Guide to employee benefits and HR rules in Georgia
As a human resources professional or private employer with employees in Georgia, you need to know which employee benefits and policies the Peach State requires.
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Is your organization compliant with Georgia's employment and HR laws?
If you're based in Georgia or employ workers in Georgia, it's important to familiarize yourself with the state's benefits and HR compliance laws. This guide to HR laws in Georgia will provide a general overview of the laws you need to know.
Topics covered in this guide include:
What are an employee’s rights in Georgia?
State and federal laws protect employee rights. If you currently have or plan to hire workers in the state, you must know what rights your employees have.
Some Georgia-specific state rights include:
- Right-to-work law
- Georgia prohibits employers from requiring an employee to join or not join a labor union or labor organization in order to work.
- At-will employment
- Georgia operates under an employment-at-will policy. This allows the employer or employee to terminate the employment relationship without cause, as long as it doesn’t violate the law and there's no written employment contract or collective bargaining agreement in place.
- Whistleblower protection
- Georgia has a law that protects whistleblowers who report workplace violations. Public employers and government entities receiving state funds must investigate any complaints from public employees related to fraud, abuse, or waste that occur under the employer's supervision. Employers can't prevent employees from reporting violations. They also can't take disciplinary action against them for speaking up.
- Background checks
- Georgia's "Ban-the-box" law prohibits employers from asking about criminal history during the application process. People with criminal records can apply for jobs and licenses without revealing their past. They can request record restriction through the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's Georgia Crime Information Center.
- Equal pay
- Georgia's Equal Pay Act requires employers to pay their employees of the opposite sex the same wages for the same work.
- Weapons in the workplace
- According to Georgia law, employees with valid concealed handgun licenses can store firearms or ammunition in their privately owned vehicle on their employer's property.
- Immigration verification
- Along with Federal I-9 compliance, Georgia has the Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act (IIREA). It requires E-Verify for all newly-hired employees, regardless of whether they work for public or private employers.
What are employers required to provide to Georgia employees?
In addition to what federal law requires, Georgia employment law mandates that employers must provide eligible employees with specific employee benefits and accommodations.
Required benefits include:
- Jury duty leave
- This law doesn't apply to employees charged with a crime or stop employers from asking for reasonable notice of absences.
- Voting leave
- Employers must give employees up to two hours of leave to vote on election day or during early voting if the polls aren’t open for at least two hours before or after an employee’s shift.
- Military leave
- Along with the federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), Georgia has its own laws for military leave. Georgia employees can take up to six months off every four years for training or attending a service school. Employees should be fully reinstated in their position when they return. Employers can’t discriminate against them for their military service.
- Workers’ compensation insurance
- The Georgia Workers' Compensation Act applies to all employers in Georgia with three or more employees.
- Breastfeeding breaks
- In Georgia, employers must provide a private place for women to express breast milk. The break times are paid.
- Unemployment benefits
- Georgia employers must pay Georgia unemployment insurance (UI) tax.
- Healthcare continuation
- The Georgia State Continuation law provides three months of health coverage for small business workers who lose their job and were previously covered with a prepaid premium.
Georgia doesn’t require the following benefits:
- Severance pay
- Disability insurance
- Retirement plans
- Meal breaks or rest breaks
- Under the Common Day of Rest Act, Georgia businesses that are open on the weekends have to make reasonable accommodations for employees who work on their chosen day of worship. This ensures they receive the same benefits as employees in other occupations. The law excludes some employers, such as hospitals and public businesses.
- Domestic violence leave
- Georgia doesn't require employers to provide domestic violence leave to employees. At the federal level, domestic violence cases can fall under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
- Paid time off (PTO)
- Georgia law doesn't require employers to offer employees paid vacation, sick, or bereavement leave. However, employers must follow FMLA requirements.
- Parental Leave
- There's no Georgia law requiring an employer to offer parental leave. But under FMLA, employers with 50 or more employees must provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for specified medical or family reasons under certain circumstances.
- Health insurance benefits
- Although many employees in Georgia receive health insurance coverage through their employers, there's no state legal requirement for it. However, federal law requires employers to provide affordable health benefits with minimum essential coverage (MEC) and minimum value (MV) for organizations with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees (FTEs).
Health insurance coverage in Georgia
Even if you aren’t required to provide health insurance to your employees, health benefits are an excellent way to attract and retain top talent, especially in a tight labor market. However, rising premium costs have made it challenging for small and medium size businesses to offer traditional group health insurance.
But in Georgia, individual health insurance is cheaper on average than group coverage in every county. The chart below shows the difference in monthly premiums for Georgia’s five most populated counties.
Individual (silver plan)
Individual (silver plan)
Fulton, Gwinnett, Cobb, DeKalb, and Clayton counties
Let's go over how you can take advantage of this.
Health reimbursement arrangement (HRA)
A health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) is an IRS-approved, employer-funded health benefit that allows you to reimburse your employees, tax-free, for their individual health coverage premiums and other qualifying medical expenses.
With an HRA, you have complete control over your benefits budget while giving your employees more freedom to choose how they want to use their benefits.
