Colorado Issues New Guidance on Prohibition Against Forfeiture of Earned Vacation or PTO

A series of recent developments in Colorado law have made it clear that employers are prohibited from causing employees to forfeit earned vacation time. A compilation of recent developments and the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment’s current position are contained in Interpretive Notice & Formal Opinion (INFO) #14, which explains that:

  1. Employees must be paid all earned vacation pay when their job ends.
  2. No employment policy or agreement can waive or forfeit earned vacation at any time.
  3. All paid leave which can be used at the discretion of the employee is considered “vacation pay” subject to the non-forfeiture rules.

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Accrued but Unused Vacation Pay Must Be Paid Out Upon Termination of Employment in Colorado

Colorado’s Supreme Court found that Colorado employees receiving vacation time must be paid out accrued but unused time when their employment is terminated. In Carmen Nieto v. Clark’s Market, Inc., the state Supreme Court held that if an employer chooses to provide vacation pay, all accrued but unused vacation pay must be paid to employees upon termination and that no agreement to the contrary will be enforced.

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