Many employers provide vacation and personal time off as benefits of employment. It’s helpful to know what the rules are, however, or you might end up giving up the one benefit that everyone can enjoy. It’s important to have health insurance, disability coverage, and life insurance, but if you’re fortunate and healthy, you may not take advantage of them. Paid time off, though, is a great perk. Unless you lose it by inattention.
Most plans offer a certain number of days of vacation to full-time employees based on their tenure and rank with the company. Some make the entire vacation allotment available at the start of the year, while in others you earn as you go. Most employers have some rules requiring the employee to use that vacation time, or lose some or all of the accrued time. The employer does not want to get caught paying a departing employee six-months in accrued time because he never took a vacation day. So, use the time before it disappears. It’s good for you to recharge the batteries.
If you are an exempt employee, you may have another reason to take your vacation now, depending on your employer’s inclement weather policy. In short you can be forced to use vacation for snow days, but only if you have them saved up.
Here is how this works. Exempt employees earn a salary for a week of work, regardless of the amount of hours worked. The salary can’t be docked if the employee is able and willing to work. So the question is whether an exempt employee must be paid for a snow day.
Imagine another major snowstorm hits. For safety reasons, the employer says we’re closed today, everyone stay home. Who gets paid? Well, the hourly employees do not have the right to payment if they are not working. They can get paid from their leave balance if they have time available to them. But the exempt employees who could have made it into work but were told not to come? They are entitled to be paid for that day. “An employee is not paid on a salary basis if deductions from the employee’s predetermined compensation are made for absences occasioned by the employer or by the operating requirements of the business.”
“The employer can reach into their vacation time, though, without their consent, and give them a full work week’s pay that way. If the employee’s vacation bank is empty, though, the person still has to get paid.
If the office is open, though, and the employee does not risk the roads to get there, the story is different. That is a day off, for personal reasons, and the employer is entitled to withhold that day’s pay or to use the employee’s PTO or vacation time.
The employer who fails to follow these rules risks the exemption. For example, an employer who docks a partial day’s pay when an employee leaves early for a doctor’s appointment, or who docks a day’s pay for illness imperils the exemption. Better to send the employees home with work to do.