PTO Payout

I recently quit my job in VA and gave my respective 2 weeks notice. My former employer had recently changed the PTO policy and given my all of my PTO hours at the beginning of the year based on how many years I had been with the company as of 12/31 of last year. The company handbook states that if I gave my respective 2 weeks notice that I would be paid out the balance of any unused PTO up to 80 hours. No new handbook was given or provided that gave stipulations to the PTO example I have to work 6 months before I am eligible for cash payout if I end my employment. They said they are contacting their lawyer. It is my opinion that there is no way to predict how long someone will stay with the company and they did not make a clause or update nor give me a new company handbook to sign. They are refusing to pay me the 80 hours. Can they do that?

Asked on February 25, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Virginia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

In your state, employers are not legally required to pay out accrued but unused PTO on termination of employment. If there is no written contract, then a company is free to not only make it's own policy, but to change it at will; it is also free to choose to pay employee A but not employee B. Therefore, assuming you do not have a written contract (you do not mention one), the issue is whether the employee handbook can be considered to have formed an enforceable contract. Most employee handbooks do NOT; if there is any language in it to the effect that--
"all employment is employment at will"
"policies may be changed at any time/at will"
"nothing in this handbooks creates a guaranty or contact of employment"
--then the employee handbook does not create a contract and the company can most likely refuse to pay you--it could choose to not pay in this instance.
If the handbook lacks any limitations or disclaimers like those above, then depending on its *exact* language and the precise circumstances, you may have a contractual right to the payout, but for a definitive answer, would need to consult with an attorney who can analyze the handbook's exact language.


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