Do Your Vacation and PTO Rights Change During COVID-19?

The constant fluctuation of restrictions and regulations regarding working from home during COVID-19 has left many unsure of their rights and responsibilities. Many companies have been intentionally vague in their communication of changes to company policy and are likely announcing new changes regularly. Until there is some further clarity on the future of reopening state-by-state, this type of communication is likely to continue. This leaves many employees questioning – have my vacation and PTO rights changed since working from home?

Can I be required to use PTO when requesting time off?

Employers requiring the use of PTO for time off varies depending on your state; in California, employers can ask this of you. However, the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, also known as the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) enacted during the global pandemic, also requires that employers that meet certain requirements provide up to 80 hours of paid sick leave for those who need to take time off from work for certain reasons related to COVID-19. If your reason for requesting time off falls under one of these circumstances, your employer is required to use paid leave under the FFCRA and should not deduct from any accrued, unused PTO. Even if an employee exhausts of his or her sick leave under FFCRA and needs additional time to recover for COVID-19 related issues and/or symptoms, an employee can still utilize any unused sick leave he or she has with the company. It is only when the employee exhausts all forms of sick leave when the employer can require the employee to use accrued, unused PTO.


Can my employer require a coronavirus test after sick leave? 

In short, yes. Under current guidelines, employers can require you to take a test for COVID-19. Because going into the office with the virus would pose a threat to others, your employer has the right to require a negative test result before entering the workplace. To ensure office safety, they can also enact safety protocols such as tests for symptoms and temperature checks. However, if your employer is conditioning your continued employment on a negative COVID-19 test, the employer needs to pay for the cost of taking the test.


Can my employer change the vacation policy during COVID-19?

Yes, changes can be made. However, an employer likely cannot take away vacation you have already accrued. If you can take vacation time, they cannot restrict where you choose to travel.


If you believe that one or more of these policies has been violated by your employer, please contact Gokal Law at 949-753-9100. Gokal Law Group is a family firm that treats our clients as if they were our own flesh and blood. We fight for our clients as we would our own children, sisters, brothers, and parents. We are our clients’ Warriors, fighting to bring them justice and right the wrongs they have endured.


Each attorney has a specific practice area for which they are tried, tested, and battle-ready. They have vast years of experience in their practice area, providing them the knowledge,

skills, and vision to fight and win. Learn more about Gokal Law Group. 


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