Some HRAs, such as the individual coverage HRA (ICHRA), can satisfy the federal requirements for applicable large employers (ALEs). This allows organizations of all sizes that offer an HRA to save money on their health benefits.
Learn more about each HRA
For employers with 1-49 employees
A simple, controlled-cost alternative to group health insurance.
For employers of all sizes
A flexible health benefit that can be used alone or alongside group health insurance.
A health stipend is a fixed sum of money offered to your employees to help pay for their healthcare expenses. A health employee stipend isn't a formal group health plan, so you have complete control over which expenses are eligible for reimbursement.
This makes a health stipend an excellent option for small businesses looking to offer a health benefit that covers costs health insurance or HRAs may not cover, such as mental health expenses.
However, a stipend doesn’t satisfy the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate, and all reimbursements are taxable for employers and employees.
Learn all about employee stipends with our ultimate guide
Wage laws in Georgia
There are various federal and state laws you need to consider when it comes to setting employee wages in Georgia.
Minimum wage laws
Georgia's minimum wage rate is $5.15 per hour. But employers must follow the federal minimum wage requirements of $7.25 per hour to comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
Under federal law, employers with tipped employees in Georgia can claim a tip credit. This credit amounts to $5.12 per hour, which allows employers to pay tipped employees a minimum of $2.13 per hour. However, if the combined hourly wages and tips fall short of the regular rate of $7.25 per hour, the employer must cover the difference.
Subminimum wage rate
The FLSA allows employers to pay subminimum wages to adults with disabilities if the disability impairs their productivity. Only employers with a certificate from the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division can pay subminimum wages.
While Georgia has no overtime laws, federal law dictates that non-exempt employees must receive an overtime rate of 1.5 times their regular pay for any hours worked beyond 40 in a single workweek.
Certain occupations are exempt from overtime payment requirements. They include:
- Employees of businesses that earn less than $150,000 in yearly gross sales
- Agricultural workers
- Casual babysitters
- Live-in caretakers
- Recreational camp staff
- Public employees
- Administrative, professional, or executive employees
Payment of wages
In Georgia, employers typically pay employees twice each month. There are exceptions for those in specific industries or positions who are paid monthly or annually.
Georgia has no law on final employee payments. However, federal law requires employers to pay out employees’ final paychecks on what would have been their next scheduled payday.
Georgia law mandates that employers keep employee records, including personal information, wages, and work history, for four years.
Child labor standards in Georgia
In Georgia, there are several restrictions on the employment of minors. Children aged 12 to 16 can only work with an employment certificate from a school, parent, or guardian. Minors older than 14 need a certificate to work on lawn care during school vacations. Additionally, children younger than 16 can't work near safety hazards or in places like mills, factories, laundries, or workshops.
Other HR rules in Georgia
There are a few other HR rules you need to be aware of in Georgia.
This law prevents public employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating based on race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, or disability.
This law is similar to the Equal Pay Act. The law prohibits gender-based discrimination in terms of equal pay for employees of the same organization.
This law prohibits discrimination based on age for people between the ages of 40 and 70 as long as they can perform the assigned work.
This law prevents discrimination based on disability in terms of wages, hours, and conditions of employment unless the disability affects the individual's ability to perform the job duties.
This additional ordinance prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, creed, religion, sex, domestic relationship status, parental status, familial status, sexual orientation, national origin, gender identity, age, or disability.
Preference for veterans
In Georgia, employers can use a written veteran's preference policy to hire, promote, or retain employees during a reduction in force without violating local or state equal employment opportunity laws.
Federal and Georgia laws both address the use of polygraph tests by employers, with limitations and potential consequences for examiners who administer them improperly. This includes the potential for recovering damages, fees, and costs.
This law mandates adding a "multiracial" option to all forms and documents related to employment that ask for racial or ethnic information.
Under the Smokefree Air Act, smoking isn’t allowed inside Georgia workplaces. Outdoor places of employment are exempt from this provision. Smoking areas designated by an employer must comply with the requirements set by the statute.
Georgia doesn't have laws that prohibit employers from drug testing employees. Employers can terminate at-will employees who test positive on random drug tests.
If an employer has a drug-free workplace program, they can get a discount on workers' compensation insurance if the program meets the Georgia Drug-Free Workplace law's requirements. This can include drug testing for job applicants who receive a conditional job offer.
Protection from defamation
If employers in Georgia disclose factual information about a current or former employee's job performance, they're protected from defamation.
Frequently asked questions
Is it legal to work seven days a week in Georgia?
Yes. There are no specific regulations in Georgia regarding the maximum number of hours per week that an employee can work.
Can an employer fire you without warning in Georgia?
Yes. Georgia is an at-will employment state, which means that employers can terminate employees at any time and for any reason without notice.
Do you have to give two weeks' notice in Georgia?
No. At-will employees are not required to give notice. However, giving advance notice can help employers get an early start on hiring.
What is the minimum wage in Georgia?
The minimum wage in Georgia is $5.15 per hour. However, most employers (those covered by FLSA) must pay their employees at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
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