Compliance Watch:
What are my rights as an hourly employee in Georgia?

April 9th 2024

For hourly workers based in Georgia, understanding your rights goes beyond mere legal obligations; it is a pathway to nurturing confidence and empowerment in your career journey.

As you clock in and out each day, the income you receive for your hard work plays a significant role in determining your professional standing within the workplace. You might find yourself wondering about your employee rights and how to exercise them effectively. However, it is essential to acknowledge that the intricacies of these rights can vary significantly from one U.S. state to another.

If you’re an hourly employee in Georgia, this article is particularly designed for you. Our aim is not only to equip you with essential information to protect your fair rights but also to empower you to actively structure your work experience in a way that aligns with Missouri’s unique legal and regulatory landscape.

This Article Covers

Defining an Hourly Employee in Georgia
Wage and Hour Regulations in Georgia
Rest Laws in Georgia
Deductions, Benefits, and Protections in Georgia
Termination of Employment in Georgia

Defining an Hourly Employee in Georgia

What is Hourly Employment in Georgia?

In Georgia, an hourly employee is someone whose pay is determined based on the number of hours they devote to their work each week, unlike salaried employees who earn a fixed salary independent of their weekly work hours. Georgia’s hourly wage workers typically enter into specific employment agreements with their employers, often using tools like time cards or timesheets to meticulously record their work hours. It is the responsibility of their employers to verify the number of hours these employees contribute every week.

The compensation for hourly wage workers in Georgia is directly tied to the actual hours they invest in their work. Unlike salaried employees with fixed pay, those paid hourly experience fluctuations in their earnings based on their work schedule, leading to potential variations in income from one week to the next.

Additionally, key aspects of hourly employment comprise adherence to the minimum wage and overtime requirements. Most hourly employees are entitled to receive at least the state’s minimum wage. Although there are no strict limits on the maximum number of hours an adult can work in a week, specific rules regulate hourly pay when it exceeds designated weekly thresholds, triggering entitlement to overtime payment for hourly employees.

What are the Key Differences Between Salaried and Hourly Employees in Georgia?

Aspect Hourly Employees Salaried Employees
Pay Frequency Compensated for each hour worked. Compensated on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. 
Overtime Laws Eligible to receive overtime compensation at the rate of 150% of the regular hourly wage according to federal labor laws. May not be eligible to receive overtime compensation at the rate of 150% of the regular hourly wage if they are categorized as exempt by federal labor laws.
Minimum Wage Laws Eligible to earn $7.25 per hour as set by the federal minimum wage law. May not be eligible to earn $7.25 per hour if they are categorized as exempt by the federal minimum wage law.
Voting Leave Must be able to take voting leave if the voting polls are not open for at least 2 hours before the commencement or end of the shift. Must be able to take voting leave if the voting polls are not open for at least 2 hours before the commencement or end of the shift.
Rest and Meal Breaks There is no legal entitlement to mandatory rest and meal breaks. There is no legal entitlement to mandatory rest and meal breaks.
Breastfeeding Breaks They are legally entitled by state law to receive daily paid breastfeeding breaks. They are legally entitled by state law to receive daily paid breastfeeding breaks.
Career Advancement Opportunities Positions structured under an hourly employment structure are typically situated in the lower tiers of a company’s organizational structure, presenting difficulties for progressing in one’s career. Employees on a salaried employment structure are prone to advancing in their professional journeys, which may involve securing salary increments and promotions. This is often due to the nature of their work structure, enabling them to take on increased responsibilities within their organization.
Severance Pay No legal entitlement to receive severance pay upon leaving the company. No legal entitlement to receive severance pay upon leaving the company.

To learn more about Georgia labor laws, you can access our informative guides on understanding your rights as a salaried employee in Georgia and discovering how to run payroll in Georgia.

and Hour Regulations in Georgia

What are the Maximum Weekly Working Hours in Georgia?

The minimum wage laws in Georgia do not implement a rigid maximum cap on the hours an employee can work within a single day or week. However, since most employees are covered under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, the federal definition of workweek would apply.

