Can my employer take PTO time to fill in hours?

My employer has recently implemented a policy that if an employee does not work a full work week of regular time (20 hours for part time, 40 hours for full time), they will take hours from our PTO to make up the regular time. Apparently this is an effort to keep people from racking up overtime during the week and then leaving early, still having a total of 40 hours for the week. The reason that I am concerned is that I am going from full time status to part time status next week to go back to school. Due to schedule constrictions, I was planning on working 30 hours one week and 10 hours the next, hoping to maintain part time status. HR says that with the new rule, they would take 10 hours of my PTO for to make 20 for the week that I only work 10 hours. They said the only way to avoid this is to go to PRN status, which would mean losing certain benefits. Are they allowed to take PTO for this reason?

Asked on August 15, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, California


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

The fact is that employees generally view PTO as a right of employment; a right that they can use as they see fit. However, from a legal stance, this simply is not correct. Employees do not have the right to use any banked or unused time whenever they please (provided that it is not already earned but unused). The opposite is true. An employer can mandate when and how such time is to be used.

The reason for this is that there is no law (federal/most states) that requires that PTO time even be offered to employees. Therefore, to the extent that an employer makes the decision to adopt a vacation policiy, it is a discretionary benefits. Consequently, an employer can mandate just how these policies can be established and utilized.

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