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What should I know about wage and hour laws in Georgia?

Authored By: GeorgiaLegalAid.org
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Minimum wage and overtime hour laws in Georgia

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What are the wage and hour laws in Georgia?

Both the federal government and the state of Georgia have laws about employee pay and hours. These laws only apply to employees and not to independent contractors. 

 

What is an independent contractor?

Your employer can tell you whether you are an employee or independent contractor, but the real test is how the employer treats you.

 

It is important to know because there are differences, including:

  • Most employment laws don’t apply to independent contractors,

  • Employers do not take out payroll taxes for independent contractors,

  • Most independent contractors do not get benefits,

  • Independent contractors can usually decide how and when their work is completed,

  • Independent contractors are hired for a project, not for on-going work.

 

The IRS looks at many factors to decide whether a worker should be treated as an employee or an independent contractor. A worker should be treated as an employee if:

  • The business controls the work done by the worker. If you are given training, evaluations, on-going instruction about your work, you may be an employee.

  • The business controls the financial aspects of the worker’s job. If you are paid a regular hourly, weekly or monthly wage, you are probably an employee. If you are paid a flat fee for a job, you might be an independent contractor.

  • The business has an on-going relationship with the worker. If you are hired for an on-going period and are offered benefits, including sick leave or health insurance, you are likely an employee.

 

Talk to a lawyer about your rights if your employer is calling you an independent contractor or freelancer and you think you should be classified as an employee.

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What is the minimum wage in Georgia?

The law requires most employers to pay minimum wages to employees. It also sets minimum rates for overtime pay and pay scales for students working in the summer. 

 

As of January 2020, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. This applies to all employers who have to follow the Fair Labor Standards Act. That includes employers:

  • Whose annual sales are $500,000 or more, or 

  • Who are engaged in interstate commerce. Most employers are “engaged in interstate commerce” in some way.

 

The federal minimum wage applies to domestic workers if:

  • Your wages total more than a certain amount for the year; or

  • You work more than 8 hours a week for one or more employers.

 

Tipped employees, like waiters, must be paid at least $2.13 an hour by their employer. Your tips and wages combined must meet the federal minimum wage. If it is under, your employer must make up the difference.

 

Employees under 20 years old can be paid $4.25/hour for their first 90 days of work.

 

Other types of employees are not covered by the federal minimum wage, including:

  • Executive, administrative, and professional employees (including teachers and academic administrative personnel in elementary and secondary schools), 

  • Outside sales employees, and employees in certain computer-related occupations (as defined in DOL regulations);

  • Employees of certain seasonal amusement or recreational establishments, 

  • Employees of certain small newspapers, 

  • Seamen employed on foreign vessels, 

  • Employees engaged in fishing operations, 

  • Employees engaged in newspaper delivery;

  • Farmworkers employed by anyone who used no more than 500 “man-days” of farm labor in any calendar quarter of the preceding calendar year;

  • Casual babysitters

  • Persons employed as companions to the elderly or infirm.

 

If you are not covered by the federal minimum wage, you may still be covered under Georgia’s minimum wage law. Georgia’s minimum wage is $5.15/hour. That applies to all employers in Georgia, except: 

  • Employers with sales of $40,000/year or less;

  • Employers with less than five employees,

  • Employers of domestic workers, and 

  • Employers who are farm owners, sharecroppers, or land renters.

 

Independent contractors are not covered by the minimum wage laws. Check the U.S. Department of Labor website to see if your job qualifies for minimum wage.

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What are the overtime laws in Georgia?

The Fair Labor Standards Act also sets 40 hours per week as a standard workweek. If you are an hourly worker, many employers are required to pay you higher wages for all hours worked over 40 hours in a week. Overtime pay is 1.5 times your regular hourly wage. 

 

Most employees who get a regular salary are not paid for overtime. Check the U.S. Department of Labor website to see if your job qualifies for overtime

 

The rights and obligations of the employer and the employee are generally the same for part-time and fulltime work. (Part-time work is less than 40 hours a week.) However, temporary part-time employees or those who work less than 20 hours a week usually are not eligible for benefits. Further, part-time employees do not receive overtime wages unless they work more than 40 hours a week.

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When does my employer have to pay me for my time?

Georgia does not have any laws about work time, including laws about breaks, lunchtime, travel time, on-call time, etc. However, if you are an employee who is covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act, there are rules about when your employer must pay you for your time. 

 

The Fair Labor Standards Act says an employer must pay you for every hour you work. This includes:

  • Your time in a meeting, seminar, lecture, or training, unless:

    • The event is not during your regular working hours,

    • The event is not required by your employer,

    • The event is not related to your job, AND

    • You do not perform any productive work during the event.

  • Your time traveling for work during the workday. This does not include your commute time.

  • Your time at work waiting for an assignment. This means you should get paid if you have downtime at work while you are waiting for your boss to give you another thing to do. But, if you are off-duty in between assignments, you do not have to be paid for that time. Being off-duty means:

    • You are free to go and do whatever you’d like,

    • You have time to do something not work related, and 

    • You are given a specific time to return to work.

  • Break times that are less than 20 minutes. Employers are not required to give breaks or time for meals. But, if your employer does give you a break, they must pay you for that break if it is less than 20 minutes. They do not have to pay you for meal breaks that are 30 minutes or more if you are free to do what you want during your break.

  • Your time working outside of the office. If you are working from home or answering emails at night and your employer knows or should know you are doing this, you should get paid for that time.

 

An employer does not have to pay you if you show up for work but are sent home because there is no work to do.

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Are there equal pay laws in Georgia?

The question of equal pay for equal work is also regulated by law. The federal Equal Pay Act (1973) requires that men and women receive equal pay for substantially the same work. Other federal acts have extended the requirement for equal pay to other groups likely to face discrimination.

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What are my rights and responsibilities with minimum wage and overtime?

Unless your job or the employer you work for is not covered, you have a right to be paid at least:

  • Minimum wage and

  • Overtime for any hours worked over 40 in one workweek. 

 

If you are not being paid the correct amount, you have the right to either sue your employer or file a complaint. It is your responsibility to start these actions within the time limit.

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What can I do? +

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How can I file a complaint if my employer doesn’t pay me minimum wage or overtime?

If you are covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act. If your employer is not paying you the minimum wage or that you are due, or if you are not being paid for time that you worked, you have two options. You can either:

  • Sue your employer, or
  • File a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour division (WHD). 

 

To file a complaint, you can call or visit any Wage and Hour Office. You have two years to file a complaint (three years in some situations). 

 

Once you file a complaint the WHD will investigate on your behalf. When the WHD investigator completes their investigation, they will meet with the employer and explain their findings. The WHD has the authority to recover back wages and some damages for you. 

 

If you are covered under Georgia’s minimum wage law. If your employer is not paying you the minimum wage you are due under Georgia’s law, you can file a private lawsuit within 3 years. You may try to get:

  • The money you are owed,
  • Liquidated damages. This amount is equal to the money you are owed and is for other money you’ve lost because you weren’t being paid the correct amount,
  • Attorney’s fees and costs.

 

Consult an attorney if you are thinking about filing a lawsuit.

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Last Review and Update: Mar 02, 2020