Can an Employer Deny Unpaid Time Off in California? 2024

Frank S. Clowney III

Work is an important part of your life because it allows you to support yourself and your loved ones. There are times, however, when you may need to be away from work. In these circumstances, it is important to understand your employer’s time-off policies. Some may offer vacation time or paid time off, which allows you to be away from work without any less pay. Others will require you to take time off without pay. An accomplished California employment lawyer can help you understand your employer’s policies and make the right decision about how to take time off. The Law Office of Frank S. Clowney III can help you with any wage or time-off needs.

Employment Law in California

The state of California has some of the most robust employment laws in the country. These laws are often created to protect employees and ensure that their working environment is stable, safe, and helps them be successful. Time off can be an important part of that.

Employers in California are not required to offer time off to their employees. If they choose to create a plan for time off, then they must follow certain rules put in place by the state. Vacation time and paid time off are considered wages that an employee has already earned. This means that an employee must always be paid for that time. If an employee is fired or leaves the company, then any unused vacation or PTO time must be included in their final paycheck. In addition to vacation or PTO plans, many employers also give their staff the opportunity to take time off from work without pay.

Paid vs. Unpaid Time Off

Paid time off is when an employer allows their employees to take time away from work without losing any wages. This may include time off specifically for vacation, which is either a pre-determined number of days provided by the employer or a specific number of hours earned during each pay period. It could also include PTO, or paid time off. This is a set number of days provided or an amount of time earned each pay period, but it can be used for any personal needs.

Many employers also give their employees the opportunity to take unpaid time off. There may or may not be a limit on this time, depending on the policies of the business. Any unpaid time off requests mean that an employee will be away from work and will not be paid for the time that they are gone.

It is important to realize that, where paid time off is concerned, an employer can deny a time off request. The only circumstances where an unpaid time off request cannot be denied are in cases protected under the Family and Medical Leave Act and the California Family Rights Act. These laws allow employees to take unpaid time off to deal with medical or family emergencies.

How a Wage Attorney Can Help

You may find yourself in a situation where an employer has not honored their policy regarding paid or unpaid time off. You may have been denied time you were entitled to or not paid for your remaining time when you left a company. In these instances, it can be helpful to have the support, resources, and insights of an experienced California employment lawyer. They can help you assess your legal grounds and complete your claim successfully.


Q: What Are the HR Laws for 2024 in California?

A: California’s laws relating to HR are very strong. Many of the laws passed in California regarding employment law are specifically intended to protect employees and help guarantee a safe and stable work environment. These laws are being updated regularly. Some of the more recent changes include requiring employers to offer a retirement plan, expanding transparency for employee pay, and extending the sexual assault statute of limitations. An experienced employment lawyer can help you understand any changes and how they may impact your job.

Q: Is Unpaid Time Off Allowed in California?

A: California does not require employers to offer time off to their employees, whether it is paid or unpaid. Employers may choose to create and enforce their own time-off policy. In many cases, employees are allowed to request unpaid time off, but it may be denied by a supervisor or employer. The only time that an employer is required to accept a request for unpaid time off is when the employee is requesting time under the Family Medical Leave Act or the California Family Rights Act, which allows for time off for family emergencies or medical needs.

Q: Do Employers Have to Approve Unpaid Time Off?

A: Employers have no legal obligation to approve a request for unpaid time off. If you are requesting time off without pay for any reason other than those protected by state and federal law, then your employer is allowed to deny the request. While it may be frustrating, employers are well within their rights to deny an unpaid time off request for things such as vacation or other non-essential activities.

Q: What Are the Rules for Paid Time Off in California?

A: Employers are allowed to create their own paid time off policies and rules in California. The state does not decide whether paid time off is offered, but there are rules and regulations in place that determine how the policies can be enforced or carried out. Paid time off, whether it is vacation time or PTO, is considered wages that the employee has already earned. This means that the hours of vacation or PTO do not expire and must be paid to an employee if they are fired or choose to leave the business.

Contact The Law Office of Frank S. Clowney III

Understanding how your employer manages and tracks time off is an important part of a successful work environment. You may have vacation or paid time off that you can utilize when you need to be away from work, but you may also need to take time off without pay. Understanding how time off is handled at your job can be difficult, but an experienced wage lawyer can help. Contact the team at The Law Office of Frank S. Clowney III if you have any concerns about your wages.