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There are at least two types of vacation pay wage claims. The first occurs if you accrued vacation pay and it was not paid to you when you left your job (whether you quit or were laid-off or terminated), and it wasn’t paid to you. The second is if the employer does not comply with California law with regard to the way vacation pay is accrued.

The Law

Vacation pay is considered “wages” under California law. All wages, including vested vacation pay, must be generally paid at the end of an employee’s employment. If the employee is terminated involuntarily (i.e., fired, laid-off, released, etc.) , the vacation pay that the employee has earned must be paid on the employee’s last day of work. If the employee voluntarily terminates his or her employment, the vacation wages must be paid within 72 hours of the employee’s last day of work. (These rules may differ for some types of employees — check with an experienced wage claim attorney to ensure that they apply to your situation.) The vacation pay must be made at the employee’s final rate of pay.

California employers do not have to provide vacation pay to their employees. However, if they do provide it, they must do so in accordance with California law. California employers CANNOT:

  • Attempt to take back any earned vacation pay
  • Have a use-it-or-lose-it vacation pay policy (i.e., the policy provides for the forfeiture of vacation pay that is not used by a specified date)
  • Delay the accrual of benefits until after a probationary period (i.e., an employee only starts to accrue vacation after a 90-day probationary period, but see the exception below)

California employers CAN, however:

  • Put a cap on vacation accrual (i.e., the employee cannot accrue more than a certain number of vacation pay hours or days)
  • Control the scheduling of vacation time or the amount of vacation that may be taken at a particular time
  • Pay off employees each year for vacations that have accrued and vested for that year but have not been taken
  • Exclude certain classifications of employees from vacation pay benefits
  • Institute a probationary period so long as vacation pay accrues during the probation period (i.e., in order to be entitled to vacation pay benefits, the employee must work for the employer for 90 days, but vacation begins to accrue starting on the employee’s first day of work)

The Consequences

If you were not paid your vacation wages, or if your employer did not manage its vacation policy in accordance with California law, you could be entitled to recover accrued vacation wages, plus penalties for the willful failure to pay (a maximum of 30 days of wages). Contact an experienced wage claim attorney now for an evaluation of your vacation pay wage claim.


  1. Confidential

    I was terminmated and acrued 2 weeks paid vacation per year that have not been paid.

    1. Thanks for contacting us. If your company has a vacation policy, and you earn vacation according to the terms of that policy, all vacation wages that you have earned and that you have not yet taken are payable to you at the time of your termination. For every day after your termination, up to a maximum of 30 days, the company can be liable to you for a penalty of one day of wages per day. The bottom line, therefore, is that you may have a claim for unpaid, accrued vacation, and for that penalty. There may be other claims you have to, but it would be impossible for me or any other lawyers speculate without looking at the exact situation you were in. Feel free to give us a call, so we can evaluate your vacation claim and any other claims you may have.

  2. Confidential

    Need help getting back 5 days of unused vacation pay after being laid off from XXX.

    1. Give us a call and we’d be happy to see if we can help you in your claim for unpaid vacation wages. You may be entitled to recover not only the vacation wages, but also a penalty for the employer’s failure to pay all wages at your termination.

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