According to the federal definition, a workweek comprises seven consecutive 24-hour periods that equate to 168 total hours. A workweek may begin on any day of the week chosen by the employer and there can be a single designated workweek for all employees, distinct workweeks for various employee groups, or separate workweeks for individual employees.

Furthermore, it should be emphasized federal labor laws regulate overtime pay for non-exempt employees. According to federal law, employers must pay employees overtime compensation at a rate of one and a half times their regular wage for all hours worked beyond 40 hours per week unless the employee is otherwise exempt.

What is the Minimum Wage for Hourly Employees in Georgia?

The minimum wage is the lowest amount of money a person can receive for every hour they have worked. Although federal wage laws are regulated by the Fair Labor Standards Act, each state in the U.S. has the authority to set a minimum wage that surpasses the federal standard. 

In the state of Georgia, the state’s minimum wage law has set the current minimum wage at $5.15 per hour. However, this minimum wage law is inapplicable to employers who are subject to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. Therefore, in adherence to the federal requirement, an hourly employee hired by an employer covered under the FLSA usually earns at least $290 in a standard 40-hour workweek.

In addition, Georgia’s minimum wage regulations exclude the following types of employers:

  • Employers with sales of $40,000 per year or less
  • Employers with five (5) employees or less
  • Employers of domestic employees
  • Employers who are farm owners, sharecroppers, or land renters

How Many Hours Qualify As Overtime and What is the Associated Pay in Georgia?

In Georgia, there are no state laws that govern the aspect of overtime. Due to this absence, the federal FLSA overtime requirements apply. According to federal law, employees who have worked over 40 hours a week must be additionally compensated at a wage rate of one and a half times their regular hourly wage. Therefore, an hourly employee in Georgia would typically earn $10.88 for every overtime hour worked.

It’s important to note that the FLSA automatically qualifies certain types of workers for overtime pay if they meet the relevant criteria. Typically, employees engaged in manual labor, such as construction workers, factory attendants, and cashiers, are among those protected by overtime laws. However, it’s essential to understand that there are specific exemptions to overtime eligibility for certain job categories, and not all workers are covered by these regulations.

It’s crucial to acknowledge that the FLSA automatically grants overtime pay eligibility to specific types of employees who meet the relevant criteria. Generally, those involved in manual labor, such as construction workers, factory attendants, and cashiers, are safeguarded by federal overtime laws. However, it’s important to be aware that certain occupations have specific exemptions from overtime eligibility, and these regulations do not apply to all workers

First responders, such as police officers, paramedics, and firefighters, are explicitly given overtime protection according to the FLSA, entitling them to receive additional compensation for hours worked over the 40-hour limit in a workweek. Overtime regulations, both in Georgia and across the nation, are crafted to safeguard hourly employees from potential employer exploitation and guarantee just compensation for their extra work hours.

Rest Laws in Georgia

What are the Offered Meal and Rest Breaks for Hourly Employees in Georgia?

In Georgia, the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), governing national employment standards, does not legally require employers to allocate specific times for meal or rest breaks to their employees. However, federal law does require employers to compensate employees for all hours worked, including breaks that last for less than 20 minutes during the workday.

Thus, the decision to allow meal or rest breaks is generally guided by company policy and tradition rather than a legal requirement under federal regulations. If an employer does provide meal breaks during which employees are relieved of all job duties, they are not obligated to pay the employee for that time.

It is also worth acknowledging that several U.S. states have enacted their own laws requiring meal or rest breaks for employees, but Georgia does not follow suit. Georgia’s employers must follow the federal guidelines in this regard, which mandate payment for time spent working and for any shorter breaks given throughout the working day.

Furthermore, Georgia’s law mandates employers to allow employees to take paid breaks in a private, non-bathroom place to express breast milk for their infant child. However, employers with a workforce of less than 50 employees are not required to abide by this law if doing so would cause undue hardship to the employer.

What Laws Govern Time Off and Leaves for Hourly Employees in Georgia?

