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Questions about Paid Time Off (PTO) Laws

Paid time off (PTO) is a benefit offered by some employers to their employees allowing them to take some time away from work without losing pay. There are many of paid time off programs, but there can be issues as well. When an employee takes undue advantage of paid time off, or when an employer refuses to pay PTO to an employee, legal questions can arise. When faced with legal questions about paid time off policies and PTO laws, many turn online for answers. Below are five of the top questions about paid time off answered by Experts.

Can an employer threaten not to pay for PTO days that a salaried exempt employee has available?

An employer can usually place restrictions on the use of PTO. The employer is within rights to take away pay for a missed day of work, regardless of whether there is PTO in place or not. Even if you are an employee paid for less than a full day’s work (salaried exempt). If you don’t work an entire day, you don’t get paid for that day, and this is a federal law. However, if your employer has a PTO policy in place, there is no law that dictates that the employer has to take pay from the PTO. Basically, it is up to the employer to decide how paid time off is handled. The employer isn’t legally required to offer paid time off to employees and can structure and/or modify the policy like any other fringe benefit like vacation, sick leave and holiday pay.

Can an employer take away employee paid time off that was built up from the previous year?

An employer cannot take away paid time off that was earned from a previous year from employees who still work for the employer. In order to protect your interests, you and your co-workers should file a group complaint. Contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Department of Labor Offices in your area and have the case opened. Depending on the details of the claim, one or both departments might open the case. If you and your co-workers win the case, you may be entitled to your back paid time off and other compensation. If the employer loses the case, they could be fined and cited.

Due to a clerical error, time was not documented and an employee wasn’t allowed to accrue PTO time. Does the actual paid time off time taken matter or is it the time when it was recorded that matters?

There are no laws that govern sick pay, vacation or paid time off (PTO). This is usually up to the employer to decide based on the company policies. Usually, it is the actual time taken as PTO that is the considered an accurate measure of PTO. Outdated data on company computers that are not updated frequently can result in companies using backed-up data which may not be accurate. If you show HR the documentation you have on when the PTO was taken, they should be able to correct the system to avoid future mistakes.

If a part-time employee quits a job, and the final paystub said the employee had 30 hours PTO available, but was not paid, is this legal?

You would need to see what the policy/handbook says about paid time off. If the policy book says that PTO is only available to the full time employees, then there must be a clerical error on the paystub. However, if the policy book doesn’t state that PTO time is for full time employees only, then you could file a wage complaint with the Department of Labor in your state.

What would be the best way to implement a PTO accrual rate for employees?

The best way to implement a new paid time off policy for PTO accrual would be to use a leave accrual cap. By implementing the leave cap, the employee would reach a certain amount of accrued leave (for example, 3 weeks total). The employee would not be allowed to accrue any more time beyond the leave cap. The employee would then stay at three weeks of paid time off until they use some of the leave. After the employee has used some of the leave, they can start building PTO time again at the rate that the employer has set.

Paid time off programs usually offer employees added opportunities to receive pay while away from their job. Generally, an employee can add PTO to their existing vacation time to extend the time off without losing pay. Not all situations are alike and the employer normally has full authority over how PTO policies are mandated.
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