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California PTO Laws

Posted by Eric Kingsley | Jun 18, 2023 | 0 Comments

Under California law, employers are not required to provide a set amount of paid time off (PTO) or paid vacation days. But, if a company's policy dictates that the employer provide vacation time, in such cases, you have the right to the amount of vacation time that is stated in the company's policy.

The law in California also states that you must be paid for any vacation time you have not used at the time you leave your job. If your employer fails to reimburse you for accrued vacation time, you may be able to seek compensation by filing an unpaid wages claim or lawsuit.

The Right to PTO or Vacation Time in California

California Labor Code does not mandate employers to provide vacation time, paid time off (PTO), personal days or holidays. While vacation days are not required under the law, a vast majority of employers in California do provide vacation time as a job perk or benefit.

However, it is often up to employers to decide how their employees earn this vacation time and who will be eligible to earn vacation time. In addition, employers may also put a waiting period for new employees to accrue vacation.

If your employer does provide PTO or vacation time, it should be treated as wages that the employee has earned. So, if you accrued vacation time over a year, that cannot be taken away from you if you did not use them.

Vacation time carries over and does not expire, even if you did not use it. Your employer cannot take away the vacation days you earned to penalize you. When you leave your job, the accrued vacation time you did not use must be included in the final paycheck.

Are There Circumstances When Employers Can Take Away Your Vacation Time?

It is important to understand that vacation is a form of earned wages. So, once you earn your vacation time per your employer's accrual rate, no one can take that time away from you.

Under California law, you don't lose vacation time if you don't use it. In other words, your vacation hours do not expire. While some employers may claim that you will lose vacation time if you don't use it, that s against California law.

However, your employer can still require you to take time off and use your vacation time during the year. Many companies also require their employees to take vacation time in order to accrue too many vacation days.

Most California employers also place a limit of how much vacation time you can earn during a pay period. California law prohibits employers from taking away earned vacation time as a form of punishing the employee.

While employers can change company policy to make employees ineligible for vacation time, they cannot take away vacation time that you have already earned or accrued. If your employer is in violation of the law, you might be able to get compensation from an unpaid wage settlement.

Can My Employer Determine How Much Vacation Time I Accrue?

Employers are allowed under the law to place limitations when it comes to vacation time or paid time off. For example, they may require employees to take a minimum amount of time in order to request time off.

Some companies may require employees to get their vacation request pre-approved by a manager or supervisor. Other employers may place limits on the number of days you take in a row for vacation. Some employers may also list vacation "blackout days" or restricted days that employees cannot take off.

While these actions are legal, employers are prohibited from limiting vacation time based on discrimination. Employers cannot discriminate based on protected characteristics such as race, religion, color, national origin, ethnicity, age, sex or sexual orientation.

What Happens to My Vacation Time Upon Termination?

If you have quit your job or if you have been let go from your job, your employer is required under California law to reimburse you for any accrued vacation time. Not doing so is like failing to pay the wages you have rightfully earned.

If your employer does not pay you for vacation hours, you will be eligible to seek those unpaid wages. Employees may seek unpaid wages for all the hours they have worked, overtime hours worked and any vacation time that has not been used.

Filing an Unpaid Wages Lawsuit

If your employer does not pay you for vacation time accrued, you may be able to file an unpaid wages lawsuit against your employer. It is against the law for any employer in California to take away accrued vacation time or refuse to pay employees for unpaid vacation time after they leave the company.

There may be instances where an employer's policy on paid time off may violate California labor laws. This could result in several unpaid wages claims.

In such cases, employees may be able to band together and file a class action lawsuit seeking compensation for paid time off. Please remember that it is also illegal for your employer to retaliate against you for exercising your rights under California law.

Your employer cannot take retaliatory action against you for reporting wage and hour violations or for filing an unpaid wages claim. Doing so could amount to wrongful termination.

How Our Employment Attorneys Can Help

If your employer has taken away your vacation time or failed to pay you accrued vacation time after you leave your job, it is important that you discuss your case with one of our experienced LA wage and hour attorneys. The California employment lawyers at Kingsley & Kingsley Lawyers know how to protect your rights and help hold your employer accountable.

To schedule your free consultation and comprehensive case evaluation, simply fill out the form on this page.   

About the Author

Eric Kingsley

Eric B. Kingsley is a 2023 "Best In Law" Award winner and has litigated over 150 class actions. He is also an AV peer rated attorney and a prolific speaker at various seminars on employment law.


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