Compliance Watch:
What are my rights as a salaried employee in Georgia?

April 9th 2024

Knowing your rights as a salaried employee in Georgia goes beyond the expansion of your legal knowledge; it functions as an empowering tool to help you navigate your way through your professional journey.

While you navigate your daily work routine, your salary holds a pivotal role in determining your standing within the workplace. Nevertheless, it’s crucial to recognize that the details of the employment arrangement can significantly differ from one U.S. state to another.

This article serves as a guide to address some of the labor questions that have sparked your interest. We’ll explore your rights, leading you towards a work experience that is both informed and empowered, aligning with specific regulations of Georgia.

This Article Covers

Defining a Salaried Employee in Georgia
Common Questions About Salaried Employee Rights in Georgia
Understanding Exempt vs. Non-Exempt Status in Georgia
Wage and Hour Regulations in Georgia
Deductions, Benefits, and Protections in Georgia
Taking Action Against Violations in Georgia
Case Studies and Real-Life Scenarios of Salaried Employee Rights Violations in Georgia

Defining a Salaried Employee in Georgia

What is Salaried Employment in Georgia?

According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and labor laws in Georgia, salaried employees receive a predetermined amount of pay at agreed-upon intervals i.e. biweekly or monthly. Salaried employees may also receive compensation for sick leave as they may meet the eligibility criteria for benefits under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

The FLSA categorizes certain employees as exempt, including some salaried individuals in roles like executives, administrators, creative and learned professionals, computer and outside sales, as well as highly paid employees. If you fall into the salaried category but don’t hold one of these positions, you may be classified as non-exempt and, as a result, qualify for overtime pay.

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

Aspect Salaried Employees Hourly Employees
Minimum Wage Laws Under FLSA and Georgia laws, employees are paid a fixed amount regardless of hours worked. Subject to Georgia’s minimum wage of $5.15/hour or federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour (eligibility applies).
Overtime Laws Exempt under FLSA for certain positions; overtime eligibility varies. Eligible for overtime (1.5x pay) for hours beyond 40 in a workweek.
Paid Sick Leave & FMLA The salaried employee’s pay may include sick leave; specifics vary by employer. May earn paid sick leave and use it with unpaid FMLA leave.
Paid Vacation Pay may include vacation; specifics vary by employer. May earn paid vacation based on hours worked and employer policies.
Maternity/Paternity Leave May have unpaid provisions; duration varies by agreement. No guaranteed paid leave; terms depend on the employer’s policies.
Job Security Typically enjoy more job security due to protections from federal and state laws. Potentially less job security.

These are some of the general differences between salaried and hourly employees in Georgia, but it’s essential to note that specific employment conditions may vary based on individual circumstances and employer policies. If you’d like to know more about Georgia labor laws,  you can access our guide on salaried employees laws.

Common Questions About Salaried Employee Rights in Georgia

What are the Basic Rights of Salaried Employees in Georgia?

Among the key rights that salaried employees in Georgia are that they are entitled to:

  • Right-to-Work policy: Georgia is a “Right-to-Work” state, which ensures that workers cannot be compelled to join a union or make union-related payments as a condition for employment. This safeguard specifically applies to workers who are either not hired or terminated solely for their choice or reluctance to join a union.
  • Minimum Wage: Employees in Georgia have the right to receive a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. However, this minimum wage only applies to non-exempt salaried employees.
  • Overtime Pay: Eligible salaried employees are entitled to overtime pay at a rate of 1.5 times their regular hourly rate for time worked beyond 40 hours in a workweek.
  • Meal and Rest Breaks: Georgia’s labor laws do not require employers to provide meal or rest breaks for adult employees. However, breaks may be granted at the employer’s discretion.
  • Family and Medical Leave: Eligible employees have the right to take unpaid leave for qualified medical and family reasons under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
  • Equal Pay: Salaried employees are entitled to equal pay for work that requires equal effort, skill, and responsibility. Employers in the state cannot base pay differentials on gender, race, color, religion, age, national origin, or ancestry. Rather, differences in compensation can only be based on merit, seniority, quality, and quantity of work.
  • Whistleblower Protections: The Georgia Whistleblower Act, O.C.G.A. § 45-1-4 protects salaried employees from retaliation for reporting their employers’ illegal activities or violations of state and federal laws, including felonies, activities that pose hazards to public health, and solicitation of contributions from employees.
  • Anti-Discrimination Laws: Discrimination during the hiring process based on race, color, religion, sex, age, disability, or genetic information is illegal.