  • The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993: The regulations outlined in the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provide employees a 12-week unpaid annual leave for addressing matters surrounding serious medical conditions of the employee or their immediate family member, the birth or adoption of a child, or specific military activities. To qualify for this leave, employees must fulfill the following criteria:
    • Have at least 12 months of continuous employment with the same employer before utilizing their leave.
    • Have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours within those 12 months of employment with the same employer.
    • Be employed by an employer with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius.
  • Jury Duty Leave: It is unlawful for an employer to penalize an employee who takes time off to serve on a jury, but they do not need to be paid for the time they have spent responding to a jury summons.
  • Voting leave: If the employee has given reasonable prior notice and if the polls are closed for at least 2 hours before the work shift commences or after it ends, Georgia’s employers must provide employees with 2 hours of time off from work to vote.

Deductions, Benefits, and Protections in Georgia

What are the Laws Regarding Pay Deductions for Hourly Employees in Georgia?

For hourly employees, comprehending the intricacies of wage deductions is crucial. Numerous U.S. states have unique laws and regulations that oversee the timing and manner of these deductions from an employee’s wages, aiming to safeguard earnings from unauthorized deductions. Now, let’s examine how wage deductions are regulated in the state of Georgia.

Notably, in Georgia, there is a lack of specific laws governing wage deductions from an employee’s paycheck. Due to this absence, an employer has the flexibility to deduct various items from an employee’s wages, as long as these deductions do not cause the employee’s wages to fall below the state or federal minimum wage.

  • Cash register shortage
  • Damage or loss of employer property
  • Uniform fee
  • Tool or equipment fee
  • Other items necessary for employment

What are the Provided Hourly Employees Entitlements Under Georgia State Law?

In accordance with the law of Georgia, hourly employees have access to an array of employment benefits during their employment. The following outlines some of the key privileges granted to Georgia’s hourly employees:

  • Overtime Pay: Qualified hourly employees in Georgia are entitled to receive overtime compensation when they work over 40 hours in a single week. Overtime compensation is calculated at a rate of one and one-half (1.5) times the employee’s regular hourly pay. It’s important to recognize that employees cannot waive their right to overtime compensation in exchange for straight-time compensation.
  • Minimum Wage: Qualified hourly employees in Georgia are entitled to receive the minimum wage of $7.25 for each hour worked according to the federal minimum wage law.
  • Worker’s Compensation Insurance: An employee who suffers work-related injuries and/or diseases arising out of and in the course of employment is eligible to receive various kinds of benefits under the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act. Any workplace injury sustained must be immediately reported to the employer to prevent a denial of such benefits. 
  • Unemployment Insurance: Unemployment insurance benefits provide temporary income to those who have lost work through no fault. These benefits are designed to help mitigate the impact of wage loss while the unemployed individual searches for new career opportunities or until they are recalled by their employer to work. Importantly, no deduction is made from an employee’s paycheck to cover this insurance. The State Department of Labor is responsible for administering unemployment benefits.
  • Extended Health Insurance: The federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA)  enables employees to prolong their health insurance coverage after departing from a job. Because this federal law applies only to workforces with 20 or more employees, Georgia has implemented its version, allowing individuals to maintain health insurance coverage for up to 4 months (comprising the remaining policy month at the termination of benefits plus an additional three months) if they have maintained continuous coverage for the six months leading up to the termination of the plan and have accumulated a total of at least 18 months of creditable coverage.

What are the Provided Hourly Employee Protections Under Georgia State Law?

In compliance with Georgia state legislation, employees benefit from numerous vital safeguards that oversee different facets of the employer-employee relationship. These safeguards comprise a diverse array of employment practices, guaranteeing fairness, equal treatment, and the protection of employee rights. The following outlines the key employee protections established by Georgia state law:

