Vacation time is often an important part of a benefits package from an employer. You might feel that it’s a given, depending on your industry or job description. Still, know that California law does not mandate your employer to provide you with paid time off for vacation.
The law also does not require your employer to give you unpaid vacation time. Vacation time, paid or unpaid, is always an extra benefit offered by the employer.
If your employer extends the offer of paid vacation time, it must do so to all employees in the same class. For example, if one full-time employee is offered paid vacation time, all of that employer’s full-time employees must be offered paid vacation time. The employer can set rules for earning the time off, but it needs to be fair. For example, your employer cannot offer you vacation time with pay but refuse to do so for other employees. That situation would be discrimination.
The law does stipulate earning vacation time. Employers must have a policy allowing you to incur time off as you work. For example, you may earn one week of vacation for every two months you work. This does not require that your vacation time be paid, though, so keep that in mind. It also does not mean your employer must offer vacation time. It only applies to how employees earn vacation time if the employer provides it.
If your employer offers paid vacation time, it must compensate you for that time even if you do not take the time off. If you quit prior to using your vacation or if you do not take the time, the law considers this time earned as wages, so your employer must pay you for it.
Your employer does not have to offer or pay you for vacation time, but if paid vacation is offered as a benefit, it must be fair and follow the legal regulations.