As a general rule, New York law does not require an employer to provide paid time off [“PTO”] to employees, including for vacation. When an employer does so, however, it is supposed to do so pursuant to a written employment contract or written policy.

Employers are expected to act consistently with the contract or policy. An employer may have a rule that employees forfeit any accrued PTO that they fail to use before a certain specified time (such as the end of a calendar year). This is commonly known as a “use it or lose it” rule. The rule will be enforced by the Courts IF the employer communicates it to employees clearly.

Likewise, an employer may have a rule that employees forfeit any accrued PTO that they fail to use before they leave employment (voluntarily or involuntary). The rule will be enforced by the Courts IF the employer communicates it to employees clearly.

Employees who believe that employers owe them for PTO have two no/low cost options:

They can contact the New York Department of Labor and complain. You should be able to reach the Rochester office at 585-258-4550. The relevant complaint form can be found at http://www.labor.ny.gov/formsdocs/wp/ls223.pdf

An employee owed $6K or less can sue their employer in Small Claims Court. Here is a link for a local Small Claims Court http://www.courts.state.ny.us/courts/7jd/courts/city/civil/small_claims.shtml