What Are My Rights Concerning Vacation and Holiday Pay in North Carolina?

You may assume that there are laws in North Carolina dictating who is entitled to paid vacation days or ensuring that all employees receive paid time off for nationally recognized holidays such as Christmas and Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

A black pen on an employment contract attached to a blue clipboard.There are no NC labor laws on vacation pay, and there are no NC labor laws regarding holiday pay, either. On a federal level, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require employers to pay employees for hours that they did not work, and this includes holidays and vacation days.

It has been my experience as an employment law attorney that employees must be uber-vigilant when contracting with their employers about the specifics of their job, benefits, and pay. If your employment contract includes vacation time, you should be paid for any earned vacation time. And if your contract includes time off or extra pay for working holiday hours, you should be compensated for that work. If you are not, your employer may be taking advantage of you.

Worker Protections for Holiday and Vacation Days

While you are not entitled by law to receive pay for holiday and vacation days, you do have rights regarding your pay that you need to protect.

Employer discrimination against a person or group when making vacation and holiday pay decisions is regulated by law. If an employer offers vacation pay to some employees and not to others, there may be a pattern and practice of discrimination.

There are several federal laws that specifically deal with employment discrimination:

  • The Civil Rights Act (Title VII) protects employees from discrimination in compensation based on race, color, religion, national origin, and sex.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects workers with disabilities.
  • The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) protects pregnant workers.
  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects workers who are 40 years or older.

Discrimination has no place in the workplace. The employment law team at the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin fights hard for employees who feel that their employers have made discriminatory decisions about their vacation and holiday pay.

In this article, I will share with you several questions about vacation and holiday pay that I have encountered when helping clients determine if their employers are treating them, and paying them, fairly. Read on to learn more.

What Are the North Carolina Labor Laws on Vacation Pay?

There are no North Carolina laws that require employers to offer their employees vacation pay. Instead, the law states that employers are under no obligation to provide vacation pay.

“No employer is required to provide vacation pay plans for employees.” Source: N.C. General Statute 95-2.12

It is important to note that North Carolina law does require employers to communicate their established pay policies with their employees.

Female employee looking at a large cork bulletin board at work.“In North Carolina, an employer must make available to its employees, in writing or through a posted notice maintained in a place accessible to its employees, employment practices and policies with regard to promised wages.“ Source: N.C. General Statute 95-25.13(2)

Furthermore, if your employer does not notify you of any policy or practice that results in loss of vacation time or pay, the statute states that you are not subject to the loss of that vacation time or pay. Additionally, if you have already earned vacation time, your employer cannot retroactively change the policy. They can only apply it moving forward.

Because NC does not mandate vacation pay, the details of how much vacation time you may get and how it is allocated are dictated by what you and your employer have agreed to do, or not do, in your employment contract. I encourage you to have an experienced employment law attorney carefully review the specific terms of your employment offer and contract if you feel that you employer may not be paying you fairly.

What NC Labor Laws Regarding Holiday Pay Are There?

There are no North Carolina laws requiring your employer to give you time off (paid or unpaid) for holidays. Also, employers are not required by law to pay you extra “holiday pay” if you work on a holiday. The law considers holidays to be just like other business days, and your employer is allowed to decide whether you have to work on these days if you work for a private company. However, the majority of North Carolina employers tend to observe at least six paid holidays.

Many employers observe certain holidays by closing down their offices, and some may pay their workers for these days off, while others may not. Employers may decide to pay holiday pay for one type of employee, such as full-time workers, and regular pay for another classification of employee, such as part-time workers. This is usually legal and up to the employer to decide. But employers cannot discriminate against protected classes when making these decisions – the decisions cannot be based on your race, color, religion, national origin, and/or sex.

As with vacation pay, North Carolina law requires employers to communicate their established holiday pay and leave policies with their employees. Look at your employment agreement and at any posters placed in common areas at work and take note of exactly what they say.

Your employer should indicate in your employment contract which, if any, holidays you have off, and if you were to be paid for that time off.

Check your benefits package, employee manual, or employment contract to see what your employer’s policy is for paying for holiday work. If there has been no communication about this or your employer is not following the policy, let an employment law attorney know. North Carolina law requires employers to communicate their wage benefit policies in writing.

If I Am a Government Employee, Do I Get Paid Holidays?

If you are an employee of the North Carolina government, you are entitled to a maximum of 11 paid holidays off, except when Christmas falls on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. In those cases, N.C. General Statute 126-4 states the employees are entitled to a maximum of 12 paid holidays off.

