How do I get my former employer to pay me the vacation time I earned now that I’ve been terminated??

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How do I get my former employer to pay me the vacation time I earned now that I’ve been terminated??

I recently ended my employment with a company I worked for the past 15 years. It has been over a month and I have not received my final check or paycheck stub. Federal law states they have to pay me by the normal next pay period but only for the hours I actually worked. Per the employee handbook, I should receive my vacation time as well but there are no laws in my state requiring employers to make good on their promises. Why even have a benefit package if employers aren’t even required to fulfill them?

Asked on March 6, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, Alabama

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

You are correct that your state's laws do not require the payment of accrued but unused vacation time on termination of employment. You indicate that "per the employee handbook, I should receive my vacation time as well": IF that employment handbook is firm and unequivocal about that and clearly states that you are entitled to your vacation time, that may create an enforceable contractual obligation to pay you; if not paid in that case, you could potentially sue the employer for "breach of contract" to get the money.
The obligation to pay you vacation on termation must, as stated, but 100% clear and unequivocal. *Any* language to the handbook to the effect of anything like--
"Nothing in this handbook creates a contract of employment"
"All employment is employment at will"
"This handbook creates no rights"
"Policies are subject to change at will"
--prevents the formation of an enforceable agreement, since such terms or provisions essentially disclaim the enforceability of anything in the handbook; in such a case, the handbook is illustrative only, and not enforceable.


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