Georgia Lunch and Break Law Regulations

In my research of state lunch and break laws, I have learned that Georgia is one of many states that does not have any specific state laws regarding this topic.

Although Georgia does not have a lunch and break law for those persons 16 and over, there are applicable federal rules for Georgia citizens. While Federal Law does not mandate specific breaks or meal periods, it does give guidance as to whether or not an employee should be paid during these times. Short breaks, those that are usually 20 minutes or less, should be counted as hours worked. Genuine “meal periods” are usually 30 minutes or more, and do not need to be compensated as work time. For this to be the case, however, the worker must be completely relieved of his or her duties during the meal break. If the employee is still required to do any duties (even small duties such as answering a phone), it can’t be considered a meal or lunch period and must be paid.

Federal law also contains other provisions related to employee pay during times of waiting, sleeping and traveling. Whether or not waiting time needs to be considered paid work hours depends on the situation. If an employee is allowed to do something of his or her choosing while waiting for another task to be finished or while waiting at the workplace for his or her services to be called upon, it is generally considered work time. On the other hand, if an employee is waiting to be called upon, but has great freedom to do what he or she wishes while on call (and has plenty of time to respond to the call), it is not generally considered paid work time.

Another issue I find comes up in the area of work hours is the issue of travel time. The general rule of thumb is that time spent in the normal day’s commute to and from work is not considered paid working time. However, if an employee is traveling in the course of a days work, it must be considered paid work time.

Finally, when it comes to sleeping time, an employee required to be on duty less than 24 hours is considered to be “working” even if he or she is permitted to sleep during some of those hours when not busy. If an employee is on duty more than 24 hours, a sleeping period of no more than eight hours may be deducted from work hours. However, this can only be done if sleeping quarters are provided and at least five hours of uninterrupted sleep may be achieved by the employee.

Complete information on the laws related to lunches, breaks and other pertinent labor issues can be found on the Georgia Complete Labor Law Poster.

Bookmark the permalink

This entry was posted in

37 Thoughts on “Georgia Lunch and Break Law Regulations”

ROBOLAW

August 18, 2008 at 4:38 pm

If you work 12 – 14 hour days, how many breaks should apply and long is the lunch break for working longer hours?

Amelia

August 19, 2008 at 1:26 pm

Hi Robo! Unfortunately, Georgia does not have any law requiring meal or rest breaks, even on shifts of 12 to 14 hours. For a more complete answer, please post your question on our sister site at http://www.laborlawtalk.com. And, thanks for reading the blogs! ~ Amelia

Jhon

October 19, 2008 at 9:27 am

I work for a auto dealer, I am a sales rep and my question is can my Employer restrict me from going out to get lunch even thought that I am in a commission job. they dont pay any salary. thanks

Amelia

October 19, 2008 at 5:13 pm

Hi Jhon! The answer is yes. Employers set the conditions of employment. Under federal law, an employer can require that the worker remain on the premises even during an unpaid meal break. This is true, regardless of how the employee is paid. (There is an exception in California.) For a more detailed answer, post your question on our sister site at http://www.laborlawtalk.com. HTH, and thanks for reading the blog!~ Amelia

Jay

March 29, 2009 at 2:14 pm

My company have a weird pay period where they pay us on the 4th and the 19th every month no matter what. Sometimes there are more than 14 days in a pay period resulting in hours in excess of 80. My coworker works lots of overtime. I mean he worked 80 hours just this week, but the company is only paying him his regular wage instead of 1.5. How is a work week determined? Is it a 7 day period (Monday-Sunday)? Seems like they are getting over.

Amelia

March 29, 2009 at 5:35 pm

Hi Jay! Yes, under federal law, the work week must be a 7-day period. Employees are entitled to overtime when they work more than 40 hours in the payroll week. (Not more than 80 hours in the payroll period.)

The employer can define when the payroll week is. For example, it can run from Thursday to Wednesday, or from Sunday to Saturday. However, the employer cannot change the payroll week from one pay period to the next.

