Wisconsin Vacations: What you need to know

If promised, vacation must be granted. While no Wisconsin law requires private employers to provide employees with vacations, paid or unpaid, most employers do offer their employees some form of vacation. Thus, it is important for employers to remember that if they “promise” vacation they may be legally bound to provide it--and that a binding promise does not require embodiment in a formal employment contract. Wisconsin case law indicates that an employer's assurance of vacation time, whether made in an employee handbook, given orally, or simply a matter of consistent practice, may constitute an enforceable implied contract.
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Accrual method. Employers are free to devise their own system for vacation accrual--for example, on a monthly or pay-period basis, or upon completion of a 6-month or 12-month period. It is important to be clear and unambiguous when drafting such policies. If the policy is intended to ensure that employees work the entire accrual period to earn their vacation days, it should state clearly that employees will not be entitled to pro rata payment if they leave partway through the period. Remember that any vagueness in the policy is likely to be construed against the employer (WI Gen. Stat. Sec. 109.01et seq.).
Vacation pay due at termination? Employers are required to pay earned vacation on separation unless employment policies provide otherwise. Although its view is not dispositive, Department of Workforce Development (DWD) generally takes the position that unused vacation and paid-time-off (PTO) benefits, but not sick pay, are presumptively vested benefits that must be paid at the time of termination, absent language in the personnel policy to the contrary. Employers should clearly ...

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