Paid Time Off Laws by State

Keeping up with paid time off (PTO) laws by state is essential for employers who want to remain legally compliant and minimize exposure to risk. Paying people properly and giving them their legally entitled benefits is also the right thing to do by your employees!

There are big differences in how different states approach PTO. This handy guide will delve into these variations, ensuring you have the latest information at your fingertips. That way you can get back to employee scheduling without you or your team worrying about the status of their PTO.

How do paid time off laws differ by state?

Paid time off (PTO) laws differ by state mainly in two aspects: whether employers are required to offer PTO to everyone on the payroll and the rules regarding the payout of unused PTO. 

Some states mandate paid sick leave or PTO, while others do not have any specific requirements. Additionally, certain states require employers to pay out accrued but unused PTO upon an employee’s termination, whereas others leave this to the employer’s discretion. These variations create a diverse legal landscape across the U.S. regarding PTO policies.

Is PTO required by law?

The requirement for employers to provide PTO varies across states. While there is no federal mandate requiring private employers to offer paid leave, several states have instituted their own regulations. This disparity means that PTO policies can be vastly different depending on where a company operates.

What is a PTO payout?

A PTO payout refers to the practice of compensating employees for their unused paid time off. This policy can take various forms, such as paying out upon termination or at the end of a calendar year. Whether a company must provide a PTO payout often depends on state law and the company’s internal policies.

When do you have to pay out PTO?

The obligation to pay out PTO hinges on state law and the employer’s PTO policy. Some states mandate that unused PTO be paid out at the end of employment, while others leave this decision to company policy.

What are the paid time off laws in my state?

We’ve summarized state PTO law below, as well as which states pay out unused sick leave or vacation pay when an employee ends their employment.

While the following information is accurate at the time of publishing — and useful as a quick guideline — we recommend looking at the most up-to-date official state sources.

What are my state’s PTO laws?

Only 16 states have specific PTO laws. These are:

  1. Arizona: Employers are required to provide paid sick leave.
  2. California: Employers are not mandated to provide PTO but must pay out unused PTO upon termination.
  3. Colorado: Paid sick leave is required with specific rules on accrual and usage.
  4. Connecticut: Paid sick leave is required; no specific PTO laws.
  5. Illinois: Certain cities have sick leave requirements.
  6. Maine: Employers are required to provide paid leave, accruable over time.
  7. Maryland: Paid sick leave is required.
  8. Massachusetts: Mandatory paid sick leave.
  9. Michigan: Paid sick leave is required.
  10. Nevada: Employers are required to provide paid leave, including PTO.
  11. New Jersey: Paid sick leave is required.
  12. New York: Specific sick leave laws apply; no state-mandated private employer PTO.
  13. Oregon: Paid sick leave is required.
  14. Rhode Island: Paid sick leave is required.
  15. Vermont: Paid sick leave is required.
  16. Washington: Paid sick leave is required.

The other 34 states don’t have any specific policy on whether or not employers offer paid sick leave or vacation.

What are my state’s laws on PTO payouts?

States fit into several categories when it comes to PTO payouts.

20 U.S. states require companies to pay out the value of an employee’s unused earned paid time off when they end their employment: 

  • California
  • Colorado (also payout on unused sick pay)
  • District of Columbia (Possible payout)
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota (Possible payout)
  • Ohio (Possible payout)
  • Rhode Island
  • West Virginia (Possible payout)
  • Wyoming (also payout on unused sick pay)

Why do more states have PTO payout laws than PTO laws?

An executive summary is an overview of your construction business plan. Think of it as the CliffsNotes version of your business plan—it gives

The discrepancy between states with explicit PTO laws (16) and those with explicit laws on PTO payouts (20) can be attributed to the different aspects of PTO legislation that states choose to regulate. Here’s a breakdown to clarify this:

  • Explicit PTO Laws: Some states have specific laws that mandate PTO or paid sick leave. These laws typically dictate whether employers must offer paid time off and outline the conditions under which this time must be accrued and used. The 16 states mentioned in the previous response fall into this category.
  • PTO Payout Laws: A different set of states might not mandate that employers provide PTO but have laws governing the payout of accrued PTO upon an employee’s termination or resignation. These laws address whether employers are required to pay employees for their unused paid time off when they leave the company. This is a separate issue from whether employers must offer PTO in the first place.

So, a state may not require employers to provide PTO (thus not being counted among the 16 with explicit PTO laws) but could still have laws that dictate what happens to accrued but unused PTO when an employee leaves. This scenario explains why more states might have laws regarding PTO payouts than have laws mandating PTO.

This distinction is important because it demonstrates the complexity and variety of PTO-related legislation across different jurisdictions. Employers and employees should be aware of both the provisions for PTO accrual and use, as well as the regulations concerning payout of unused PTO in their specific state.

State PTO: the bottom line

PTO laws in the United States vary significantly from state to state.

While some states have explicit requirements for employers to provide PTO or paid sick leave, others do not mandate it at all. Additionally, the approach to PTO payout upon termination is equally diverse, with certain states enforcing payout laws and others leaving it to employer discretion.

This variety underscores the importance for both employers and employees to stay informed and understand the specific PTO regulations relevant to their state, ensuring compliance and fair practice.


Frequently asked questions about state paid time off laws

What’s the difference between PTO payout and use-it-or-lose-it?

The key difference between PTO payout and use-it-or-lose-it policies lies in how unused paid time off is handled.

  1. PTO Payout: In a PTO payout policy, employees are compensated for their unused paid time off, typically upon leaving the company. This means that if an employee has accrued PTO that they haven’t used by the time they resign or are terminated, they are paid for this time.
  2. Use-It-Or-Lose-It: Under a use-it-or-lose-it policy, employees must use their accrued PTO within a certain timeframe, often by the end of the year or a specific accrual period. If they do not use this time, they lose it without compensation. This policy encourages employees to take time off and prevents them from accumulating large amounts of PTO.

The choice of policy can depend on state law and employer discretion. While some states require PTO payout, others permit use-it-or-lose-it policies, and still, others leave the decision entirely up to employers.

Do companies have to payout sick time?

Whether companies have to payout sick time upon an employee’s termination largely depends on the state’s laws and the company’s own policies. Unlike PTO, which often covers vacation, personal days, and sick leave under one umbrella, sick time is sometimes treated differently in legislation:

  1. State Laws: Some states have specific mandates requiring the payout of accrued sick time. In these states, if an employee leaves the company with unused sick time, they are entitled to be paid for this time.
  2. Company Policies: In states without explicit laws about sick time payout, it’s generally up to the company’s policy. Some companies might choose to payout unused sick time as a benefit or incentive, while others might not.
  3. Differentiation from PTO: It’s important to note that sick time is often regarded differently from PTO in legal terms. If sick time is rolled into PTO, then the state’s PTO payout laws would apply. If sick time is separate from PTO, it’s subject to different rules.

Understanding the specific laws and policies in your state and workplace is crucial for both employers and employees to manage and plan for sick time effectively.

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