It is possible that your friend is an exempt employee who is on salary. Exempt employees are never entitled to overtime. If not, you or your friend should definitely contact the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor at dol.gov. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

chevy

June 16, 2009 at 12:54 pm

my man is working if a company that has not paid them in 6 weeks i want to know what we can do and if the company is breaking the law

Amelia

June 17, 2009 at 9:41 am

Hi chevy! Yes, of course the employer is breaking the law. Paying employees $0 is paying them less than the federal or Georgia minimum wage, and it is illegal. Unfortunately, Georgia does not have an agency that enforces this law. Your man should file a wage complaint with the US Department of Labor at http://www.dol.gov. He could also take the employer to small claims court to collect his past due wages. No attorney is required for small claims court, and that may be your only resort if the employer is too small to be covered by federal law.
Your man should act now. If the company goes out of business, he may never collect his past due wages. Nonpayment of wages is usually a sign that the employer is having significant cash flow problems, and may not be in business long. An employee who quits because he has not been paid qualifies for unemployment benefits. Your man might be better off spending his time looking for a paying job, rather than working for nothing. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~Amelia

Corinne

September 3, 2009 at 5:58 pm

I work for a fast food restaurant and they require you to clock out for a 20 min break. Is that allowed in Georgia?

Amelia

September 3, 2009 at 6:07 pm

Hi Corinne! Yes, this is permitted. The employer can establish a break policy, and discipline or terminate any employee who does not follow the policy. If the break is shorter than 20 minutes, it must be paid. But a break of 20 minutes or more can be unpaid, under federal law. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

September 25, 2009 at 4:01 pm

hey I work at a bar/restraunt and we are given breaks but not allowed to leave the restraunt or to bring in our own food. To eat the food is fairly unhealthy and i have a specific diet and we still have to pay for it though half off. Is this legal?

Amelia

September 25, 2009 at 4:10 pm

Hi Joshua! Yes, in most cases this is legal. There is no law that the employer must permit employees to leave the premises for meal breaks. Local health codes in many cases prohibit employees from bringing food from unapproved vendors onto the property — and that would include food from home. (Other restaurant owners may be afraid that food employees bring in could harbor insects or harmful microbes. Or they may just be jerks.) Think of this as a challenge, to find a way to order a healthy meal that is an adaptation of a menu item. “I’ll have the potato skins, no bacon, no sour cream, just a little cheese with broccoli and red bell pepper on top.” Or, eat a hearty meal before you come to work and don’t eat during your break.
You mention a specific diet. If and only if you genuinely have a disability such as diabetes, the employer may have to make a reasonable accommodation for your dietary needs under ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act. But otherwise, you’ll have to grin and bear it. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~Amelia

SHane

May 2, 2010 at 9:09 pm

Can my employer force me to work days that are my off-work days. I work a three of four day work week (10-12 hr shifts) I work other jobs on my days off. The schedule is posted in advance, but often I am required to work when I have other plans.

Amelia

May 3, 2010 at 8:00 am

Hi SHane! Yes, an employer can require that an employee work on his or her usual days off, even if the employee has other plans or works another job on those days. Any employee who does not can be disciplined or terminated. Our suggestion is that you tactfully have a conversation with your boss to see if there is any way to reach a compromise here. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

Mark

June 4, 2010 at 4:04 pm

If my wife works a certain set of hours does the company have to give you a lunch break? If so how many hours would she need to work?

Amelia

June 4, 2010 at 8:25 pm

Hi Mark! Unfortunately, no, not in Georgia. There are 19 US states that have a law requiring meal breaks for nearly all workers. Georgia is not one of them. As long as your wife is over 18, the Georgia employer could legally schedule her to work for 23 hours without a meal break.
The best practice in HR is to give an employee a meal break on a shift of more than 6 hours, however, there is no law that compels a Georgia employer to do so. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

July 9, 2010 at 10:22 am

Is it lawful in the state of Georgia for an employer to make you clock out for bathroom breaks.

Amelia

July 9, 2010 at 10:55 am

Hi RGol! Probably not. That is, the employer can track bathroom breaks by having you clock out. However, the employer cannot put limits on an employee’s use of the bathroom. Note that this applies only to using the toilet, not making phone calls, smoking or other activities, even if they are conducted in the restroom.

Under the federal FLSA, an employee must be paid for any rest breaks that are shorter than 20 minutes. Assuming the employer is covered by the federal minimum wage law, the employee can be required to clock out, but must be paid for the time they are clocked out.

An employee who needs more than 20 minutes in the restroom may have IBS or another permanent disability. If that is the case, post another question and we will address that issue. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

Tracey

July 22, 2010 at 3:42 pm

My question is, can an employer continue to change payroll days? We used to get paid on the 15th and 30th and if either one of those days fell on the weekend we got paid the Friday before, then they changed it to the following business day (Monday or if that was a holiday, the following business day). Now they changed it again to the 15th and the last day of the month. This month, July 2010, the last day of the month (31st) falls on a Saturday, so I won’t get paid until Monday, August 2nd. Can they do that?

