Can My Employer Deny My Request For Time Off

Most employers understand that employees need time off to take care of personal matters or relax and spend time with their families on vacation. Also, employees may need time off when they are sick or need to go to the doctor. Therefore, many employers offer PTO (paid time off), sick leave, and/or vacation time as a benefit of employment.

California wage and hour laws do not require employers to provide paid time off or paid vacation time. However, if employers offer employees PTO or vacation time, there are some rules that must be followed. Employers should have a written vacation and PTO policy so that employees understand the rules and there is no confusion or misinterpretation of the rules. 

Restrictions on When an Employee Can Take Vacation Time 

Employers are permitted to place reasonable restrictions on the use of PTO and vacation time. California employment laws allow employers to manage their responsibilities regarding vacation pay. Employers can do this by telling employees when they can take a vacation and the amount of vacation that can be taken at any specific time.

For example, many companies in the hospitality industry do not allow any PTO or vacation time during holidays, special events, or the busy tourist season. This policy allows employers to manage their workforce more efficiently and ensure the business has enough employees to operate during peak times.

It is important to remember that earned vacation time is considered wages. Therefore, vacation time cannot be forfeited after it is earned, even if the employer fires the employee or the worker quits. However, employers are permitted to place vacation caps on accrued time off so that vacation time never exceeds a specific number of hours.

Employers may also require employees to follow a specific protocol for requesting time off. For example, an employer may require that the employee submit the request in writing using a company form to his supervisor or human resources at least 14 days (or 21 days, 30 days, etc.) in advance. The employer must have a clear policy that applies to all workers. 

If an employee quits or is fired, all accrued vacation and PTO must be paid at the employee’s final pay rate and included with the employee’s final paycheck.

Paid Time Off Under FMLA or CFRA

Employees may also be entitled to time off under the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Employees may be out of work each year for up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off. They can use this time  to care for their health or family matters. 

Likewise, the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) states that employers who employ a minimum of 50 employees must permit employees to be out of work for up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off. The time off is to recover from serious health problems or care for a sick family member. 

If an employee requests time off under CFRA or FMLA for a reason covered by the law, the employer cannot legally deny the employee’s request for time off.

How Do I Know if My Employer Illegally Denies My Time Off?

If you are requesting time off covered by FMLA or CFRA, the employer cannot legally deny your request for time off. However, if you request sick time, vacation time, or PTO, the employer can legally deny your request for time off.

Having your vacation time or PTO request denied can be frustrating. However, your first step is to check your employee manual. There should be a policy in place for when vacation days and PTO may be used and when it may be denied. 

If the employee manual does not address the rules for time off, talk to the Human Resources department. They should be able to explain the company’s vacation policy and why your request for time off was denied.

Suppose you are still uncertain whether your employer is violating your right to paid time off and vacation time; contact a California employment law attorney. An attorney can review the information to determine if your employer is acting within its rights. If you are being treated unfairly, an attorney can help you file a complaint and seek compensation for any damages caused by the unlawful denial of vacation time. 

Vacation time and time off can be confusing. Employment law is what provides California employees with the rights and privileges they have regarding their employment. However, employees must also follow the rules outlined in the employment laws to protect themselves and their jobs.