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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

No Rest for the Weary? Georgia Employment Law Regarding Breaks, Overtime and Vacation

It's a busy time of year! As an Employment Law attorney, I'm often asked about an employer's obligations when it comes to breaks, overtime, and vacation.

The short answer is: Generally, Georgia's labor laws do not govern a private employer's obligation to provide time or compensation for overtime, meals, breaks, vacation and holidays. These issues are usually determined by the private employers' policies or employment contracts.

So how can an employee (and an employer) manage their rights (and liabilities) related to a healthy respite from work? The solution is setting clear expectations in the private employer's policies or employment contracts.

A thorough and well-written policy or employment contract should include whether the employer will provide:

  • Paid or unpaid vacation time, and specific terms in which the time can be accrued and used.  Specifics regarding payment for accrued vacation leave upon separation from employment should also be outlined in the company's polities or employment contracts.

  • Paid or unpaid holiday leave, and the specific holidays and dates observed by the employer. Private employers in Georgia can require an employee to work holidays, but the private employer must comply with their written policies or employment contract.

  • Time allowed for breaks and/or meals. Federal laws do not require that a private employer provide a meal period nor breaks to their employees. Additionally, meal breaks that last 30 minutes or more may be unpaid if the employee is free to do whatever he or she wishes during that time. However, an employee must be paid for breaks that last less than 20 minutes, if breaks are a perk that is included in the company's policies.

Keep in mind that these are general guidelines and there are exceptions, such as breaks for mothers breastfeeding babies who are one year or younger. Legal requirements differ for public employers. For example, public employers in Georgia recognize several holidays, such as New Year's Day (January 1), Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday (3rd Monday in January), Washington's Birthday (3rd Monday in February), Memorial Day (last Monday in May), Independence Day (July 4), Labor Day (1st Monday in September), Columbus Day (2nd Monday in October), Veterans Day (November 11), Thanksgiving Day (4th Thursday in November) and Christmas Day (December 25). Public employees have a right to a paid day off during these holidays, which may not be available to private employees.

As an employment attorney, I recommend that when a potential employer offers you a job, please take a moment and review the terms of your employment contract thoroughly. It is important to read and understand the expectations set by your employer regarding allowable time and compensation for breaks, overtime, vacation and holidays. If you do not agree with the company's policies, there may be an opportunity to negotiate changes to your employment contract before accepting the position.

If you have questions regarding your employment contract and other Employment Law issues, contact Lajuana Ransaw at lransaw@smithwelchlaw.com or 770-957-3937. Smith, Welch, Webb and White, LLC is recognized as a premier law firm throughout the State of Georgia with expertise in this area of law. We have an uncompromising commitment to serving our clients and our community. Our team of experts routinely handles a wide range of legal matters, and will provide outstanding legal service for you, your family or your business.

 

Any representations regarding the law in this Blog is made available for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog publisher. The Blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.


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