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Hiring

Advertising
What are the requirements relating to advertising open positions?

An employer may not distribute an advertisement or notice for an open position that:

“indicates any preference, limitation, specification, or discrimination based on disability, except that such a notice or advertisement may indicate a limitation or specification based upon disability if the [criterion] is job related.” (O.C.G.A. § 34-6A-4.)

Georgia law contains no other express provisions regarding advertising open positions in private employment.

Background checks
What can employers do with regard to background checks and inquiries?

(a) Criminal records and arrests

Private employers may request and obtain criminal history records for applicants or employees. If an employer takes an adverse employment action based on an applicant’s or employee’s criminal history, it must provide the applicant or employee with the information specified in the Official Code of Georgia Annotated § 35-3-34, which includes information about the records that were obtained, the records’ contents, and the effect(s) that those records had on the employment decision.

With certain exceptions, an employer may not obtain records for arrests, charges, or sentences for crimes addressed under Georgia’s First Offenders Act. When an employer knows of a discharge under the act, it may not base employment decisions on the discharge itself, but there is a basis for arguing that the employer may consider the facts of the underlying incident. Currently, only public employers are restricted as to when they may use criminal records in the hiring process. Georgia tort law creates a rebuttable presumption of due care in hiring and retaining an employee who has received a Program and Treatment Completion Certificate from the Georgia Department of Corrections or who has received a pardon from the State Board of Pardons and Paroles.

(b) Medical history

Although Georgia law prohibits employment discrimination based on a disability, those statutes do not prevent an employer from seeking job-related medical information (see O.C.G.A. § 34-6A-3(a)).

(c) Drug screening

Georgia law does not directly address whether, and under what circumstances, an employer may conduct drug testing on an employee or applicant in the private sector. Nonetheless, there is strong evidence that it is permitted. Notably, Georgia workers’ compensation law allows employers to set up a Drug-Free Workplace Program to receive discounts on premium payments and provides a set of notice requirements about company policies and the anticipated testing (see O.C.G.A. § 34-9-414). Regardless of whether an employer participates in the workers’ compensation program, to insulate against potential state law tort claims related to invasion of privacy, it is advisable that all employers inform their employees in writing about company substance abuse policies and the potential for drug testing before implementing any testing. The state public sector also has multiple laws requiring or allowing state employers to drug test certain types of employee (see Title 45).

(d) Credit checks

Georgia law contains no express provisions regarding use of credit checks by private employers for employment purposes.

(e) Immigration status

Private employers with more than 10 employees must register and use an electronic verification of work authorization program operated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, to verify the work authorization status of newly hired employees. Unless the employer is exempt from this e-verify requirement, the employer must submit an affidavit of compliance with the state’s e-verify requirements before a county or municipal corporation will issue the employer a business license, occupational tax certificate, or other document allowing it to conduct business in that jurisdiction.

(f) Social media

Georgia law contains no express provisions regarding use of social media by private employers for employment purposes.

(g) Other

Georgia law permits an employer to create and use an employment policy preferring veterans (who served on active duty in the U.S. armed forces and received an honorable discharge) over other qualified applicants in hiring, promoting, and retaining employees. However, that policy must be in writing and applied uniformly.

Georgia also has a New Hire Reporting Law, requiring employers to provide certain information to the Department of Human Services within 10 days after an employee is hired, re-hired, or recalled to work (see O.C.G.A. § 19-11-9.2).

Wage and hour

Pay
What are the main sources of wage and hour laws in your state?

Most of Georgia’s wage and hour laws are found in Chapters 4 and 7 of Title 34 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated.

The state’s garnishment law can be found in Chapter 4 of Title 18.

What is the minimum hourly wage?

Georgia’s state minimum wage is $5.15 per hour for each hour worked. There are significant exceptions to the state minimum wage requirements. For example, the law does not apply to:

  • employers employing five or fewer employees;
  • employers with $40,000 or less in annual sales;
  • an employee who is a high school or college student; and
  • certain agricultural employees.

Further, employees covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage requirements are excluded from Georgia’s Minimum Wage Statute—although this makes little practical difference because the federal rate is higher.

What are the rules applicable to final pay and deductions from wages?

Georgia law has no express provisions related to payment of final wages or wage deductions.

However, for most employees performing manual, mechanical, or clerical work, an employer must divide each month into at least two equal pay periods; in other words, each month, the employee must receive at least two paychecks (see O.C.G.A. § 34-7-2).

Hours and overtime
What are the requirements for meal and rest breaks?

Georgia law contains no express requirements for meal or rest breaks, although there are special regulatory requirements for the entertainment industry that include maximum hours and break requirements. Georgia law permits, but does not require, employers to accommodate employees who are breastfeeding mothers by providing a private location and reasonable unpaid break time in which to express breast milk. This break time should, if possible, run concurrently with break time already provided to the employee.

What are the maximum hour rules?

Georgia law has no overtime compensation provision and, for most adult workers, no maximum hour law. With certain exceptions, individuals employed in cotton and woolen manufacturing facilities may not work over 10 hours per day or 60 hours in a week (see O.C.G.A. § 34-3-1). Chapter 2 of Title 39 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated also places restrictions on the number of hours and the times of day that minors under 16 can work.

How should overtime be calculated?

Georgia law has no overtime compensation provision for private employers.

What exemptions are there from overtime?

Georgia law has no overtime provision for private employers.

Record keeping
What payroll and payment records must be maintained?

Employers must maintain payroll information, including:

  • each employee’s name, address, and occupation;
  • the employee’s daily and weekly hours worked; and
  • the employee’s wages paid per pay period—for one year following the date of the record.

However, because the general limitations period for actions to recover wages is two years, it is recommended that employers maintain payroll records for at least that period.

Georgia law requires that employers maintain income tax information, including records of all remuneration paid to employees, for at least four years after the tax is due or after the tax is paid, whichever date is later.

Employers must also maintain unemployment compensation records for at least four years after remuneration is paid or due. Further, Georgia law contains some non-payroll record retention obligations related to discrimination claims (O.C.G.A. § 34-9-12) and child labor restrictions (see O.C.G.A. Title 39, Chapter 2).

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