Are There North Carolina PTO Laws?

PTO, or Paid Time Off, is not regulated by law in North Carolina. Just as with vacation and holiday time off and pay, employers are only required to honor the terms of their employment policies and contracts if they elect to offer PTO. The Family and Medical Leave Act is a federal law that covers unpaid time off and entitlement to unpaid time off.

North Carolina allows employers to implement a use-it-or-lose-it policy for employee PTO. A use-it-or-lose-it PTO policy states that you must use your PTO by a certain date or risk losing it — no rolling it over to the next year and no cashing it out. This type of policy limits your employer’s payout liability to employees who don’t use their PTO for vacation or sick time.

The state of North Carolina requires employers to post notices in writing of any policy, such as this one, so that you are fully aware of the policy before their time expires. If your employer does not comply with this requirement, you may miss out on pay that you have earned.

Do You Have to Be Paid for Unused Vacation Time?

North Carolina does not require employers to pay employees for unused, or accrued, time off. An employer’s policy or employment contract governs whether earned, unused vacation is paid on separation. However, if your employment policy and contract do not specifically address what happens to accrued vacation time, then your employer must generally pay you for unused vacation time upon termination.

An experienced employment law attorney can review your employment contract and policies and advise you on whether your employer may owe you accrued vacation pay.

Am I Entitled to Vacation Pay if I Quit?

While there are no specific NC labor laws on vacation pay after quitting, you may be entitled to your unused vacation pay, even if you quit.

Some companies have a policy of paying departing employees for any accrued vacation time they have not used, and other companies don’t. It all boils down to what is or is not stated in the company policy.

Companies who neglect to outline and communicate a policy for dealing specifically with accrued vacation time and termination are generally required to pay you any accrued vacation pay.

How Can I Determine if My Rights Were Violated?

If your employer is not following the guidelines set in your employment contract, they are possibly violating your employee rights. These rights may also be in danger if you can identify a pattern of discrimination in who gets paid vacation days and holidays.

If you have accrued vacation days and holidays that your employer refuses to pay when you separate from the company, double check your employment contract closely to see if this is a violation. Your employer has until the following regularly scheduled pay period to pay you all remaining earned wages, such as eligible vacation pay.

Employers often have the advantage of power and resources in the employer-employee relationship. I suggest that you try to upset that imbalance by seeking the advice of an experienced employment law attorney.

Why Should I Hire a Lawyer if I Believe My Rights Were Violated?

If you think your employer is treating you unfairly in terms of vacation and holiday pay, a lawyer can help you understand if you have a viable case and guide you through the process of fighting for your employee rights.

Critical things an employment lawyer can do for you include:

  • Reviewing your employment contract and deciphering its legal jargon to determine what exactly you and your employer have agreed to in terms of holiday and vacation pay
  • Trying to identify patterns of behavior that may prove a practice of employer discrimination
  • Building a possible case to claim unpaid wages

If you decide to file a complaint against your employer, an attorney can help you gather evidence, follow proper procedures, and file the complaint with the appropriate office.

You may be asking yourself, “Can I afford an attorney?” At the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin, there are no up-front costs or hourly fees to worry about. Instead, we work on a contingency fee basis, which means we only collect an attorney’s fee if we are able to obtain you compensation, and that fee is a percentage of the total amount recovered for you.2

What Kind of Compensation Could I Receive?

The amount of compensation you may receive largely depends on the agreement you made with your employer when you accepted the position. Did you employer agree to pay you for accrued vacation pay upon termination? Were policies about paid holidays and PTO specified in the contract? The terms of your employment contract should dictate if and how you are to be compensated for vacation and holiday pay.

If you are not receiving your earned vacation or holiday time, your employer may be taking advantage of you, and it may be a warning sign that they are violating other wage laws as well. If you are concerned about your employer’s behavior, I urge you to get a free case evaluation today.

Text UsText Us

About the Author

Noel Harlow is the lead employment law attorney at the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin in North Carolina. Since becoming an attorney in 2007, she has advocated for the rights of the underrepresented throughout her career with a focus on trying to level the playing field for all. She has served as a legal services counselor in Tanzanian refugee camps and a lead counsel for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault within the United States. Noël shares her knowledge outside of the firm and was voted 2020 Adjunct Professor of the Year by the student body at Campbell University School of Law. She believes employment law positively impacts society by helping re-establish a proper balance of power between employees and their employers.