing

An employer that chooses to conduct preemployment drug and alcohol testing must follow the law, including:

  • Providing advance notice of the testing requirement to applicants;
  • Following proper collection and testing procedures; and
  • Paying all costs associated with testing.

E-Verify

Under the Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act (IIREA), a Georgia employer with more than 10 employees must use the federal employment verification system (E-Verify) to confirm the work eligibility of new hires and rehires.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on recruiting and hiring practices in Georgia can be found in the Georgia Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Preemployment Screening and Testing: Georgia, Immigration, Form I-9 and Work Visas: Georgia and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Georgia? Federal requirements can be found in Preemployment Screening and Testing: Federal and Immigration, Form I-9 and Work Visas: Federal.

Wage and Hour

Key Georgia requirements impacting wages and hours are:

Minimum Wage

Georgia's minimum wage rate is $5.15 per hour. The state law applies to most employers with more than $40,000 in annual sales and with more than five employees. However, because the federal minimum wage is higher, for most employers in Georgia, the federal minimum wage requirements apply.

Child Labor

Child labor laws in Georgia restrict the occupations in which minors may be employed and the number of hours and times during which they may work.

Minors between the ages of 12 and 16 may not work in certain occupations, industries or locations, such as in manufacturing, mills and factories.

Minors between the ages of 12 and 16 may not work:

  • More than four hours on a school day;
  • More than eight hours on nonschool days;
  • More than 40 hours in any week;
  • During school hours (unless the minor has completed senior high school or has been excused from attendance); and
  • Between 9:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on wage and hour practices in Georgia can be found in Minimum Wage: Georgia, Child Labor: Georgia and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Georgia? Federal requirements can be found in Minimum Wage: Federal and Child Labor: Federal.

Pay and Benefits

Key Georgia requirements impacting pay and benefits are:

Health Care Continuation

Georgia requires employers with fewer than 20 employees to offer health care continuation coverage for up to three full months after the month in which coverage was lost. Employers are required to extend continuation coverage to employees and their covered dependents whose coverage terminates for any reason, unless the employee is terminated for cause.

Payment of Wages

Wages must be paid in cash or by check. Exceptions apply. Wages may be paid by direct deposit or a payroll card account if certain conditions are met.

Pay Frequency

Nonexempt employees may be paid semimonthly, or twice a month at equal intervals.

Pay Statements

Labor pool and worksite employers must provide each employee with a paystub that indicates the number of hours worked, the rate of pay and any deductions taken.

Wage Deductions

Union dues may be deducted from wages with the employees' consent.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on pay and benefits practices in Georgia can be found in Payment of Wages: Georgia, Health Care Continuation (COBRA): Georgia and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Georgia? Federal requirements can be found in Payment of Wages: Federal and Health Care Continuation (COBRA): Federal.

Time Off and Leaves of Absence

Georgia has few laws relating to required time off and leaves of absence for employees. These laws include:

  • Jury and witness duty leave;
  • Military leave;
  • Voting leave; and
  • Day of rest requirements (covering employers that operate on Saturday or Sunday).

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on time off and leave of absence practices in Georgia can be found in the Georgia Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Jury Duty: Georgia, USERRA: Georgia, Other Leaves: Georgia, Hours Worked: Georgia and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Georgia? Federal requirements can be found in Jury Duty: Federal, USERRA: Federal, Other Leaves: Federal and Hours Worked: Federal.

Health and Safety

Key Georgia requirements impacting health and safety are:

Weapons in the Workplace

Georgia law generally prohibits an employer from searching an employee's locked, privately owned vehicle on the employer's parking lot or from conditioning employment on an agreement that prohibits an employee from entering the parking lot when his or her personal vehicle contains a licensed firearm.

Smoke-Free Workplace

The Georgia Smokefree Air Act bans smoking in all enclosed areas within places of employment. The ban does not apply to certain areas, such as outdoor areas, and an employer may designate smoking areas that meet certain requirements. Proper signage is required where smoking is prohibited.

Safe Driving Practices

The Hands-Free Georgia Act prohibits all drivers from using hand-held cell phones and other electronic devices.

In addition, a commercial motor vehicle driver is prohibited from:

  • Using more than a single button on a wireless telecommunications device to initiate or terminate a voice communication; and
  • Reaching for a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device in a way that requires the driver to no longer be:
    • In a seated driving position; or
    • Properly restrained by a safety belt.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on health and safety practices in Georgia can be found in the Georgia Employee Handbook: Table of Contents, HR and Workplace Safety: Georgia, Employee Health: Georgia, Workplace Security: Georgia and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Georgia? Federal requirements can be found in HR and Workplace Safety (OSHA Compliance): Federal, Employee Health: Federal and Workplace Security: Federal.

Organizational Exit

Key Georgia requirements impacting organizational exit are:

Final Pay

Upon the death of an employee, an employer can pay wages due to the employee up to $2,500. The wages must be paid to certain individuals in a specific order, beginning with the beneficiary designated by the employee in writing.

References

Georgia law provides immunity to employers that provide information about a current or former employee to a prospective employer regarding the employee's:

  • Job performance;
  • Illegal conduct; or
  • Inability to carry out job duties.

Immunity may be lost if the reference:

  • Is provided in bad faith;
  • Violates a nondisclosure agreement; or
  • Violates a confidentiality law.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on organizational exit practices in Georgia can be found in Payment of Wages: Georgia, Employee Communications: Georgia and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Georgia? Federal requirements can be found in Payment of Wages: Federal and Employee Communications: Federal.