Is my employer allowed to force me to take unpaid leave?

UPDATED: Oct 2, 2022

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Is my employer allowed to force me to take unpaid leave?

I’m a salaried, exempt state employee. I was forced to take 7 days of unpaid leave over the past year. Each

of those 7 days were because I was out of leave I only earn 9.3 hours of each annual leave and sick leave per month and either myself or my son was sick or my husband had just had surgery. Each of those days, I had worked most or all of the rest of the week. Are they allowed to make me use unpaid leave?

Asked on October 14, 2019 under Employment Labor Law, South Carolina


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

If you missed work when you did not have PTO to cover it (or had used up you paid time off) they could have terminated you: there is no right to miss work without using PTO, even if you were sick or were caring for a family member, unless your employer is covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), you are eligible for it, and the condition and absence met its criteria. (You can find information about FMLA on the U.S. Dept. of Labor website.)
Even if they choose to not terminate you, there is NO obligation to pay a salaried exempt employee for any days that she misses in their entirety (i.e. if you did not work at least some part of the day, they did not have to pay you for that day; if you work, for example, 3 days in a week and missed 2 days, they had to pay you for 3 days, but would not have to pay for the other 2).
So you could have terminated you. and them letting you take unpaid leave instead is actually more generous than the law required.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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