In California, whether or not an employer provides paid vacation, sick leave or time off is entirely voluntary.  Paid vacation is typically used by an employee for time away from the job for vacations.  Employers usually limit how paid sick leave can be used by an employer.  For instance, an employer may say that it can only be used if the employee is sick or perhaps if his or her child is sick.  Paid time off, however, is usually a combination of vacation, holiday and sick leave and the employer just chooses to create one paid leave bank from which an employee can draw.

Vacation Time and Paid Time Off

If an employer does provide either paid vacation or paid time off, however, earned but unused pay cannot be forfeited and must be paid upon termination of employment. (California Labor Code § 227.3) In other words, an employer can not have a “use it or lose it” policy.  An employer can, however, cap the amount of vacation pay that is earned.  In this scenario, vacation time continues to accrue unless limited by a lawful company policy.

An employer can also have a policy that prevents vacation pay from vesting for a certain period of time. For example, there may be 60-day probationary period during which vacation time does not accrue.  Once it begins to accrue, vacation pay is calculated on a daily basis.

An employer also has the right to control when vacation time is taken, and how much can be taken at one time. In this way, an employer can prevent all of its employees from taking vacation leave at the same time, and limit how much vacation may be taken at a time.

Sick Leave

Sick pay, though, is different.  California does not require employers to provide workers with sick time, paid or unpaid. If an employer does provide sick time, the employee has the right to take it if the employee follows the employer’s policy.  Unlike vacation pay, en employee is not entitled to be paid for the sick days that are not used.

If an employer gives sick leave, the employer can require a note from the employee’s doctor as a condition to getting paid for the leave. However, the employer cannot ask the employee for information that would require the employee to reveal a disability or serious health condition.

The Dean Law Group, APLC, with its decades of experience, is in position to help you sort out these complex employment issues.  Our experienced employment lawyers have had numerous trials, arbitrations and mediations, as well as handled many administrative proceedings. The Dean Law Group’s attorneys practice in both California state and federal courts.