Vacation and Sick Leave

Employment benefits related to time off for illness and vacation time.

The Firm provides both Vacation Time and Paid Time Off; both of these benefits involve being permitted to be absent from work while continuing to draw salary for the time not worked. Each of these categories of compensated absence are tracked separately and the eligibility criteria for each are also different.

Vacation Time

Lawyers and support staff in a litigation firm need and deserve to take vacations from time to time. We encourage our employees to do so! However, it is important for all of our professionals to realize that in a litigation firm, it simply is not always possible to take time off whenever an employee desires. Our vacation policy is therefore governed by the following absolute rule:

ALERT! Litigation schedules, deadlines and other professional commitments must always take priority over personal plans.

Vacation time must be approved in advance by the Firm, and may be taken by an employee only so long as work is completed in a timely fashion and no deadlines are missed.

A professional who shifts last-minute priorities to a co-worker in order to take planned leave has not really planned that leave and may have to change those plans to suit the priority requirements of the practice of law.

Our human resources website, which we also refer to as our Personnel Page (which you can access by clicking the link above or the sample image at left), contains a “Time Off” link that directs employees to a section where accrued time off, approvals and related details are monitored. Requests for time off should be entered on that page and an email notification of the request will be sent to our Office Manager. That web site is the official record with respect to all time off that has been approved by the Firm.

Paid vacation time is available as an employment benefit to all full-time regular employees based upon the length of time they have been employed by the Firm, as follows:

Vacation Time: 
  • First year: During the first year of employment, no paid vacation time is available.
  • Years two through five: Full time employees are permitted two calendar weeks (consisting of up to 10 business days) of paid vacation annually; eligibility commences after one full year of continuous employment from the date of hire, to be utilized during the second year of employment. Only one week of unused vacation in a given year may be carried over into a subsequent year.
  • Years six through ten: After five years of full-time employment, an employee is entitled to three weeks (15 days) paid vacation annually. Only one week of unused vacation in a given year may be carried over into a subsequent year.
  • Years eleven onward: At ten years of employment, the employee is entitled to four weeks (20 days) paid vacation annually. Only one week of unused vacation in a given year may be carried over into a subsequent year.

As mentioned above, the Firm provides no assurances regarding the timing of any attorney’s vacation, and reminds all attorneys that it is not uncommon for an attorney to be forced by professional commitments to reschedule a vacation. It may not always be sensible, economically feasible or fair to clients or co-workers to expect others in the firm to pick up responsibilities that are likely to arise during a planned vacation. All vacation decisions are appealable to, and subject to the final determination by, the President of the Corporation.

Paid Time Off (Sick Leave And Personal Commitments)

Regular full-time employees may receive compensated time away from work, subject to logistical demands and advance scheduling as described herein. Paid Time Off (PTO) days may be used for personal time, illness or time off to care for dependents. As with vacation time, PTO must be scheduled in advance and approved by the Firm except in cases of illness or emergency. This requirement is designed to avoid, and will be implemented to protect against, “clustering” of claimed PTO in an end-of-year rush or similar phenomena that would leave the firm short-staffed. Accordingly, this approval requirement takes precedence over the numerical PTO provision below.

Any employee claiming illness or emergency to circumvent this requirement when such conditions do not in fact exist may thereafter  be deemed permanently ineligible for PTO, and may be subject to additional documentation or disciplinary measures. Employees claiming an excessive number of sick days (as judged by the Firm on a case-by-case basis) in any given interval of time may be asked to provide medical documentation of the validity of such, and if an employee is unwilling to do so, the Firm may conclude that no such support exists.

Employees who are unable to maintain satisfactory attendance within the guidelines of this Policy may not be medically qualified for employment. For more on this, please review the Firm Policy entitled “Qualifications for Employment.”

