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Do You Get Paid for Vacation Days if You Quit?

Good news, everyone. COVID-19 restrictions are being lifted across the country and it’s time to get back to work. Yes, it’s even happening here in California.

Then again, you may not like your job. In fact you may hate it. Even after months of working from home (or being forced to go into the office) you may hate it so much that you are thinking about quitting. Before you do, you may be wondering if you’ll get paid for all those vacation days you haven’t taken. Keep reading to find out.

Federal law does not mandate paid vacation payout

To begin with, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not mandate that employers pay employees for unused paid vacation time.

The reason for this is fairly simple.  Under the FLSA, employers are not required to pay workers for “time not worked.” This includes vacation time, sick time, or holidays.  Therefore, employers that do offer benefits such as paid vacation time have discretion under the FLSA as to whether or not to pay it out when a worker is fired or quits.

Having said that, there are some exceptions, even at the federal level. If you are a construction worker for a company with a federal government contract, you may be eligible for vacation pay under the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts (DBRA). If so, you may also be entitled to payment for unused vacation time if you are fired or quit.

The good news and bad news about paid vacation time in California

For Los Angeles area employees, there’s also good news and bad news about paid vacation time under state law.

Let’s get the bad news out of the way, first. The bad news is that your employer is not legally obligated to provide this benefit. That’s right. California workers are not automatically entitled to paid vacations.

On top of that, your employer has the right to decide who can and cannot take paid vacation. The most common example of this is limiting paid vacation to full time staff. That being stated, limiting paid vacation to select groups is only permitted if the restriction is not based on race, religion, ethnicity, gender and so on. 

Additionally, your employer has considerable discretion over paid vacation scheduling. As long as it is not discriminatory, your employer can limit paid vacations at busy times, or mandate that employees request it well in advance.

Now, let’s move on to the good news. In California, any paid vacation time you accumulate during the course of your employment is legally considered “pay” that you have already earned. That means it is yours to keep until you use it. That also means your employers must pay you for any unused, paid vacation time when you leave the company.

It does not matter whether you quit or are fired

State employment law mandates that your employer pay you for any vacation time regardless of whether you are fired or leave voluntarily. Of course there is a catch, however. Here it is:

  • If you get fired, your final paycheck – including payment for unused vacation time – is due at the time of dismissal.
  • If you give your employer 72 hour’s notice before you quit, your last paycheck – including payment for unused vacation time – is due at the time of quitting.
  • If you give your employer less than 72 hour’s notice before you quit, your final paycheck – including payment for unused vacation time – is due within 72 hours of the time of quitting.

You may have legal recourse under state employment law if your employer fails to include payment for your unused vacation time in your final paycheck. Specifically, we may be able to initiate a wage and hour lawsuit on your behalf. All you have to do to get started is reach out to the employment lawyers here at the Law Office of Parag L. Amin, P.C. You can reach them through our website or by phone.


PLEASE NOTE: This is not a representation, warranty, or guarantee of a future result or outcome. Every case is different just like every one of our clients.