Written by attorney Randy T. Enochs

Is it legal for my employer to require me to use PTO?

I am a member of several websites where the lay and the like are able to submit various legal questions for members of the legal community to take a stab at (without creating a client-attorney relationship, of course). I often see the same question asked repeatedly from all areas of the country. One such question involves paid time off ("PTO") and whether or not employers can legally require employees to take time off and force them to use PTO against their will--or have to make up a 40-hour work week by using PTO. The short answer: "yes, this is legal." The typical, but true, lawyer answer: "yes, with exceptions." PTO is a benefit not required under law, therefore, not governed by law. Employers generously provide for this benefit to employees for when they have to miss work unexpectedly (and expectedly) and, therefore, may be applied anyway they sit fit unless they apply it in a discriminatory manner. That is, employers must apply the policy uniformly and not in a discriminatory manner nor may they violate the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") by requiring you to use paid leave when you on leave and drawing disability benefits like worker's compensation. See Repa v. Roadway Express, Inc., 477 F.3d 938 (7th Cir. Wis. 2007)

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