Is Overtime Pay Applicable to Salaried Employees in Georgia?

Yes, some salaried employees in Georgia are eligible for overtime pay. There are certain categories of salaried employees who can be exempt from overtime, yet not all salaried employees are ineligible for overtime. The state adopts federal definitions for the following categories: 

  • Professionals: Possessing advanced knowledge and expertise accumulated through years of experience, which they employ to oversee departments within the organization.
  • Executives: Possess advanced knowledge and expertise and have authority over hiring and firing decisions.
  • Computer Employees: Roles like software engineers, computer programmers, or analysts.
  • Administrative Employees: Having roles in accounting, quality control, human resources, personnel management, or labor relations.
  • Highly-Compensated Employees: Employees whose roles are office-based or do not require manual work. Earning a total annual compensation of $107,432.

For a comprehensive understanding of this topic, you can access our guide on Georgia overtime laws.

Can Employers Deduct Wages from Salaried Employees in Georgia?

Georgia does not follow a unique set of general wage deduction laws. Instead, the state abides by the guidelines outlined in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), a federal statute, as set forth by the Department of Labor. 

Wage deduction laws at the state level vary, but Georgia aligns with the minimum standards set by the FLSA. In Georgia, following wage deduction requirements necessitates obtaining written consent from the employee beforehand. Without this consent, deductions that are not mandated by law are considered illegal.

According to the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, when discussing deductions for uniforms and other facilities under the Fair Labor Standards Act, The FLSA does not mandate uniforms as a requirement. But, if uniforms are required by the nature of the business, and employer, or some other law, the employer should be responsible for covering the cost and maintaining the uniform. 

In instances where the employer requires the employee to handle the cost, it may not reduce the employee’s wage below the minimum wage.

Are Salaried Employees Eligible for Breaks and Leaves in Georgia?

Salaried employees aged 18 and above are not entitled to breaks under federal and Georgia labor laws. An employer may decide to allow employees to take breaks. Employers are guided by the regulations outlined in the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which does not mandate such breaks. 

However, minors are entitled to a 1-hour break specifically designated for meals. Alternatively, they can opt for a 30-minute meal break, accompanied by an additional 30 minutes designated for rest and recreational activities.

The state defers to the FMLA on unpaid family and medical leave for eligible employees. As such, eligible employees are entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth of a child and to take care of the child within their first year of birth, a health condition, or to take care of an immediate family member recovering from an illness. 

Eligible employees may also request leave in cases where an immediate family member serving in the military faces required urgent attention during their active duty or experiences a serious injury or illness.

Can Salaried Employees Request Flexible Work Arrangements in Georgia?

A flexible work arrangement refers to any work schedule that differs from the conventional 40-hour workweek. In Georgia, where labor laws align with the FLSA, which does not specifically address flexible work arrangements, employees are not obligated to adhere strictly to the traditional 9-to-5 work schedule.

Employees and employers in the state have the flexibility to negotiate alternative work schedules. This may involve adopting a compressed work week, allowing employees to work fewer days as long as they meet the 40-hour weekly requirement. Additionally, they can explore flex-time arrangements, enabling employees to set their schedules, provided they fulfill the 40-hour weekly commitment.

Understanding Exempt vs. Non-Exempt Status in Georgia

Understanding the distinction between exempt and non-exempt status is crucial for salaried employees to navigate their rights and responsibilities effectively.

What is the Definition and Implications of Exempt Status in Georgia?

Exempt status denotes the condition of not qualifying for overtime pay. In other words, exempt employees are not eligible for overtime compensation when they work overtime. Georgia adheres to the exemption categories outlined by the FLSA, where an employee’s salary level, compensation structure, and job responsibilities determine their exempt or non-exempt classification.

