In addition to the leave provided by your employer’s discretionary policies on vacation time, sick leave, personal days, or paid time off (PTO), you may have a legal right to take time off work for specific reasons under federal and Georgia laws. For example, if you are caring for an ailing family member or recovering from childbirth, you may have a right to leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Although Georgia does not have its own family and medical leave law, it does require employers to give employees time off for military service, jury duty, and voting.
This article provides an overview of your right to time off from work in Georgia. For more information, see our page on employee leave rights.
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives eligible employees the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year to care for a seriously ill family member (spouse, parent, or child), recuperate from their own serious health conditions, bond with a new child, or handle certain practical matters arising from a family member’s military service. The FMLA also requires employers to give employees up to 26 weeks off to care for a family member who suffered or exacerbated a serious illness or injury while serving in the military. (For purposes of this military family leave provision only, employees may take leave to care for a wider set of family members, including siblings, grandparents, and cousins, if they are next of kin to an injured service member.)
The FMLA applies to employers in all states with at least 50 employees. Employees are eligible only if they have worked for the employer for at least 12 months and have worked 1,250 hours in the 12 months before taking leave. (Learn much more about your rights under the FMLA at our Taking Family and Medical Leave page.)
Unlike many other states, Georgia does not have its own family and medical leave law. However, it does impose some requirements on employers that choose to provide sick leave to their employees. If the employer has 25 or more employees, employees must be allowed to use up to five days of leave per year to care for a sick family member. Employees are eligible if they work at least 30 hours per week.
Another federal law, the Unformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) gives eligible employees the right to be reinstated to their jobs after taking up to five years off for service in the U.S. military. (Find out all about USERRA in Nolo's article, Taking Military Leave.) Employers may not discriminate against employees based on their military service. And, employees may be fired only for good cause for a period of up to one year after they return from service, even if they would otherwise work at will. (See Employment At Will: What Does It Mean? to learn more.)
The laws of many states extend similar rights to employees who serve in the state’s military, including the right to take time off from work and to be reinstated afterwards. In Georgia, members of the U.S. military and Georgia National Guard are entitled to unlimited leave (with reinstatement) when they are called to active federal or state service. They are also entitled to up to six months of leave in a four-year period for annual training or service school. Employers may not discriminate against members of the U.S. armed forces or the state militia.
Georgia law gives employees the right to take time off work, without fear of retaliation, for the civic responsibility of voting. Employees must be allowed to take up to two hours off work to vote. The employer may decide when in the employee’s shift this time is taken. This time off must be paid, and employees must give reasonable notice that they will need time off for this purpose. However, employers need not give employees time off if the employee’s workday begins at least two hours after the polls open, or ends at least two hours before the polls close.
Employers must also allow employees to take time off to serve on a jury. Employers may not threaten, discharge, or penalize an employee for reporting to a subpoena or making a required court appearance (such as being a witness). An opinion of the Georgia Attorney General requires employers to pay employees their usual wages for jury service, less any compensation paid by the court.