Vacation All I Ever Wanted.
February 26, 2009 8:43 AM   Subscribe

If I get laid off, will I be compensated for my outstanding vacation time?

I work for a corporation based in Charlotte that has regional offices. For the last week I've taken on another office's work and next week I'll absorb another office. They've let the administrative people from those offices go.

It was announced on Monday that the goal is to shift all the administrative duties to Charlotte, meaning I would be out of a job. I have over a week of paid vacation that I haven't taken (things have been so crazy here, as you can imagine). If I get laid off, will I be compensated for my outstanding vacation time? Or should I just take it all now and screw the three offices that I've been handling?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (13 answers total)
If possible I would ask a manager. One way to do it would be to negotiate a last day "in the office," and then a termination date a week later. If you want the cash that might be harder, unless there's a specific provision in your contract.

Whatever you get, get it in writing. Also, be prepared to clear out your desk/cube at very short notice.
posted by carter at 8:50 AM on February 26, 2009

Ask your HR.
posted by hermitosis at 8:52 AM on February 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

In my experience you get compensated for any vacation days accrued when laid off. They get paid out as more of a bonus so may be taxed at a higher rate however.

Check with your HR person - they'll lay it out for you, its a totally legit conversation to have.
posted by bitdamaged at 8:53 AM on February 26, 2009

It depends on what state you are in, what your company's policies are, and if you are under a contract or collective bargaining agreement that supersedes them.

If you are in NC the FAQ from the Department of Labor there holds some insight:

From page 3: "Also, any earned vacation must be paid at termination unless the employer has a written forfeiture clause which clearly explains how the earned vacation can be
taken away."

posted by graftole at 8:53 AM on February 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

In my experience in NY, I got paid for my outstanding vacation days when I was laid off. Actually, that has been true for I know who's been laid off.

However: you get taxed like crazy on it since they combine it with your last paycheck so in the end a week of vacation only came out to about $300 for me and I wish I had taken the days instead of the cash. I think carter's idea of vacationing a week before a set termination date is the best way to go.

And do this all by email so it's trackable and dated.
posted by rmless at 8:54 AM on February 26, 2009

in MA, outstanding vacation days are considered earned wages and if you leave a company (by your own choosing or otherwise), you are entitled to that unused vacation time.

If this also applies in your state, you'd be able to find out more about it via your Department of Labor or Attorney General's office.
posted by jerseygirl at 9:02 AM on February 26, 2009

My company (TN) always paid unused vacation, even if an employee was fired with cause. YMMV.
posted by PFL at 9:02 AM on February 26, 2009

I can't imagine there is a state in the US where it is legal to NOT pay vacation time. After all, it's part of the compensation you agreed to when you signed on. In my mind withholding it would be the same as withholding pay for time worked: illegal.

In CA, I was surprised to find I even got paid for vacation time when i resigned. And I resigned in a cloud of bitterness to go work for my old boss who they hated, so I guarantee they wouldn't have paid it if the law hadn't forced them to.

Of course, you may not be in CA, but a visit to your state's employment-related website should tell you for sure. As noted above, it doesn't matter where the company is based, they are obliged to follow the laws of the state you work in.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:03 AM on February 26, 2009

I've always been paid for unused vacation pay in both MA and FL. When I was laid off in December, along with my compensation package, I received 4 weeks of accrued vacation pay. It was taxed at a higher rate, but it all balanced out because I received a larger tax return.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 9:20 AM on February 26, 2009

HR lady here - the answer is: VARIES STATE TO STATE. CA is the only state that requires all accrued vacation, holiday and sick or PTO to be paid in full. As a matter of policy almost all companies do pay out all vacation in full, whether it's a layoff, termination for cause, or you quit. They already accrue it as a liability on their books so it's "gone money" in the minds of company execs.
posted by pomegranate at 10:07 AM on February 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yeah definitely varies - was laid off last week and inquired about vacation time. Here's the answer from the New York State Dept of Labor website

Q: Must an employer pay employees for holidays, sick time and/or vacations?

A: Under the New York State Labor Law, payment for holidays, sick time or vacation -- i.e. payment for time not actually worked - is not required unless the employer has established a policy to grant such pay. When an employer does decide to create a benefit policy, that employer is free to impose any conditions they choose.
Fringe benefits may include reimbursement of expenses or tuition, health coverage, and payment for sick time, vacation, personal leave, and holidays.

posted by jourman2 at 10:16 AM on February 26, 2009

Something to consider: Most likely, your state unemployment office will consider your vacation time, whether taken as a lump sum, or as actual vacation time, as "time employed". Regardless, file for unemployment benefits ASAP after termination -- in the states I'm acquainted with, the wait-period clock starts when you *file*, not when you are terminated.

Oh, also: all my sources say that the Unemployment Office Experience is not terribly unpleasant (no worse, usually better, than dealing with DMV, for example) -- 'just thought I'd toss that in, on the off-chance that you were dreading it. Again, FILE IMMEDIATELY, DO NOT DELAY.
posted by Tuesday After Lunch at 2:22 PM on February 26, 2009

Within one state, I've worked at two jobs where the answer was different, and it depended on how it was accrued. One job, you got your full allotment on Jan 1 of each year, and they didn't pay unused time. The other job, you accrued it with hours worked, and that did get paid, because it was considered "earned."

So... ask your HR :P
posted by restless_nomad at 2:45 PM on February 26, 2009

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