An employee is classified exempt if they meet the following criteria:

  • Compensation level: Exempt status applies to salaried employees earning over $684 per week or $35,568 annually. It’s important to note that exempt salaried workers are not entitled to overtime pay, but they may receive bonuses and stipends.
  • Type of compensation: Employees should consistently receive the same regular pay within a set pay period.
  • Job responsibilities: Employees who are eligible for exemption from overtime pay include; executives or managerial staff, administrators, learned professionals, computer employees, and highly compensated employees.

What are the Differences Between Exempt and Non-Exempt Salaried Employees in Georgia?

Aspect Exempt Employees Non-exempt Employees
Definition Not entitled to overtime pay for exceeding 40 hours per week. Eligible for overtime pay for working over 40 hours per week.
Pay Structure Paid on a salary basis. Paid hourly.
Overtime No overtime pay regardless of hours worked beyond 40 hours a week. Entitled to 1.5x regular pay for hours exceeding 40.
Monitoring Hours Not expected to track hours worked. Expected to track and report hours worked.
Employee Type Often managerial or professional roles. Blue-collar workers, clerical staff, or retail employees.
Compensation Typically costs more due to skill and discretion expected. Hourly rate, flexibility in scheduling.
Stability Stable paycheck, benefit eligibility. Varied hours, potential for instability.
Paid Time Off May qualify for paid vacation/sick time. Typically not eligible for paid time off.

Please note that this table provides a general overview of the differences between exempt and non-exempt employees in Georgia. Specific details may vary depending on individual employment contracts, industry standards, and changes in labor laws. It’s crucial to stay informed about the latest regulations to ensure compliance.

How to Determine if You're Exempt or Non-Exempt in Georgia?

Determining whether you fall under the category of an Exempt or Non-Exempt Employee in Georgia involves applying three fundamental tests, as established by the FLSA:

  • Salary Level Test: Employees earning an annual salary surpassing $35,568 ($684 per week) are eligible to be classified as exempt.
  • Salary Basis Test: Employees receiving a guaranteed minimum compensation, regardless of the actual hours worked, may qualify for exempt status.
  • Duties Test: In addition to meeting the criteria described in the initial two assessments, an employee must also carry out exempt job responsibilities. These responsibilities can include executive tasks that involve overseeing two or more employees regularly, professional responsibilities that involve engaging in intellectual activities requiring specialized education and the exercise of discretion and judgment, and administrative duties that involve executing supportive operations related to important matters, which require discretion and judgment.

Wage and Hour Regulations in Georgia

What are the Minimum Wage Requirements for Salaried Employees in Georgia?

Georgia’s minimum wage is $5.15 per hour, whilst the federal minimum wage is $7,25. In some exceptions, the federal minimum wage is applied. The minimum salary requirements for salaried exempt employees are set by the FLSA. Currently, an exempt employee in Georgia must receive a weekly compensation of $684.

How is Overtime Compensated for Salaried Employees in Georgia?

When a salaried employee that qualifies for overtime works more than 40 hours in a single workweek, they’ll receive overtime pay at a rate of one and a half times their usual wage.

Deductions, Benefits, and Protections in Georgia

What are the Permissible Deductions from Salaried Employee Pay in Georgia?

According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), it is against the law for employers to reduce the salary of a salaried employee due to reduced work hours or availability, as long as the employee is ready and willing to carry out their responsibilities.

Similarly, employers cannot deduct pay for partial-day absences. This means that if an employee takes a half-day off, they should still receive their full day’s pay. However, there are certain allowable deductions that employers can make from the pay of salaried employees. These include unpaid disciplinary suspensions, excessive use of benefits, and personal leave.

What are the Provided Employee Benefits and Protections Under Georgia State Law?

Georgia laws offer various protections and benefits which include the following:

  • Georgia regulations forbid employers from engaging in discrimination and retaliation against workers in various protected categories. Additionally, employers are mandated to ensure pay equity and safeguard individuals who blow the whistle on misconduct. 
  • Georgia laws ensure equal pay for similar roles and protect employees from retaliation when reporting discrimination or labor law violations.
  • Employees have rights to various types of leave, including domestic violence leave, jury duty leave, witness leave, and military leave.
  • Georgia strictly prohibits smoking in workplaces.
  • The Fair Labor Standards Act mandates minimum wage payment for all hours worked and overtime compensation at one and a half times the regular rate for extra hours.

