While December 2020 may mark a welcome close to one of the most tumultuous years on record, Georgia employers and employees can expect one phenomenon to remain unchanged as we head into 2021: A fresh batch of federal, state, and local employment laws that become effective on or around January 1. Companies bound by the new regulations may struggle as they get used to compliance issues; if you are an employee, you may have questions about your rights and employer policies.
These circumstances often lead to chaos and confusion during the first few weeks, which is why both employers and employees can benefit from getting a head start on reviewing the basics. You should consult with a Georgia employment law attorney for specific details, but a summary of the key employment laws for 2021 may be useful.
- Family and Medical Leave for COVID-19: The lives of millions of Americans have changed dramatically during the pandemic and associated lockdowns, so it is no surprise that COVID-19 will also affect employment laws in the new year. Recently, the US Department of Labor revised certain provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) regarding employees who request leave due to COVID-19. Under FFCRA, eligible employees can take up to two weeks of paid sick leave for quarantining themselves or to care for someone else who is quarantined. The DOL clarified a number of issues regarding FFCRA in their revisions; for example:
- Employees can only take FFCRA leave if work would otherwise be available to them;
- Intermittent requests for leave require employer approval; and,
- Employees must provide documentation to support their need to take leave pursuant to FFCRA.
- Restrictions on Criminal Background Checks: The Georgia Senate enacted a law regarding access to a person’s criminal records for purposes of employment. It is possible to file a court petition to restrict or seal certain documents related to criminal history, so that they cannot be revealed through a typical employment background check.
- Limiting Wage Garnishments: Another bill enacted by the Georgia General Assembly touches on wage and hour laws as they pertain to garnishments. If you have student or education loans that meet the statutory definition, there is a cap on the amount that can be garnished: The limit is 15 percent of your weekly disposable earnings, which is what remains from your paycheck after all legally required deductions.
- Changes to Employee Benefit Plans: Every year brings new changes to contributions under the Employee Retirement Insurance Security Act (ERISA), and 2020 is no different. The IRS adjusts the amounts for qualified retirement plans to align with cost of living increases over the previous 12 months. Some highlights include:
- The limit on defined contribution plans, i.e., 415 plans, increases from $57,000 to $58,000;
- The “annual compensation limit” for relevant plans goes up $5,000 to $290,000;
- The minimum compensation for simplified employee pensions (SEPs) increases from $600 to $650; and,
- Income subject to Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA), otherwise known as the Social Security Wage Base, will rise from $137,700 to $142,800.
Our Georgia Employment Law Attorney Can Provide Additional Details
This general information about new employment laws for 2021 may be useful as an overview, but there are numerous details that may affect Georgia employees and employers. Company stakeholders can find themselves in legal trouble for noncompliance, while employees may not know how to enforce their rights. For more information on how the laws may impact you, please contact the Vaughn Law Firm in Decatur, GA. You can schedule a no-cost case evaluation by calling 877.615.9495 or filling out our online contact form.