If your job has been terminated, you probably have a lot on your mind, including finding a new job and medical insurance. You probably aren’t thinking about the vacation time you have accrued at your job.

Under California and federal law, vacation pay is not required. However, many employers do give vacation days. If an employer does choose to provide you with vacation days, legally they do not have to be paid days off – an employer could legally offer you unpaid vacation time.

Many employers do offer a certain amount of paid vacation days to employees. This is usually a set number of days per year, or is based on the number of days or hours worked. Sometimes vacation days are included in the general category of paid time off (or PTO).  Importantly, under California law, if an employer has agreed with its employees to pay for vacation time, it’s illegal to fail to pay it, and can in fact result in criminal charges.

When you leave a job, or are terminated, it’s vitally important that you are fairly compensated for your time on the job, which includes vacation benefits you have accrued. This is especially important since you may not know when you will find a new source of income. Vacation benefits are legally considered a part of an employee’s compensation. When an employee quits or is fired, he or she is owed pay for all earned vacation time. The employer is not allowed to take away your earned vacation time when you leave, or refuse to pay it out, except in very narrow circumstances.

Vacation leave can also be important when calculating overtime benefits under federal and state law. Overtime is usually based upon the number of hours worked. If you use a vacation day during a week, that is not factored in to overtime calculations in most cases.

In some situations, it may be difficult to know exactly how much vacation time has been earned. The employer should be tracking and documenting this information. Some employers may have a policy that paid vacation time is accrued after a year of employment. In that case, California courts have held that the vacation time in that situation will accrue as it is earned. For example, if a company gives a week of paid vacation time after a year, and you have been working there for six months, you will have accrued half a week of vacation time.

Some employers may have a policy that limits the amount of vacation time that can be accrued by an employee. This policy has been found to be legal, because employers aren’t taking away something that an employee has already earned. For example, an employee may be only allowed to accrue a maximum of two weeks of vacation, and after that they may be required to take vacation time before any more can be accrued. If this has happened to you or someone you know, you should contact an attorney experienced in pursuing vacation pay violations under the California Labor Code to be sure that your legal rights aren’t being violated.

If employers fail to fully pay employees, they should be held legally responsible. At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that employers should pay their employees for all of the wages to which they are entitled, including vacation time. If you have been denied vacation time to which you believe you are entitled, call Micha Star Liberty, Oakland employment attorney, at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000. Micha Star Liberty will work hard to ensure that you receive all the compensation you are owed, plus any owned penalties or interest. Call today for a free consultation on your case, and to learn more about your legal rights.

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