Getting Paid for Unused Vacation if You Quit

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Are you ready to quit your job? If your job status is about to change, you may be wondering, "Will I be paid for unused vacation or sick time if I resign from my job?" This is just one of many questions you may be wondering if you are considering leaving your current position. Before addressing this specific issue, it is wise to first evaluate your reasons for wanting to quit your job. First, here are some other things to consider before making a final decision to quit.

Determine What About Your Current Situation is Frustrating

Figuring out the problem is the first step towards solving it. Identify how your job is failing you. Is the problem the people, the environment, or the work itself? After you’ve determined the main frustration, consider the scope. If you decide you’re not able to be as creative as you like, for example, you may not need to fill the void by quitting.

Try a creative hobby outside of work or see if there is work available in another department or on a different project. Perhaps your company is in the midst of a restructuring, leaving you uncertain about your job security or future role with the organization. If this is the case, you may find relief from your worries by simply sitting down with your supervisor or your human resources department to discuss the situation.

Before you turn in your resignation, ask yourself whether there are good reasons to stay rather than quit, or should your decision to leave be final?

If Your Situation Is Abusive or Unbearable

Be honest about how bad the situation really is. If your manager were verbally abusive, it might be time to leave (or make an appointment with human resources). If you are irritated, but not necessarily mistreated, figure out if you can tolerate the job while looking elsewhere or working towards your future goals from within the company.

Goals for Job, Career, and Life

Think about what you really want and how you’ll get there. Define your priorities. If you’d like to make a career change, think about all the necessary steps. They may include more school, a pay cut, or working your way up from the bottom. Once you know exactly what you want, you may want to ask: “How much do I want this career change, and how can I best orchestrate it?”

Plans for Attaining Next Job

Figure out your strengths and how you can leverage them. Think less about the job titles and dream companies and more about your skill set and experience. If you discover you were lacking in an area, plan out how you will develop your skills.

You may need to pursue more education, take a volunteer position, or start positioning yourself for the next job while still in your current job. 

Getting Paid for Unused Vacation or Sick Time

Once you know, without a doubt, that you are prepared for a job change and will definitely be leaving your current employer, it is time to think about any unused vacation or sick time you have. Because companies are not obligated to provide paid vacation or sick time to employees, they are also not required to pay employees for unused leave time (unless there is a company policy and/or state law providing for payment when an employee resigns).

Federal Laws Governing Unpaid Leave

In addition, there is no federal law governing if and when accrued vacation must be paid when an employee leaves his or her job. If you resign, whether you are paid for unused vacation and sick time depends on company policy and the law in your state regarding accrued leave time and whether that company policy sets the criteria for paying employees for unused vacation or sick leave. If you're fired, there may be different laws and policies that cover what you'll be paid for after a termination.

On a federal government contract to which the labor standards of the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts (DBRA) apply, holiday pay and/or vacation pay is required for specific classifications of workers only if the Davis-Bacon wage determination in the covered contract specifies such requirements for workers employed in those classifications.

States That Require Payment for Unused Vacation

The states where unused vacation must be paid in all cases are as follows: California, Illinois, Montana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nebraska, North Dakota (unless the employee quits and has been notified in advance that the vacation won’t be paid), and Rhode Island.

The states requiring that unused vacation be paid if an employment contract or employer promise/policy to pay exists are as follows: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

States where there is no relevant law or state administrative policy (Florida, Idaho, New Mexico, South Dakota, Virginia, and Wyoming).

Check with your Human Resources department or state department of labor for information on what unused leave pay you may qualify for. State laws may change, and special circumstances could apply to your situation.

Sources: BusinessEmployment Law Handbook, Thomson Reuters State Departments of Labor, Management Daily.