As a salaried employee, can your employer make you work while on paid time off?

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As a salaried employee, can your employer make you work while on paid time off?

Asked on January 27, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Your employer can make you work any time, unless you have a contract limiting your hours/shifts/days/etc. worked--PTO, weekend, holiday, after hours, etc.
However, if you do more than a de minimis or small amount of work, the day should count as a work day--i.e. you should have to use a sick or personal day for it.
Answering a few phone calls or brief emails and staying in touch is not work; nor would be forwarding some materials from your computer to a co-worker, vendor, etc. On the other hand, if you have to spend more than a hour total (over the day) working, it would almost certainly be  considered a work day, not a PTO day. 
(Spending 5 - 15 minutes total, clearly not workday; between 15 - 60 minutes, a gray area.)
The above is subjective, by the way; there are no hard-and-fast rules out there, but the above is reasonable guidance.
Of course, if you work for a company where people are expected to work on PTO, then even if you're being taken advantage of, you need to decide if it's worth pushing the issue: unless you're job is contractually protected, you're an employee at will and could be terminated easily.


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