What are an employee’s rights to use their PTO?

My company currently gives 5 PTO hours per pay period. In the past you would max out at 210 hours of PTO and this would sit in a bank, not accrue any more, until you used them. This PTO would be deducted for things like sick days, vacation days, or any other personal time off. The company is changing their policy this year and I am wondering if it is legal. They are basically telling us that we have to use any PTO accrued in 2011 during the 2011 calendar year. Can the employer force me to take time off during the year if I still have PTO in my bank in order to use it? Should I speak with an employment law attorney? In San Mracos, CA.

Asked on January 5, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

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

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

According to CA labor laws, earned vacation time cannot be forfeited; "Use it or lose it" vacation policies are illegal.  The law provides that employers are not required to offer vacation days to their employees. However, once a companies choose to offer paid time off, it must adhere to the vacation pay laws.  accordingly, vacation pay is not a gift or gratuity but rather it constitutes additional wages for services rendered. Although employers can place caps on how much vacation time an employee can accrue without actually using it, employers cannot take away time their workers have already earned.

If you have been subjected to a use it or lose vacation policy or are otherwise being denied compensation for earned but unused vacation time, you need to speak directly with an employment law attorney.

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