PTO: Each regular full-time staff member will receive 66 hours of PTO per calendar year. No advance requirement for employment tenure must be met, provided the employee does not utilize more than 33 hours of PTO during the first six months of employment.
Note: Advance notice is an employee's best way to ensure that he or she will be able to obtain approval for specifically requested PTO.

The PTO benefit will be pro-rated for new employees. PTO must be taken in one-half hour increments. No PTO will be allowed once an employee has given their notice to resign. 

PTO is not “accrued,” meaning that it is not compensable upon voluntary or non-voluntary termination of employment with Godfrey | Johnson, P.C. Unused PTO will not roll into subsequent years. All accumulated and unused PTO shall be forfeited upon giving of notice of termination (by either party), and may be deducted from final paychecks if utilized within 30 days of giving of notice of resignation by an employee. 

Unpaid Leave

From the commencement of employment onward, The Firm reserves the right to approve or deny requests for unpaid leave on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the employee’s current job responsibilities, deadlines, productivity, attitude and life circumstances, as well as the Firm’s staffing needs, workload and finances.

Vacation & Sick Leave Benefits Forfeited Upon Notice Of Termination

Cross-reference: Policy – Termination.

The question occasionally arises: Does Colorado law or federal law require an employer to pay unused vacation or sick leave to a terminated employee if the benefits have not been used? Many people think that the answer to this question is yes, but in fact Colorado courts and relevant statutes provide otherwise. In order to clarify the good faith basis for this Policy provision, we offer some specific detail: The Colorado Wage Claim Act (CWCA), at C.R.S. § 8-4-101(14)(a)(iii), provides that vacation pay is considered a form of “wages” subject to the terms of an employment agreement.

(a) “Wages” or “compensation” means:

.  .  .

(III) Vacation pay earned in accordance with the terms of any agreement. If an employer provides paid vacation for an employee, the employer shall pay upon separation from employment all vacation pay earned and determinable in accordance with the terms of any agreement between the employer and the employee. [emphasis added]

See also, Hartman v. Freedman, 591 P.2d 1318, 1321 (Colo. 1979). The Colorado Supreme Court has held that where written terms of employment with respect to these benefits clearly and unambiguously state that unused benefits are relinquished upon the termination of employment, such terms are enforceable. Cheyenne Mountain Sch. Dist. No. 12 v. Thompson, 861 P.2d 711, 712 (Colo. 1993). As stated in our policy discussing Terms of Employment, these policies define the terms of all employment at Godfrey | Johnson, P.C.

Based upon the above legal authority, the Firm’s policy, and the concordant terms of employment of all personnel, is as follows: Upon the giving of oral or written notice by either the Firm or an employee of the termination of employment (including resignations, firings for cause and termination without cause), no unused vacation time or sick leave shall be considered vested, payable or compensable, as these benefits may only be used by an employee who has neither given nor received notice of termination. Any employee who utilizes unused vacation or sick leave and thereafter resigns or is terminated within 3 business days thereafter shall be obligated to return to the firm any salary drawn for that period for which the employee did not report for work during the 30 day period leading up to the notice of resignation or termination, and the Firm is authorized to deduct the same from any outstanding earned salary or hourly wages due to the employee.

By accepting employment and continuing to work here, you manifest your agreement with this and all other terms stated in the Firm’s Policies and Procedures.

“Comp” Time

All non-attorney, full-time employees are salaried on the basis of a forty-hour work week. All comp time (defined as overtime credited towards time off) must be verbally arranged with the firm when it is accrued, and must be used within one month or it will be lost, unless arrangements to the contrary are approved by the firm in writing.

The purpose of comp time is to promote flexibility in utilizing our human resources to effectively meet the unpredictable demands of litigation. The purpose of this Policy Memo is to ensure that all comp time is approved and that it does not accrue to a substantial degree without the firm’s specific knowledge and approval.

FMLA Notice: Due to its size, this firm is not required to comply with the Family Medical Leave Act, which applies only to employers with 50 or more employees..