American culture emphasizes the importance of a strong work ethic. Many people feel like taking a vacation or sick day is a sign that they aren’t dedicated to their work. Unscrupulous employers often capitalize on this by trying to discourage employees from taking their contractual vacation or sick days.
However, if your employer has promised you a certain amount of time off, you have the right to take it. Anything your company does to unreasonably prevent you from taking PTO is illegal in California. Here’s what you need to know about your right to take leave in California and what to do if your employer tries to take it away.
Employee Leave Under California Law
While California doesn’t mandate that any employer provide paid leave, state law requires that employers honor the leave they include in employment contracts. Once you’ve earned vacation days, your employer cannot take them away from you or implement policies that would make you hesitate to use them. This leave is considered part of your compensation, and withholding it is compensation theft.
For instance, companies can’t set policies that make people ineligible for bonuses if they use vacation or preferentially promote people because they don’t use time off. These policies have a “chilling” effect, making people hesitate to take their earned vacation days. That violates state labor laws since it prevents workers like you from receiving the full benefits promised in their contracts.
It’s important to note that your employer can set “reasonable” rules for how you take your time off. They can require advanced notice or set “blackout” dates where no one can request vacation. However, if these policies are so strict that they make it difficult to take any vacation days at all, they also violate the law.
What to Do If Your Employer Tries to Keep You From Taking PTO
If your employer seems like they’re trying to prevent you from taking any time off, here’s what you can do:
- Document restrictive leave policies: If your company has procedures that make it unreasonably difficult to take leave, or if they take away vacation days as punishment, get the policies in writing and save them somewhere off-premises.
- Document your vacation requests: If your requests are consistently denied, save copies of your requests and responses to prove that your employer isn’t giving you your due compensation.
- Get legal help: Most importantly, talk to an experienced employment attorney. They can help you determine whether your employer’s policies or behavior violate the law and what you can do to resolve the situation.
Protect Your PTO, Part of Your Compensation
You wouldn’t turn down overtime pay or a performance bonus. You shouldn’t ignore your time off either. If your manager tries to prevent you from using the days you’ve accrued, they are committing compensation fraud.
If that sounds familiar to you, you need to reach out to an experienced employment attorney. The experts at AM&F LLP will help you understand your situation and what you can do to make sure your employer honors your complete compensation package. You can schedule your consultation today by calling 310-394-0888 or sending an online message.