Taking Action Against Violations in Georgia

How to Report Violations to Authorities or Labor Departments in Georgia?

Cases that involve breaches of labor or employment regulations can encompass issues related to discrepancies in wages and working hours, unsafe work conditions, or unfair treatment. In Georgia, it’s typically required to submit complaints regarding violations of labor or employment laws to the local office of a federal agency.

If you believe that you have been discriminated against by a state agency, you can contact the Georgia Commission on Equal Opportunity, or fill in an employment complaint form.

Employees can complete an online complaint form by OSHA to report any hazardous or unhealthy working conditions at the workplace.

Case Studies and Real-Life Scenarios of Salaried Employee Rights Violations in Georgia

Employee Misclassification and Discrimination: Georgia Company discriminates and retaliates against employees.

On June 13, 2023, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia issued a significant ruling in response to a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Labor against 811 Autoworks LLC, an auto repair shop in Peachtree City operating as AOK Walker Luxury Autoworks, and its owner, Miles Walker. The lawsuit alleged retaliation against a former employee who had contacted the Department of Labor after not receiving his final wages. Shockingly, the employer paid the former worker’s $915 owed wages by delivering approximately 91,500 pennies coated in oil, accompanied by an offensive pay stub. Additionally, the company published defamatory statements about the former employee on its website.

The court found that the employer had violated labor laws by wrongly classifying at least 76 security guards as independent contractors and by failing to provide overtime compensation as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Consequently, the court ordered the company to pay $39,934, which includes back wages and liquidated damages, to nine affected workers. The judge’s order also permanently prohibits the employer from violating federal minimum wage and overtime provisions and mandates corrective actions, such as removing defamatory content from their website and posting the consent judgment and anti-retaliation fact sheet in the workplace.

Lessons Learned from the Case

  • Proper Classification of Workers: Employers must accurately classify workers as either employees or independent contractors. Misclassifying employees as contractors can lead to legal consequences, including denial of rightful benefits.
  • Overtime Compensation: It underscores the importance of providing eligible employees with proper overtime compensation as mandated by labor laws. Paying straight-time rates for overtime hours is a violation of the FLSA and can result in financial penalties.
  • Retaliation is Unlawful: The case emphasizes that retaliation against workers who engage with the Department of Labor is against the law. Employers should not intimidate or harass employees who assert their rights or report violations. Protecting workers’ rights is a priority, and retaliation will not be tolerated.

In summary, this case serves as a clear reminder that employers must comply with labor laws, treat their workers fairly, and refrain from retaliatory actions.

Violation of Wages Payment: Court Orders Georgia Company to Pay $50,000 in Back Wages.

In June 2022, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia ordered the owner of a Stone Mountain insurance agency to pay $50,000 in back wages and liquidated damages to a worker terminated after inquiring about pay. 

In this federal court case against Stone Mountain Insurance, The U.S. Department of Labor found that the company had wrongfully terminated the employee as retaliation for seeking information about their compensation. 

Aside from the financial compensation, the court has imposed strict restrictions on the owner, Marc Davis, to prevent any future misconduct. These constraints include refraining from actions such as forcing employees to return wages, intimidating employees to obstruct their rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and creating unfavorable working conditions to limit FLSA entitlements.

Lessons Learned from the Case

  • Employee Rights Protection: Employers should prioritize safeguarding the rights of employees who inquire about their compensation, fostering an environment of respect and compliance.
  • Understanding Legal Protections: Employers must familiarize themselves with legal protections afforded to employees who express concerns about their compensation, ensuring full compliance with these safeguards.
  • Consequences of Retaliation: Employers engaging in retaliatory actions against employees may face significant legal and financial consequences. Adherence to labor laws and fair treatment of employees should be a paramount consideration for businesses.

Final Thoughts

As a salaried worker in Georgia, possessing a grasp of your legal entitlements and safeguards is imperative. This knowledge not only enables you to shield yourself against potential violations but also empowers you to advocate for your well-being.

Keeping up-to-date with changes in labor laws is essential for ensuring a positive workplace experience. Given the complex nature of employment regulations, seeking professional advice by consulting an employment attorney, contacting The U.S. Department of Labor, or consulting the Office of the Labor Commissioner can offer invaluable information and direction.

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.