Texas Employment Law: Don't Wait to Take Your PTO

By: Jane Mundy

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January 1, 2010

 Pete did his company a service by not taking Paid Time Off (PTO) in over four years of employment. Yesterday was his last day of work. He has accrued 150 hours of PTO, but Texas Employment law does not require that employers pay workers for earned but unused vacation upon termination, unless the employer has a written policy or past practice of doing so.

Texas Employment Law: Don't Wait to Take Your PTO"I'm a clinician (a physician assistant) and it was not convenient to use up all of my PTO," says Pete (real name withheld). "I understand that the employment law in Texas states that if you don't use this time, you can't take it with you when you leave. But instead of taking PTO, I chose to work.

"A number of my colleagues have been in the same situation; they just grumbled and left. . . but I grumble and fight."

Essentially this is my beef: I feel that PTO is time earned and by not taking the time off I was able to produce more income for this practice-head and shoulders above what I would have been paid for sitting at home and watching the grass grow."

Pete says that when he left his New York practice, he got a $10,000 check for unused PTO. Although he knows the clinic's PTO policy, Pete wants to seek legal help to find out if he has any recourse.

"If nothing can be done, I will just chalk it up to experience and move on to my new job that starts Monday," Pete says. "Perhaps next time I should forget my obligations to patients and staff and take the PTO." But he doesn't mean it; he is a conscientious employee and he cares about his patients. "There are people at this clinic who do that but not me. I worked at this clinic four years and four months with an excellent work record. And I have never missed a job for sickness in 45 years of my working life."

Pete calculates that he is owed four weeks of pay, about $8,000-a substantial amount of money to walk away from.

"I gave my notice six weeks ago and extended it two extra weeks to help them out. I emailed the CEO of the clinic yesterday afternoon-he is on vacation until Monday-requesting that my PTO is paid. So now I'm waiting for a reply. A number of my colleagues have been in the same situation; they just grumbled and left. But I am from New York so I grumble and fight and stand up for my rights."

If Pete's employers have a written policy, possibly in an employee handbook that details the Texas Employment rules regarding paid time off, he may not have any recourse. Some states recognize that PTO is often a combination of vacation and sick time, while in other states like New York, PTO is considered earned wages, and the employee receives payment for all accrued PTO upon termination.

Pete will likely study his next employer's PTO policy more carefully and take his PTO sooner than later.



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