A number of state and federal laws protect American workers from before they're hired until after they leave a job. Here's an overview of issues in Georgia.
Laws against discrimination apply as soon as an opening is advertised. Companies can't specify a gender or accept only single applicants. Employers can't ask during interviews if an applicant has children or inquire about religion. They can't ask an applicant's age, either.
Georgia's minimum wage is $5.15 an hour for workers at companies with six or more employees. Companies that do more than $500,000 of business a year or operate in industries such as health care must pay the federal minimum wage of $7.25. The minimum is $2.13 for workers who receive tips, though employers must make up the difference if workers bring in less than the minimum wage after tips. Most workers are eligible for time and a half pay after they work beyond 40 hours each week.
Safety Issues at Work
Under federal law, companies must have programs in place that prevent injuries and keep workers safe. That means companies have to take steps such as keeping buildings safe and adequately training workers. Employee can't be fired or demoted for reporting problems.
Injured on the Job
All Georgia companies with three or more employees are required to carry workers' compensation coverage that provides medical care for workers injured on the job and pays them while they recover. How long workers are paid depends on the seriousness of the injury. The goal is to rehabilitate people so they can return to their job or to similar positions as quickly as possible.
Employers don't have to let workers take time off for vacation or holidays, though often it's offered as a benefit. Sick leave is not required, either, though under federal law, companies with 50 or more employees must offer unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
It's unclear whether Georgians have to be paid for jury duty. There's no law requiring it, but most employers do so because of an Attorney General's opinion saying that workers have the right to sue if denied pay while serving on a jury.
Any unwelcome conduct, comments or teasing based on color, national origin, religion, age, gender, race or disability is harassment, and it's illegal under federal law. If workers have to put up with the harassment in order to keep the job or if the harassment is so severe that a reasonable person would object, the person being harassed can take legal action.
Leaving the Job
Georgia is an "at will" state — the worker can quit for any reason or the employer can let the worker go for any reason as long as it's not discriminatory. There is nothing in state law covering how quickly a final check must be issued.
After You Leave
Most workers can draw unemployment pay unless they quit a job or are fired for misconduct. It won't equal their previous pay, but it will provide a safety net while they look for another job. People who worked at companies with more than 20 employees can continue health insurance, though they'll have to pay for the full premium.
Contact a Lawyer
This article is intended only as an overview of a complicated topic. For specific employment law questions, consult a local Georgia labor lawyer for advice.