My former employer had a PTO policy not a vacation policy, so, they did not have to accrue for vacation expense nor pay out unused PTO hours.

I understand all of this. However, I had approx
160 PTO hours available when I requested
online through our payroll system all but 4
days of my available PTO. I saved these last
32 hours for days off between Christmas and
New Years….when the office closed the past
two season and employees had to have saved
32 hours in order to take this time off.
So, I requested these hours months before I
was laid off…this layoff was due to continued
poor financial results. I am currently
performing contract work for this same
With all this said….does the company have a
liability to pay me for my PTO hours since I had
earmarked every available hour before they
laid me off? If I would have had any idea they
were thinking of laying me off I would and
could if used all of those hours way before I
was laid off. Thanks John

Asked on October 12, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Colorado


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Contact your state Department of Labor and Employment: you may have a claim for unpaid "vacation" time. Your state's law provides that while an employer does not have to give employees vacation time, if it does agree to let them earn or accrue it, then on termination of employment, any usused days will be be paid out in accordance with the agreement between the employer and employee. The law tends to not let people  or businesses escape their legal obligations just by changing nomenclature, so if accrued time is reasonably considered "vacation" time, then calling it PTO will not by itself necessarily let the employer off the hook. While there is some amount of legal analysis or construal required, because this was denominated PTO, not vacation, and therefore presumably also took in the equivalent of sick and/or personal days, a colorable argument can be made that at least some of your unused time was the equivalent of vacation and should be paid; it is at least worth a conversation with your state Dept. of Labor and Employment, and/or worth a consultaton with an employment law attorney in detail, to see if you may have a viable claim.

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