Seyfarth Synopsis: On May 8, 2017, Governor Nathan Deal signed a bill that extends the scope of an existing law that prohibits Georgia communities from making ordinances that affect the pay of Georgia workers. The change is in line with a trend in state law to proactively limit the ability of counties and cities to issue ordinances that exceed the level of worker protection provided by state and federal laws.

House Bill 243, drafted by Rep. Bill Werkheiser (R – Glennville), amends the Georgia Minimum Wage Act to anticipate any local government regulation requiring additional pay for employees due to roster changes. Georgia’s Minimum Wage Act already prohibited local governments such as counties, local corporations, and consolidated governments from issuing mandates that require an employer to pay each employee a wage rate or to provide employment benefits not otherwise required by state or federal law.

Prior to the passage of House Bill 243, the Georgia Minimum Wage Law defined “workplace benefits” as “anything of value that an employee may receive from an employer in addition to wages and salaries” including, but not limited to, “any health care”. Services; Disability benefits; Death benefits; Group benefits in the event of accidental death and dismemberment; paid days off for vacation, illness, vacation and personal necessity; Pension benefits; and profit sharing. ”House Bill 243 changes the definition of“ work ”to include“ additional pay based on plan changes ”.

According to the National Federation of Independent Business, House Bill 243 benefits employers by protecting them from forward-looking planning requirements that require employers to pre-set workers’ work schedules and pay an worker for lost or adjusted time when the Schedule changes later, the employer sets them first. Proponents of the bill argued that members of the food, service and retail industries rely heavily on flexibility in scheduling appointments to serve their customers, and that these business realities justified protecting the bill from forward planning requirements that the venues might announce when they would not be put into law.

The Georgian Minimum Wage Act and this new amendment are part of the larger wave of so-called pre-emption laws aimed at deterring municipalities from enacting ordinances that impose additional obligations on employers working within their borders. Numerous states, including South Carolina, Minnesota, Tennessee, Missouri, and Arkansas, have passed or considered similar preemption laws. While the laws in these various states (each of which are generally viewed as business-friendly) should offer some consolation to employers looking for business-relevant local laws, they also emphasize the need for caution in states whose lawmakers are less willing to city and county from passing labor protection laws.