Why The State of Georgia Has Some of The Worst Workers Rights Laws In The U.S.

Georgia is a pretty state. Full of great vegetation, beaches, mountains, and lush evergreens. But every state has at least a few bad apples on the tree. While there are some things Georgia does right, like the HERO roadside assistance program in Atlanta, there is also an incredibly dark side to the state. Georgia has some of the worst workers’ rights laws in the United States. In fact, Georgia has virtually no workers rights laws at all.

When I first moved here from Oklahoma (which is a Conservative state redder than blood), one difference I noticed is that unlike Oklahoma that required strict break laws of 30 minutes for every four hours of work, Georgia has no break laws at all. Beyond OSHA’s basic requirements to make sure that employees are allowed time to use the restroom for health reasons, there are no actual laws in place that mandate breaks in any way. There is a shadow of suggestion among better employers that workers should get up to 30 minutes if they work an 8-hour shift, however, that suggestion is neither law, nor required to be consecutive time. Meaning, you could be working a 12-16 hour shift without a lunch break. That’s what I like to call Worker Abuse Legislation.

But the problems don’t end there. Not even close. Not only has Georgia not passed a Predictive Scheduling Law, which would penalize employers if they change a worker’s schedule without proper notification time or consent (such as, the day before for instance)… Georgia has actually passed law to prevent any county or city within the state from passing a Predictive Scheduling Law. But it gets worse. Georgia is also an at-will employment state. Which means that if your employer changes your schedule the day before you’re supposed to be there (sucks if you had plans) and you happen to not be there, they can fire you. Yes, they are supposed to notify you, but if your boss calls you on your day off, will you answer the phone? Not everyone would. And legally, you do not have to.

I mean, sure, according to article 16 of the Georgia labor code, they’re “supposed to” notify you 10 days in advance if the schedule changes unless it’s an “extreme business necessity.” However, your employer could easily make up a story that the change was necessary. Schedule changes during the working week are actually common here, especially among restaurant workers.

So… You have a state that allows its employers to change your schedule anytime they want (being a detriment to an employee’s personal/home life), you can be fired anytime they want, and when you are at work, they don’t have to allow you time to eat or rest (even off the clock). Worker Abuse Legislation at its finest.

Is it any wonder that Georgia’s state minimum wage is $5.15/hr? That was the price of the last Greeting Card I purchased at Walgreens. Of course, employees who are covered under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) are required to be paid the federal minimum of $7.25/hr, but not all employees are. A worker making $5.15/hr who works 40 hours a week makes $824 every month before taxes. A worker making $7.25/hr makes $1160/mo before taxes. What they both have in common is that neither minimum wage could hope to afford a place to live in Atlanta or anywhere else in Georgia without at least one roommate. Here’s what I mean: the average rent in Atlanta, GA is almost $2000/mo, and even small towns in Georgia are charging $1000+/mo. You’re looking at a state that has a potential homeless epidemic with a side of starvation. And inflation prices are only rising.

But wait, there’s more. As if it weren’t enough that Georgia treats its adult employees like garbage, in the state of Georgia, barring hours where school is in session, 16-17 year old minors do not have a cap on the amount of hours they can be asked to work in a week. 14-15-year-olds can work up to 18-hours in a school week and 40 in a non-school week. In fact, it would appear that the only workers in Georgia who have any real rights are between 14-15-years-old. And let’s be real: That is only because of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which specifically outlines employee work restrictions for minors.

All in all, Georgia laws in regards to workers are abysmal. And when reading the law, it would appear that, acting like the true slave state it once was, Georgia’s only concern is making sure the people who supply the work are happy and looked after, giving no care or concern to the people who are in the companies, working the hours, and trying to get by. When is Georgia going to stop passing laws that only benefit the employers and not the employees who are the blood of those companies?

Source Links:

Georgia Predictive Scheduling Stance

Georgia Employee Break Laws

Georgia Child Labor Laws

FLSA State Minimum Wages

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