What You Need to Know About Paid Leave
Most people pride themselves on being reasonably productive as employees, whether they work at a coffee shop or a Fortune 500 company. Yet, no matter how dedicated we may be to our jobs, life sometimes gets in the way of working a full 40-hour week. We may get sick, get summoned for jury duty, or may have military obligations, any of which mean we may need to take time off from work and possibly forego our regular wages while we’re away.
There are cases where employees are entitled to paid leave, but employees in Georgia have few options when it comes to compensation for time off.
As we have mentioned on multiple occasions in this blog, U.S. workers in the public and private sectors are generally entitled to take unpaid leave under the provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA). In practice, people often take FMLA leave after the birth of a child, or to attend to a health issue for themselves or a close family member. FMLA laws forbid employers from firing workers in retaliation for taking this leave. But to reiterate, workers are not entitled to their normal pay while they are on FMLA leave unless company policy says otherwise.
To compensate for this deficiency, expecting mothers sometimes purchase short-term disability insurance to cover themselves during their anticipated maternity leave.
Some states offer additional protections to workers who wish to take family leave, but Georgia is not among them. Additionally, workers who take leave to deal with family issues are not entitled to unemployment compensation, since they are still employed. (However, an existing unemployment claim may be extended if an already unemployed worker is forced to turn down employment due to illness.)
One exception applies to employees of the City of Atlanta. Under a law passed in 2015, a city employee who acts as a “primary caregiver” is eligible for six weeks of paid family leave, while a non-caregiver can qualify for two weeks of paid leave. The City of Marietta provides four weeks of paid maternity leave to its employees.
Some private employers offer paid family leave, but nothing in state or federal law requires this.
Jury Duty Leave
Few of us enjoy getting a jury duty notice in the mail. Unfortunately, the state of Georgia does not require companies to pay employees who are called to serve. This also applies to employees who are required to answer a subpoena. Georgia law does provide some protection from termination for responding to a subpoena, but not if the employee is charged with a crime. Further, employees must still comply with the employer’s procedure for providing reasonable notice about the expected absence or delay in reporting to work.
Under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), employees are entitled to unpaid leave if they are called up for military service. This leave is unlimited in duration for active service, and limited to six months in a four-year period for training. Members of Georgia National Guard are covered, as well as those in the U.S. armed forces.
Private employers are not required to pay employees for major holidays such as Christmas. However, state employees in Georgia are entitled to holiday pay.
Although some states provide paid leave to parents who wish to attend school-related events, such as PTA meetings, Georgia does not.
It’s worth pointing out that nothing prohibits private employers from voluntarily offering paid leave, and in fact a small number of companies do. If this kind of compensation is part of a company’s official employee policy, they may be obligated to comply.
As of July 1, 2017, Georgia employers that provide paid sick leave are required to permit workers to use up to five days of this allowance to care for ailing members of their immediate families. This new law applies only to companies that (1) already offer paid sick leave and (2) have more than 25 employees. To qualify, employees must work a minimum of 30 hours a week at the company.