• Mar 05, 2024
  • Wage & Hour

California PTO Laws

california pto laws

What are California labor laws about paid time off (PTO)?

What are the rules for vacation pay? How many vacation days (or vacation time) does an employee deserve in California? How much paid time should a worker receive in a year?

According to the California Department of Industrial Relations, there is actually no legal requirement in California that an employer provide its employees with either paid or unpaid vacation time.

California PTO Laws

In California, Paid Time Off (PTO) is governed by the state labor laws, as well as any applicable company policies or employment contracts. While California does not have specific laws mandating paid time for vacation time for private sector employees, there are regulations related to the accrual, use, and payout of accrued vacation time and unused vacation time:

  1. Accrual of PTO:
    • California law views earned vacation time as a form of wages. Employers may choose to provide paid vacation time as part of their employee benefits package.
    • If an employer offers vacation time, it must be accrued based on the employee’s length of service and must vest over time. For example, employees may accrue vacation time on a monthly or yearly basis.
  2. Use of Paid Time Off (PTO):
    • Employees are entitled to use accrued vacation time according to their employer’s policies. Employers must allow employees to use accrued vacation time for any purpose they choose, including vacation, illness, or paid time off.
    • Employers may have policies in place regarding providing advance notice for using vacation time.
  3. Payout of Accrued Paid Time Off (PTO):
    • When an employee leaves their job, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, they are entitled to receive payment for any accrued and unused vacation time as part of their final wages.
    • California law treats accrued vacation time as earned wages, and California employers must provide vacation pay/pay out accrued vacation time to employees at his or her final rate of pay.
  4. Unlimited PTO Policies:
    • Some employers offer unlimited personal days/vacation days/PTO policies, which do not accrue or have a cap on the amount of vacation time employees can take. In these cases, employers are not required to pay employees for accrued vacation time upon an employee’s separation from the company.
    • Taking too many vacation days is an issue that an employer must resolve directly with their employee.
  5. Sick Leave Laws:
    • California has separate laws governing compensated sick leave. The California Healthy Workplace Healthy Family Act (HWHFA), also known as the Paid Sick Leave law, requires employers to provide paid leave to employees, which accrues at a minimum rate set by law.
    • Employees can use paid sick leave for their own illness, medical appointments, or to care for a family member.
  6. PTO Policies and Documentation:
    • Employers are required to have written policies outlining their PTO accrual, use, and payout procedures. These policies should be communicated to employees and made easily accessible.
    • Employers should also maintain accurate records of employees’ accrued vacation time and usage.

It’s important for both employers and employees in California to understand their rights and obligations regarding vacation time, paid time off, vacation policies within a company, accrual rates, permitted uses, and payout requirements and how they all relate to California employment law.

Does A Company Have To Pay Out PTO? – FAQ

does a company have to pay out pto if you quit? Unless otherwise mentioned by a collective bargaining agreement or contract, upon termination of employment, all earned and unused vacation must be paid to the employee at his or her final rate of pay. Unlimited vacation time in California policies may affect this rule.

is personal time off paid? Based on the FLSA’s rules, personal time off can be paid or unpaid. Typically, employees will accrue paid vacation days or PTO, but if they take off time in excess of what they accrued, that additional PTO may not be paid.

is pto required in california? There is no legal requirement in California that an employer provide its employees with either paid or unpaid vacation time.

how much pto do you get? Each company may have different PTO policies and paid vacation benefits. It’s best to consult with your HR department for more information.

do you get paid for pto when you quit california? Usually, paid vacation time is considered earned wages in California, so there is no distinction between an employee quitting or being terminated. If an employee leaves and has unused vacation time, then the employer must pay out unused vacation days in the employee’s final paycheck.

does pto expire? Typically, if a company offers paid-time-off (PTO), California law mandates that employees get to keep their earned vacation days forever. Earned vacation days may never expire in California, and employees are entitled to cash out any unused PTO when they leave the company.

do you have to pay back pto if you quit? In California, employers are required to pay out unused accrued vacation time when employees leave the company.

do you get your pto if you quit? Yes. California, Colorado, Montana, and Nebraska prohibit employers from implementing a use-it-or-lose-it policy.

can an employer make you work during pto? No, an employer should not interfere with an employee’s PTO.

do you accrue vacation while on workers’ compensation california? Yes, an employee on leave without pay and receiving temporary disability payments, accrues sick leave and vacation on the same basis as if regularly employed.

can employers take away pto? According to the California Department of Industrial Relations, vacation pay accrues as it is earned, and cannot be forfeited.

do you earn pto while on pto? Typically accrual of PTO is based on a standard year of 2,080 paid hours. So the answer is technically you accrue PTO while on PTO.

can you take days off without pto? Employees typically may check with their employer and take unpaid time off.

does pto roll over in california? Earned vacation days typically never expire in California, and employees are entitled to be paid for unused PTO when they leave their company.

can pto be denied after approval? Typically, yes, a California employer can deny PTO even after they previously approved it.

how do you get pto hours? Most vacation time and PTO is accrued for working an employer’s regularly scheduled hours.

can an employer force you to use pto in california? It depends, but typically employers may require the use of vacation/paid time off (PTO) and restrict its use.

can an employer deny unpaid time off california? Typically, yes, because the law doesn’t require California employers to offer unpaid time. However, if it is for an illness or crisis, then it may be covered under the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

can employer change vacation policy without notice? An employer may alter company vacation policy, including dictating when vacation can be taken and the amount of vacation that may be taken at any particular time.

is it illegal to work while on pto? The purpose of a PTO isn’t for the employee to continue working during vacation, however it is typically not illegal if they do work on PTO.

can you take unpaid time off on salary? For more information on salary, paid time, and other wage and hour issues such as this one, call Lawyers for Justice, PC for a free consultation.

can my employer tell me when i can take my vacation time? Employers usually have the authority to approve or deny vacation hours.

how many days is 28 hours of pto? Try visiting the vacation hours PTO calculator.

can an employer force you to use pto? “a paid time off (PTO) plan or policy does not allow your employer to circumvent the law with respect to vacations.” – Department of Industrial Relations

does pto have to be approved? it depends on the workplace, but typically, yes.

is vacation pay considered wages? Under California law, earned vacation time is considered wages, and vacation time is earned, or vests, as labor is performed.


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