California Vacation Law and PTO Law Common Questions

The start of summer can bring up many questions for employees who want to take time off work for vacation, or extend their weekends to spend time with family on long summer days. But before you book that flight to Europe or head off on your family camping trip, it is always a good idea to review your company’s vacation and paid time off (PTO) policy, plus understand what California vacation laws entail. This article will answer common questions regarding California’s vacation and PTO laws.

Does my employer have to give me vacation time?

You may be surprised to know that your California employer is not required to give you vacation time or PTO. But when your employer does allow employees vacation time, there are certain rules they must follow under California law.

What is the difference between vacation time and PTO?

In California, PTO and vacation time are generally used interchangeably. Any time you are paid while away from work, not working, and the time off is not tied to a particular event or holiday, it is considered vacation or PTO. Your company policy may even call these days “personal days” or “floating holidays.”

Can my employer take away my unused vacation time?

While most states do allow employers to revoke vacation time if it isn’t used by the end of the year, California law prohibits your employer from taking away your unused vacation days. In fact, California law allows your vacation balance to roll over into the following year.

I work part-time. Is my employer allowed to exclude me from vacation pay policies?

Your California employer has the right to exclude you and other part-time employees from vacation policies that are set for full-time workers or even limit vacation time you take. However, their policy must specify exactly who is eligible for vacation and PTO.

I have accrued vacation time. Does my employer have to pay me for unused vacation?

California law states that accrued vacation is considered unpaid wages if vacation days are not used. But while you can get paid for unused vacation days, state law allows California employers to place a cap on vacation accrual.

Do companies have to pay out vacation time when you quit?

In California, accrued vacation must be paid if you lose your job by quitting or getting fired. Your employer must pay you for any unused vacation time in your final paycheck.

If you notice that your employer is not treating you fairly when it comes to taking vacation time or PTO due to a protected characteristic under the FEHA (e.g. race, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, disability, pregnancy, etc.) you may be able to file a discrimination complaint. Contact our expert California employment attorneys for a free consultation today.