In Georgia, employers are not required to provide employees with vacation benefits, either paid or unpaid. If an employer chooses to provide such benefits, it must comply with the terms of its established policy or employment contract.
An employer may lawfully establish a policy or enter into a contract denying employees payment for accrued vacation leave upon separation from employment. See Shannon v. Huntley’s Jiffy Store, Inc., 329 S.E.2d 208, 174 Ga. App. 125 (1985).
An employer may lawfully establish a policy or enter into a contract disqualifying employees from payment of accrued vacation upon separation from employment if they are terminated. See Ryvos v. St. Mary’s Hospital, 393 S.E.2d 739, 195 Ga. App. 474 (1990); Shannon v. Huntley’s Jiffy Store, Inc., 329 S.E.2d 208, 174 Ga. App. 125 (1985).
An employer may also lawfully establish a policy or enter into a contract disqualifying employees from payment of accrued vacation upon separation from employment if they fail to comply with specific requirements, such as giving two weeks notice or being employed as of a specific date of the year. See Amoco Fabrics & Fibers Co. v. Ray, 510 S.E.2d 591,235 Ga. App. 821 (1998).
An employer is required to pay accrued vacation to an employee upon separation from employment if its policy or contract requires it. See Shannon v. Huntley’s Jiffy Store, Inc., 329 S.E.2d 208, 174 Ga. App. 125 (1985).
Georgia’s Legislature and its courts are silent regarding whether an employer must pay an employee for accrued vacation upon separation from employment if the policy or contract is silent regarding the matter. However, because of the contractual emphasis Georgia courts place on vacation policies, it is unlikely an employer would be obligated to pay an employee accrued vacation upon separation from employment if its policy or contract is silent regarding the matter, unless the employer has a practice of doing so.
Although Georgia’s Legislature and its courts are silent regarding the matter, it is likely an employer may cap the amount of vacation leave an employee may accrue over time. See Shannon v. Huntley’s Jiffy Store, Inc., 329 S.E.2d 208, 174 Ga. App. 125 (1985).
An employer would also likely be free to implement a “use-it-or-lose-it” policy requiring employees to use their leave by a set date or lose it. See Shannon v. Huntley’s Jiffy Store, Inc., 329 S.E.2d 208, 174 Ga. App. 125 (1985).
In Georgia, employers are not required to provide employees with sick leave, either paid or unpaid. See GA Dept. of Labor FAQ: Sick Leave. If an employer chooses to provide sick leave benefits, it must comply with the terms of its established policy or employment contract.
An employer in Georgia may be required to provide an employee unpaid sick leave in accordance with the Family and Medical Leave Act or other federal laws.
If an employer provides sick leave for its employees, Georgia has requirements. For instance, if a place of business has a minimum of 25 employees and sick leave is provided, those employees should also be allowed to use up to five of those days each year to take care of a family member who is ill. In addition, any worker who works at least 30 hours a week is eligible. There is no penalty if employers fail to comply with Georgia Family Care Act.
Find out more by visiting our Georgia sick leave and Family Care Act page.
Georgia law does not require private employers to provide employees with either paid or unpaid holiday leave. In Georgia, a private employer can require an employee to work holidays.
A private employer does not have to pay an employee premium pay, such as 1½ times the regular rate, for working on holidays, unless such time worked qualifies the employee for overtime under standard overtime laws. If an employer chooses to provide either paid or unpaid holiday leave, it must comply with the terms of its established policy or employment contract.
Visit our Georgia State Holidays page for a list of holidays recognized and observed by the state of Georgia as well as information regarding state laws governing holiday leave for public employers and employees.
Jury Duty Leave
Georgia law makes it illegal for an employer to discharge, discipline, or otherwise penalize an employee for taking leave for the purposes of attending a judicial proceeding in response to a subpoena, summons for jury duty, or other court order.
It is also illegal for an employer to threaten an employee with discharge, discipline, or any other adverse employment action for taking leave for the purposes of attending a judicial proceeding in response to a subpoena, summons for jury duty, or other court order. GA Statute 34-1-3.
Georgia does not have any laws specifically requiring employers to provide paid leave for an employee to perform jury service. However, the Attorney General issued an opinion in 1989 interpreting GA Statute 34-1-3 as requiring employers to pay employees for jury service leave. In 199, the Attorney General issued another opinion in which it was stated that an employee would have a private right of action (they could file a civil claim in state court) against their employer for penalizing employees for being absent for jury duty leave. Georgia AG Official Opinion 95-13
any counties have adopted the Attorney General’s position when providing direction to jurors, however, no court has addressed the viability of the Attorney General’s opinion.
Georgia law requires employers to provide an employee up to two (2) hours of leave to vote if:
- the employee gives the employer reasonable notice of the need to take time off, and
- the polls are not open for at least two (2) hours before the employee’s shift begins or after it ends.
Georgia law does not require employers to pay employees for voting leave. Also, the employer may determine that hours an employee may be absent to vote to minimize the disruption to business operations.
Georgia law does not require employers to provide employees bereavement leave or leave to attend funerals. Bereavement leave is leave that is taken by an employee due to the death of another individual, usually a close relative. Employers may choose to provide bereavement leave and may be required to comply with any bereavement policy or practice they maintain.
Family and Medical Leave
Many states in the US have their own state provisions that allow some employees to take time off for family and medical-related purposes. We are talking about paid family and medical leave. Unfortunately, Georgia is not one of these states. However, as is the case with all states in the US, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) applies.
Federal Family and Medical Leave Act
This act allows eligible employees in the US to take paid time off for various medical and family-related reasons. If an employer in Georgia has a minimum of 50 workers for 20 weeks in either the previous or current year, they adhere to the provisions as set out in the FMLA.
An employee may have the right to take time off under this act if they have worked for the same employer for at least 12 months, if they have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours within the previous 12 months, and if they have worked at a business that has a minimum of 50 employees in a 75-mile area.
A worker in Georgia may take FMLA leave for various reasons, including:
- To take care of a member of the family that has a serious health problem
- To recover from one’s own serious health issue
- To bond with or to care for a new child
- To take care of qualifying emergencies that arise out of the military service of a family member
- To take care of a member of the family who has suffered a severe injury due to active military service.
Anyone who qualifies for paid time off for any of the above reasons is entitled to take off up to 12 work weeks within one year. If the worker meets these eligibility requirements yearly, this paid time off will renew every year.
However, if a worker needs to take leave for military caregiver reasons, they can take up to 26 weeks off in one year. Unless that same member of the family is re-injured or a separate member of the family suffers a different injury while on active military duty, a worker may not take extra time off.
Under this act, any employees who take time off are entitled to continue paying into and receiving their healthcare insurance at the same cost they paid while working.
This leave is generally unpaid, although some workers may be required or allowed to use accumulated paid days off during this leave. At the end of FMLA leave, the worker has the right to be reinstated into the same or equivalent position.