Paid Vacation and Time Off: What are Your Rights?

Paid Vacation and Time Off: What are Your Rights?

During times of high unemployment, many employees were happy just to have jobs, and questions about paid vacation and time off rights may not have been an immediate concern. Since the COVID-19- influenced work-from-home and work/life balance movements have emerged, however, workers are revisiting their questions regarding vacation time and other paid time off (PTO).

Is Paid Vacation Time a Right?

You may be surprised at the answer, but neither federal nor state laws require companies to provide PTO. Therefore, those companies that do offer some sort of paid leave are able to set their policies unencumbered by state or federal statutes.

A company can simply refuse to offer PTO or may only offer a few days. Companies also have the right to restrict PTO to some employee groups but not to others. For example, XYZ Company might offer PTO to full-time workers that have been employed for two or more years. Employers do have to be careful to not practice illegal discrimination regarding PTO as race, disability or religion cannot factor into their PTO policies.

Are Use-it or Lose-it Policies Legal?

Illinois regulations do not prohibit a use-it or lose-it policy as long as “the employer gives the employee a reasonable opportunity to take the vacation and the employer can demonstrate that the employee had notice of the ‘use it or lose it’ nature of the policy.” For example, an employer can simply say that a worker is entitled to one week of PTO per year but if the time is not taken before December 31 of that year it would be forfeited. Employees are not generally entitled to monetary reimbursement for vacation days not taken within the employer-prescribed time period.

Can My Employer Require Advance Vacation Day Notice?

Yes, employers can require advance notice and they can also limit how many PTO days an employee can take at one time. Therefore, even if an employee is entitled to 10 days of PTO per year, a company can mandate that they only take five days in a six-month period, for example.

Employers can also impose an arbitrary waiting period regarding usage of PTO. This makes sense to employers because they usually do not want employees to start taking PTO until they have worked for a reasonable time period.

If I Have Accrued Vacation Time and I Quit, Does the Company Have to Pay Me for it?

Yes, in Illinois, a company is required to pay out unused PTO to employees that quit. The pay most likely would be included in your final paycheck. This does not apply to severance pay, sick pay or holiday pay as these benefits are treated differently.

Contact Us Today

PTO is a great perk, but it is important to understand that employers are not required to offer vacation and personal days. That said, if you have been offered PTO as a condition of your employment and you have quit your job, you can be entitled to compensation for unused PTO. The Law Office of Mitchell A. Kline can review your employment situation and can advise if an Illinois employment attorney could assist you. Schedule a free initial consultation by filling out the online form or calling 312- 558-1454.