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PTO policy for salaried employees legal? Massachusetts

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  • PTO policy for salaried employees legal? Massachusetts

    The company I work just announced a change in PTO policy, they now will no longer allow your PTO accrual balance to go negative. The policy was that you could go 40 hours into the negative, effectively "borrowing" PTO.
    Now you can only take what you've accrued. So for example, if you get sick in January or need to take PTO and you don't have accrued PTO, they won't pay you.

    As a salaried employee, I get the same yearly salary whether I work 40 hours or 80 hours. As a result of this policy if I need to take PTO and don't have the time accrued, I'm no longer getting my full salary, I'm also no longer accruing the full PTO I would normally accrue.
    Not because I took too much or didn't work a full week, but only because the time of year in which I need or want to take PTO.

    That doesn't seem right, but I'm here to ask if it's legal.

  • #2
    Are they going to allow you to carry any over from the previous year? If so, it won't really matter what time of the year it is except in the very first year (if you couldn't save any from the previous year). How much total PTO could you accrue before it stops accruing (assuming that you use none)?

    Federally, employers cannot dock for sick time unless you have a "bonafide sick" plan which is generally accepted as 5-6 days annually of paid sick time. When employers moved to PTO (vacation and sick combined), there was some question as to whether that fulfilled the bonafide sick plan. Here is what the DOL has to say "Significantly, a PTO plan may qualify as bona fide even though it is not exclusively for use during sickness or disability. Assuming that a bona fide plan exists, an employer can make deductions from an employee’s salary for absences of one or more full days because of sickness or disability before the employee has qualified under the plan and after the PTO/sick leave has been exhausted. "

    If the absence is for a full day for personal reasons outside of sickness, they can always deduct the full day regardless of the reason if you have no PTO.

    We have posters who know Mass law better than me though, so they will have to help you on the rest and whether there is anything under state law that would protect the deduction.


    • #3
      It is legal. Under both MA and Federal law.

      Nowhere in the US is there a requirement that you be allowed to go negative on your PTO.

      Salaried and exempt are not synonyms. If you are salaried exempt, one of the exceptions in which your employer is permitted by law to dock your salary is if you are given a reasonable number of sick days (PTO counts) and you call in sick when you either have used all the days to which you are entitled or have not yet earned any. And if you are salaried non-exempt, you never have a legal expectation of being paid when you do not work. "Salaried" is a pay method and has no legal meaning of its own.

      The above are Federal definitions but there are no MA laws which override them.
      The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.


      • #4
        Thank you both


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