Unpaid For Vacation Time When I Resigned

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about not  being unpaid for vacation time upon resignation: 

I have a signed check that shows vacation hours at 264 hours and a letter from the accounting department stating sales staff can roll over their vacation hours annually. For my final paycheck, however, the owner is stating that per the employee handbook you cannot roll over vacation time. My final paycheck was short prior year’s vacation hours. I have not deposited the check and did not sign the document showing the reduced hours. I live in Colorado. Do I have any leg to stand on?

Signed, Frustrated

Dear Frustrated:

We aren’t attorneys and can’t provide legal advice, but I did research Colorado’s Department of Labor website about the topic of  being unpaid for vacation time. Not as helpful as you’d like, because it doesn’t address roll-over time. In addition, it doesn’t address what an “agreement” may be.

If you don’t have a contract of some kind, in which all benefits are clearly stated and both you and the company signed it, the requirement to pay for vacation may not apply anyway.  Here is what it says:

VACATION AS WAGES OR COMPENSATION: Colorado wage law provides that vacation pay, earned in accordance with the terms of any agreement, is classified as wages or compensation. If an employer provides paid vacation for an employee, the employer shall pay upon separation from employment, all vacation pay earned and determinable in accordance with the terms of any agreement between the employer and the employee.

You may have already done something regarding this, however, if you have not, you could send the HR and Accounting Sections a letter containing a copy of the letter you have that says you can roll-over time and the document you have that shows how much vacation time you have, in total. Tell them that based on the letter, you believe you are due recompense but were unpaid for vacation time and are requesting that amount.

If the employee handbook says you cannot roll over any time, the letter should have said that it was correcting the handbook or takes the place of the handbook (Or in some other way, it should make it clear that it is the authority on the subject.) Otherwise, the owner could simply say that whoever wrote the letter was in error.

Sadly, unless the vacation time was worth a lot of money, an attorney would probably cost more than you would recover–a point the owner may be banking on. I’m sorry I can’t provide better news. Perhaps communicating with someone other than the owner will allow those people to discuss the issue with him and they may be able to convince him to approach this differently. Best wishes to you.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Follow-up:

Thanks, I was able to get part of it, because there was confusion about it.