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Does a company by have to pay unused vacation?

Worcester, MA |

I was laid off by a company in MA in Mid Jan, I have 2 weeks unused vacation for 2012. The company only gives me last week's paycheck and didn't pay any money for vacation. Is that legal? They probably figure it is only two weeks into 2012, but I just wonder if legally the law requires they should reimburse vacation.

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Attorney answers 5


Probably not, in Fla for example they would not have to, and it is probably the same in your state, if you are an employee "at will" ( no employment contract or union contract covering you). There is no federal law that requires it. However, note that state employment laws can be different depending on the state you are in, you need to talk to an employment lawyer in your state to look at your specific situation . A good source to find on one is the National Employment Lawyers Association ( google NELA), they have a feature on their web site to find employment lawyers that represent workers in your state.

Legal disclaimer: This response is meant to be information only and should not be considered to be legal advice. This information is not meant and should not be construed to be the formation of an attorney client relationship. Employment laws may vary by state and you should contact an attorney in your state to see if a state law may be applicable to your situation.


Recently, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that an employer must compensate an employee for unused vacation time if the employee is discharged. In Electronic Data Systems Corp. v. Attorney General (2009), the Court upheld the Attorney General's advisory ruling that interprets an existing Massachusetts law known as the Wage Act.

Although the Court did not discuss the issue directly, the Attorney General's ruling specifically requires employers to compensate employees for unused vacation even if the employee leaves voluntarily. If you have trouble with your employer on this issue, try the Attorney General's Fair Labor Hotline at (617) 727-3465.

Gary S. Sinclair is an attorney licensed to practice in Massachusetts. All answers are based on Massachusetts law or a simple reading of the law in your jurisdiction. All answers are for educational purposes and no attorney-client relationship is formed by providing an answer to your question. The information provided should NOT be relied upon for making legal decisions. You will be best served by hiring an attorney in your area who specializes in the field of law pertinent to your question.

Andres Rivera-Ortiz

Andres Rivera-Ortiz


That is great, unlikely to have a similar ruling here in Florida

Philip W. Mason

Philip W. Mason


Note: The Attorney General will often represent you at no cost and violations of the Wage Act in many instances carry triple damages.


Following up on the previous answer, you say you have "unused vacation for 2012," but there may be room to dispute whether you had earned and accrued that time before you were laid off. The Massachusetts wage law does require an employer to pay you upon termination for vacation time "due... under an oral or written agreement," but read your employer's handbook or pay stubs or other documentation carefully to see when that time became or was to become "due."

Disclaimer: exchange of information on this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.


Yes, the Massachusetts Wage Act, G.L. c. 149 Section 148, does require it.

If you were laid off, you were "involuntarily terminated," and your former employer should have paid you for any accrued but unused vacation time earned under its written or oral employment policy at the time of your termination.

Moreover, discharged employees must be paid all wages due and owing ON THE DAY OF TERMINATION (unless you were absent from work on that day). (Note that the statute does not cover hospital employees and "casual employees," persons who worked less than 5 days).

If you can establish that you are a covered employee and that your employer violated this (and any other) provision of the Wage Act statute, the statute REQUIRES that your employer pay you what you are owed, PLUS triple damages (three times what you are owed) PLUS your attorneys fees.

Note that claims for unpaid wages (including unused vacation pay) are subject to any mandatory arbitration provisions in a negotiated employment agreement.

Finally, note that in order to pursue a claimed violation of the wage laws, you must first obtain permission to sue (a "private right of action") from the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office. You can do this by completing a wage act complaint form on the Attorney General's website at (search for "wage complaint").

Attorney Horan is licensed to practice in Massachusetts. The response provided here is informational only, not legal advice, and does not create an attorney-client relationship.


Earned, unused vacation time is considered wages. All wages due must be paid at the time you were discharged from employment. A complaint can be filed first with the Attorney General.

DISCLAIMER: This answer is provided in response to a "hypothetical" question and provided for general, informational purposes and does not create an attorney/client relationship. The information presented is not legal advice and may change based additional information and research. It is recommended that you speak to an attorney to discuss your specific legal issues.

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