When you leave your job, your employer owes you a final paycheck for the work you performed during the last pay cycle. No federal law requires employers to offer vacation time to workers, so your state's law will determine if there is a legal duty to pay for unused vacation time. Other factors, such as the circumstances of your leaving, may also make a difference.
Laws Vary on Vacation Time
If you live in one of the 24 states that require employers to pay you for unused vacation time, you should expect to receive this pay in your last paycheck. In some states, you must be employed for at least one year to be entitled to this pay. In the remaining states, your employer has the option to pay you for vacation not taken but isn't obligated to do so.
Check Your Company's Policy
Most workers are at-will employees. This means that either party is free to end the relationship at any time. However, if you have an employment contract that promises payment for unused vacation time, your employer must follow the terms of the agreement. If you quit without notice, however, or have been fired for disciplinary reasons, your right to vacation pay might be limited. If there is no employee contract, check your employee handbook to see if it addresses this issue.
Ask Your State Employment Agency for Help
If your state requires the employer to pay for unused vacation time, notify your employer in writing if your final paycheck did not include this payment. If the employer does not correct the problem, you may file a wage claim with the state government agency that handles employment issues. Each state sets its own rules about deadlines, so file your complaint within the required time limits.
You May Need to File a Lawsuit
In some situations, you may need to file a lawsuit asking a court to decide whether or not you are entitled to payment for unused vacation time. If the amount owed is small, you may be able to represent yourself in small claims court. For larger amounts or situations where several issues are involved, you may need to hire a lawyer to represent you. Court decisions vary according to state laws as well as the facts of the case.
An Employment Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding compensation for unused vacation time after leaving a job is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact an employment law lawyer.