Amelia

July 22, 2010 at 5:57 pm

Hi Tracey! This is legal in Georgia, although it would be illegal in many states. A number of states have payday laws, that require employees to be paid on payday, or to be paid twice per month. Georgia does not.
We will say that when an employer acts like this, they usually are having problems meeting payroll and may go out of business soon. Our suggestion is that you begin looking for a new job, because you may not have one much longer. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

Chavian

August 2, 2010 at 6:20 pm

Hi! I was wondering if i only work 4 hours, do I have to take an unpaid hour break if I dont choose too.

Amelia

August 2, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Hi Chavian! Yes, the employer can require you to take an unpaid 60-minute meal break, and discipline or fire any employee who refueses. Georgia law does not require the employer to give you a meal break on a 4-hour shift, but it permits the employer to give you a meal break, and even to make that meal break mandatory. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

John

August 20, 2010 at 11:21 pm

In the state of California if you clock out for lunch 1min over the 6th hour they pay you an extra hr for the day, I was wondering whats the penalty in the State of Georgia.

Amelia

August 20, 2010 at 11:35 pm

Hi John! Unfortunately, Georgia employment laws are nothing like those in California. In fact, California has by far the best employment laws, from the employee’s point of view. The statute you are referring to entitles a California employee to an extra hour’s pay for any day in which the employee does not receive all the meal and rest breaks required by law.

To answer your question, there is no penalty for an employer who does not give an employee his or her meal break in Georgia. That is partly because there is no law in Georgia that requires an employer to give meal breaks at all. A Georgia employer can require that the employee take a meal break, and discipline or terminate the employee if they do not. Or, the employer can require that the employee work a shift of any length (even 12 or 16 hours) without a meal break. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

Bouralis

August 29, 2010 at 2:45 pm

I am on unemployment and recently thought I was getting a fulltime job which is what I signed up for on the application. however upon signing the paperwork and reading over the paperwork a few days later I discovered that the offer of employment reads for a part time position with less then 30 hours and I travel an hour to get to work. My question is if I leave the job after working 6 days waiting on the new paperwork to be given to me with the full time offer on it will I be denied unemployment since I am leaving. The position which is presenting a hardship for me?

Amelia

August 29, 2010 at 4:24 pm

Hi Bouralis! Yes, in many cases if you quit, you will no longer qualify for unemployment. If you were fired for a reason beyond your control, you might still qualify for unemployment. However, in this economy, even with a 2-hour per day commute, a part-time job is better than no job at all. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

cm

November 6, 2010 at 2:57 pm

I work in a daycare and is not allowed an lunch break. I still get the hour taken out of my check everyday because my boss say were not doing anything while the children are asleep. Mean while we are sitting in our classrooms watching the children who really are not sleeping at all, answering the telephones, showing guest around the daycare who are considering bringing there children there, and answering the door. When we asked for at least an thirty min lunch break he told us no. I live in Ga and I wanted to see if this was illegal and was there a way I can get my money for every hour he has taken from me since I was working there.

Amelia

November 6, 2010 at 3:59 pm

Hi cm! There is probably a way you can get back the money deducted for the past 2-3 years. Both the Georgia and federal minimum wage laws require that an employee be paid for all time worked. Even if you are sitting passively watching the children during nap time, that is work. (If you could go into another room and eat while someone else watched the children, that would be a meal break.) Answering the phone, giving tours, etc. just aggravates the situation.

You should contact the U.S. Department of Labor and tell them you want to file a wage complaint under the FLSA, the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. Tell them your employer is deducting an hour per day from your wages, when you do not actually get a meal break. They will investigate the complaint, and if they find the employer owes you money, force him to pay. If he refuses to pay, they will sue him at no charge to you. Unfortunately, the DOL can only collect back wages for the past 2 to 3 years.

It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee who files a wage complaint. Even if the wage complaint proves to be unfounded, retaliation is illegal. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

charliss

January 27, 2011 at 9:45 pm

I am an hourly clerical employee, working for a Georgia Employer. Our department was recently directed to shutdown for one hour daily, to allow the whole dept. to go to lunch at the same time. I would prefer to go to lunch at a different time. Can my employer dictate WHEN I take my lunch period?

Amelia

January 28, 2011 at 10:54 am

Hi charliss! Yes, the employer can dictate when you will go to lunch, and most employers do so. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

john page

September 26, 2012 at 8:21 am

It is NICE to see a question and answer blog where the questions are actually answered….Many blogs ive seen leave people’s questions unanswered….Thanks!

robert

June 23, 2014 at 1:20 pm

I work at least ten hours a day, five days a week. Is it legal for me not to get a break for lunch or to grab a snack? Also I am a salary employee and my father is very ill, am i required to make up the hours i missed one day while he was having surgery?
Thanks in advance.

