Charlotte, N.C. (February 15, 2024) - The State of Georgia saw several developments in labor and employment law in 2023 focused on employee leave entitlements and vaping prohibition.

Family Care Act Extension

As of May 1, 2023, the Peach State permanently extended its Family Care Act, O.C.G.A. § 31-1-10, removing the sunset provision that would otherwise trigger the law's repeal. Georgia's Family Care Act, originally effective July 1, 2017, requires certain employers to provide paid sick leave to care for employees' immediate family members. Covered employers must have 25 or more employees and must already provide paid sick leave voluntarily. Covered employees must work at least 30 hours per week. Employers who provide paid sick leave to employee must allow the employees to use up to five days of earned sick leave to care for immediate family members. The Family Care Act defines immediate family members as including an employee's child, spouse, grandchild, grandparent, parent, or dependent in the employee's most recent tax return. Thus, some Georgia employers remain obligated to allow employees to use accrued paid sick leave hours to take time away from work due to the incapacity, illness, or injury of immediate family members.

Voting Leave Rights

On July 1, 2023, Georgia afforded employees voting leave rights by adopting O.C.G.A. § 21-2-404. Under this new section of the Georgia Code, an employee must be permitted to take necessary time off to vote on the day on which a primary or election is held if the employee provides the employer reasonable notice. Time off may not exceed two hours. Additionally, if an employee's work schedule begins at least two hours after polls open or ends at least two hours before polls close, no voting time off is required. Employers may specify the hours during which employees may be absent to exercise this new voting leave right. As we enter an election year, Georgia employers need to be aware of employee voting leave rights.

Vaping Prohibition in Enclosed Workplaces

Also, on July 1, 2023, Georgia amended its Smokefree Air Act at O.C.G.A. § 31-12A-2 to prohibit vaping and electronic smoking in enclosed places of employment. Previously, the Act's definition of "smoking" embraced lighted tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars, and pipe tobacco. The 2023 amendment expanded the definition of "smoking" to include "use of an electronic smoking device which creates aerosol or vapor or the use of any oral smoking device for the purpose of circumventing the prohibition of smoking."

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