From the Hotline: Required Use of PTO for Leave

Can we require that employees exhaust their vacation and sick time at the beginning of an approved medical leave of absence?

An employer’s policy may require substitution and exhaustion of paid time off benefits in many cases when leave is unpaid. There may be limitations in cases where there is an interaction with a wage replacement benefit payable during the leave by a disability plan or under workers’ compensation. In these cases, the employee can opt not to use such benefits, as to do so can lower a payable benefit under these plans.

Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employees may choose, or employers may require, the substitution of accrued paid vacation or personal leave for any of the situations covered by FMLA.

Even in instances where employers extend leave as an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or comparable state laws, this is generally permissible.

State and city ordinances have been enacted mandating employee sick leave benefits. Employers should check the applicable laws to determine if mandating paid time off is allowed.