  • Anti-Discrimination Laws: Federal law disallows employers from discriminating against employees based on their protected characteristics such as race, color, national origin, age, religion, disability, sex, pregnancy, genetic info, gender identity, and other categories. Employers are legally required to treat all employees fairly and without discrimination in matters relating to hiring, promotions, compensation, and termination. Furthermore, Georgia employers make it illegal to discriminate based on discharged or sealed criminal records. 
  • Right-to-Work Protection Laws: In Georgia, an employer is prohibited from making an employee’s right to work conditional on their membership or non-membership in a labor union or organization, as stated in Georgia’s statutory laws. Additionally, employment cannot be denied based on a person’s decision to pay or not pay labor union dues or other associated fees. Georgia law permits a labor organization to initiate a strike, slowdown, or stoppage after giving the employer a 30-day prior written notice, outlining its intention and the grounds for such action.
  • Whistleblower Protection Laws: In Georgia, employees who report fraud, waste, or abuse are safeguarded from being retaliated against by their public employers. However, for private-sector employers, there are no state laws that explicitly prohibit retaliating against employees who report legal violations.
  • Child Labor Protection Laws: Like many other states, Georgia has established particular laws regulating child labor to ensure that the well-being and safety of minors are safeguarded throughout the duration of their employment. For instance, Georgia has introduced legal restrictions concerning child employment with regards to their age, the type of job the minor is allowed to engage in as well as employment when school is not in session.

Termination of Employment in Georgia

What are the Termination Laws for Hourly Employees in Georgia?

In Georgia, the concept of “employment-at-will” regulates the dismissal of hourly employees. This implies that, in the absence of a written employment contract, employees can be fired at any time and for any reason, as long as the grounds for termination are not discriminatory in nature and do not involve retaliation against the employee for asserting their legal rights. The following provides a more detailed explanation of the exceptions to the employment-at-will laws concerning hourly employees in Georgia:

  • Breach of contract: When a contract of employment exists, its terms supersede at-will regulations, and in Georgia, employees must adhere to the terms outlined in their contracts, including particular time periods of employment or grounds for termination, to avoid the risk of legal consequences. Contracts commonly specify reasons for termination, such as employee misconduct or unsatisfactory performance. Contractual breaches can apply to both oral and written agreements, including collective bargaining agreements.
  • Discrimination: There are various anti-discrimination laws at both state and federal levels. Notably, many wrongful termination claims often involve discrimination. As per federal law, employers are prohibited from terminating employees based on traits like country of origin, race, color, sex, disability, age, or veteran status. Because Georgia’s discrimination laws covering private employees are scant compared to other states, many discrimination claims in the state are regulated by federal law.
  • Retaliation: Employees in Georgia are safeguarded from facing retaliation by their employers for engaging in whistleblowing activities, which include filing complaints for discriminatory practices, participating in union activities, or filing overtime claims. Public employees are entitled to file lawsuits against their employers if they experience adverse personnel actions for reporting workplace violations. However, it’s important to recognize that whistleblower protection laws do not extend to employees hired by private employers.
  • Public policy: As per federal law, it is illegal for an employer to fire an employee for filing a complaint to authorities concerning matters relating to unlawful workplace practices, filing a claim for worker’s compensation, and more. Notably, while federal at-will employment laws are in place, Georgia’s laws do not recognize regulations based on public policy.

Furthermore, in Georgia, there are no laws that mandate the provision of final paychecks to employees who have been fired, suspended, or voluntarily resigned.

Should Severance Pay Be Provided to Hourly Employees in Georgia?

Monetary compensation offered by employers to departing employees, commonly referred to as severance pay, plays a crucial role in providing financial support to individuals as they navigate the transition and job search following unemployment. The specific amount is usually determined based on the employee’s duration of service with the company, often equating to one week’s salary for every year worked. While it is common for this payment to be given as a lump sum, it can also be distributed in multiple installments.

It is important to acknowledge that severance pay, although a valuable employment benefit, is not mandated by federal or state laws. Instead, its provision relies on a mutual agreement between the employer and the employee. Consequently, if the terms outlined in the employment contract or a collective bargaining agreement explicitly require severance pay, the employer is obligated to give it to avoid potential breach of contract claims.

Final Thoughts

To wrap up, knowing your rights as an hourly employee is important for various reasons. Familiarity with rules related to termination, wages, leaves, employment benefits, and protections not only equips you to protect yourself in the event of workplace infringements but also keeps you informed and proactive.

Because employment laws constantly evolve, staying updated on recent legal changes in the employment sector is just as vital. This knowledge is fundamental for making well-informed decisions during your employment, given the continual shifts in employment regulations.

Important Cautionary Note

This content is provided for informational purposes only. While we make every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information presented, we cannot guarantee that it is free of errors or omissions. Users are advised to independently verify any critical information and should not solely rely on the content provided.