Government and Business

Idaho employers don’t have to offer paid vacation

Confusion about rules for accrued vacation and paid time off lead to daily questions for a state official.

zkyle@idahostatesman.comAugust 13, 2013 

MCT ILLUSTRATION

Employers must pay all of the wages earned by a worker who leaves a job. But accrued vacation time and paid time off are a different story.

Artie Holmes, wage and hour program supervisor for the Idaho Department of Labor, says he frequently fields questions from both employers and workers about Idaho law governing vacation time and PTO.

Idaho doesn’t require employers to pay for vacation time and time off. But it does require businesses to honor its commitments to employees. That means company policy usually determines whether or not companies must pay departing employees for accrued time.

“We hear about it daily,” Holmes says. “It all goes back to the policy.”

Many companies adopt cover-all-bases language in their policies to ensure that they won’t have to pay accruals, Holmes says. Standardized language often says a business won’t pay if an employee leaves “upon quitting, discharge or layoff.”

Companies that don’t spell out conditions can be responsible for paying accruals or be subject to a wage claim filed by the former employee with the Idaho Department of Labor.

“Some policies say, ‘upon separation initiated by employee,’” Holmes says. “Well, that’s a fancy way of saying ‘quit.’ But what if the employee was discharged? The policy has to be specific.”

Some companies guarantee the payment of accrued time in their policies. Companies that want to change that policy can do so. They still must honor time off already accrued by employees at the time of the policy change, Holmes says.

Companies occasionally maneuver around granting accrued time off after a policy change, Holmes says.

In cases where vacation and PTO don’t roll over to the next year or period, employers can deny employee requests for time off until the accrued time expires. The practice is unsavory but legal, Holmes says.

“For lack of a better term, those are the bad employers,” Holmes said. “But most are good, so most will let employees use that time they’ve accrued (after changing policies), just not accrue any more.”

Holmes advises employees who suspect their accrued vacation time has been unlawfully stripped to request a copy of the company policy. Employees and former employees can consult with the Department of Labor and file wage claims by calling 332-3570 or visiting the department website.

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Zach Kyle: 377-6464

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