Amelia

June 24, 2014 at 6:58 am

Sadly Robert, Georgia does not have a meal break law, so it is lawful for an employer to not grant a formal lunch break. Obviously an employee who doesn’t eat for 10+ hours is not going to be highly productive. The best practice would be to at least allow the employee to consume a sandwich or snacks while working.

Time off for a salaried employee is a different topic. There is no requirement that an employer provide flexible scheduling for salaried employees. If you miss an entire day of work for a reason other than your own illness or disability, the employer is under no obligation to pay you for that day. If you worked a portion of the day, you would be entitled to payment for the full day under the federal FLSA.

An employer can have a set expectation in terms of the number of hours a salaried employee is expected to work. So yes, if you don’t get all your work done that week, or if you don’t put in a total of 50 hours, the employer could discipline you for poor performance. A reasonable employer probably would not do so if it were a one-time event, but they have that right.

Surgery is typically a serious health condition under the FMLA. If your employer has 50 or more workers within 75 miles, you could apply for unpaid time off under FMLA. In that case, there is no requirement that you make up the work that you missed.

Brooke

July 16, 2014 at 4:30 pm

Is it legal for an hour a day to automatically be deducted from my pay in Georgia? I sometimes don’t get a break at all and an hour is still deducted.

Amelia

July 17, 2014 at 11:48 am

No, this is not legal. Both Georgia and federal minimum wage laws require that employees be paid for all time worked. If you are working through your breaks, you must be paid for that time. If that results in you working more than 40 hours per week, you are probably entitled to overtime.

Brooke/David

July 18, 2014 at 4:21 pm

Is there a link showing proof of that? Thanks in advance.

Amelia

July 19, 2014 at 9:48 am

Sure! We are assuming that you are an hourly employee working at a company covered by the federal minimum wage law. (Sorry this is so crowded…our comments section does not permit paragraph breaks.)

Here’s a link to the US Department of Labor fact sheet designating that an employee must be paid for all the time they work, meaning time the employer “suffers or permits” the employee to work.http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs22.htm. An employee who works during her breaks is working, therefore she must be paid for that time. (Here’s the link to FLSA, the relevant law stating an employee must be paid for all time worked http://www.dol.gov/whd/flsa/index.htm.)

Here’s a PDF version of the same federal fact sheet http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs22.pdf. Regarding not paying employees for meal breaks, it says, “Bona fide meal periods (typically 30 minutes or more) generally need not be compensated as work time. The employee must be completely relieved from duty for the purpose of eating regular meals. The employee is not relieved if he/she is required to perform any duties, whether active or inactive, while eating.”

Here’s a federal fact sheet that discusses automatically deducting meal breaks. While this fact sheet specifically addresses the healthcare industry, the U.S. Department of Labor has consistently made the same ruling across industries.http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs53.htm.

Here’s a news release from 2009 when the U.S. DOL required a company to pay $1.7M in back wages to employees after the company automatically deducted for meal periods that some employees had to work through:http://www.dol.gov/opa/media/press/whd/whd20091461.htm.

Here’s a 2013 US DOL enforcement action against an employer in the restaurant industry who was automatically deducting for breaks that employees worked through: http://www.dol.gov/whd/media/press/whdpressVB3.asp?pressdoc=Southeast/20131210.xml. There are many, many more.

Here’s just a small sample of lawsuits and enforcement actions: a healthcare system in Philadelphia (http://articles.philly.com/2009-11-24/business/25284337_1_mercy-health-system-hospital-floor-staff-nurses), and the University of Rochester (http://www.hospitalovertime.com/documents/D_and_C-UR_settles_with_employees.pdf). Here’s a NY Times article summarizing 40 lawsuits against Walmart for not paying employees who worked through meal breaks: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/13/us/in-house-audit-says-wal-mart-violated-labor-laws.html. (Some of those states required that an employer give a meal break to workers…Georgia does not.)

This handbook from the state of Georgia Department of Labor http://www.dol.state.ga.us/pdf/forms/dol224.pdfsimply cites that a) employees must be paid for all time worked and b) since federal law is more stringent than Georgia law, employers who are in compliance with federal law are in compliance with both.

Another way to look at this: ask the employer to turn it around. Both federal and Georgia minimum wage laws require that an employee be paid for all the time she works. Generally speaking, that’s all the time the employee is on work premises, unless she is entirely relieved of work duties during a meal break of 20 minutes or more. Ask the employer to show you anything that says it’s legal to automatically deduct for a meal break that the employee works through.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *