Checking Email During PTO: Can My Employer Require This?

Woman meeting with employment law attorney

Imagine you’re on a relaxing vacation with your family or friends, finally taking a break from the daily grind. You’re miles away from your workplace, sipping a piña colada on a sunny beach. Then, the dreaded notification sound on your phone pierces the Caribbean music – it’s an email from your boss, expecting a response. Can your employer require you to check your email during paid time off (PTO)? Here’s what to know about this increasingly common workplace issue and what your rights are as an employee in Virginia.

Understanding PTO in Virginia

In Virginia, paid time off is generally left up to your employer and is stated in your employment contract or company policies. While there’s no state law mandating paid time off, many employers offer it as a benefit to attract and retain talent. PTO includes various types of leave, including vacation days, personal days, and sick leave.

Employer Expectations vs. Employee Rights

While it’s common for employers to expect a certain level of availability, even during PTO, there are legal boundaries. Here are some things to consider:

  • Company policies – It’s important to review your company’s PTO policies. Most organizations will include guidelines surrounding PTO and whether you are expected to check your email and/or communicate with the company while you are away.
  • Employment contract – If you have an employment contract, it may include expectations for email communications during PTO. You’ll also want to include this. 
  • Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA) – The FLSA governs wage and hour issues, such as pay for overtime work. So, while it doesn’t specifically address email communications during PTO, if responding to emails during PTO results in excessive work hours, it may still be relevant. 
  • Employee Expectations of Work-Life Balance – Another consideration to include is whether replying to emails will have a detrimental impact on your well-being. 

Establish Boundaries

If you’re worried about expectations concerning email communications during your PTO, you may want to start by reviewing your employment contract to see if it explicitly states anything. Next, communicate with your employer regarding your concerns and set clear boundaries so that everyone is on the same page. Finally, be sure to document everything in case any issues should arise. 

Surovell Isaacs & Levy PLC Can Help Those in VA to Fight for their Employment Rights

If you find yourself in a situation where your employer’s demands during PTO are excessive or unreasonable, it’s advisable to seek legal advice from an experienced Virginia employment law attorney. They can help you navigate your rights, negotiate with your employer, and ensure that your work-life balance is respected.

At Surovell Isaacs & Levy PLC, we have experience with issues surrounding legal rights in the workplace. We will help you to fight for what it is that you deserve. To learn more or to schedule a consultation, contact us today!

Posted in: Employment Law