Many Buzzfeed Employees Jilted on PTO After Layoff Before Correction

PTO in the News

Do you know what will happen with your accrued vacation days if you’re laid off or quit to go elsewhere? Will you get paid? Or will you be left high-and-dry?

According to employee surveys, paid time off (PTO) is the second- most valued benefit (after healthcare), but it is seemingly becoming more and more of a headache for employees.

The "buzz" - especially in the tech and startup sector - is this new notion of unlimited PTO. Take as much as you want, go for it. Sounds great on the surface. But what happens if you leave the company? Do you get paid for the accrued vacation you did not take?

At the end of the day, it depends.

Employment laws vary state-to-state and depending on how your employer’s policy is set up, you might not see a dime.

For instance, take a look at BuzzFeed and its recent PTO situation.

buzzfeed-logo-pto-controversyIn January, the internationally-recognized news outlet cut 15% of its workforce—roughly 250 positions. Upon releasing the news, the company did not plan to pay out the unused time off employees had earned, other than to workers in California, where it is required by law.


After a week of outcry and rage by both current and laid-off employees, and the general public, BuzzFeed announced it would revisit its PTO policies. For example, Charlie Warzel of the New York Times tweeted:

Buzzfeed leadership listened. In a company-wide email in the following days, BuzzFeed executives announced it would pay out earned and unused PTO — regardless of which state the employee lived in (even where it isn’t mandated).

At the end of the day, it all worked out. The employees were justly compensated for their hard work, dedication, and not taking vacation, and BuzzFeed will (continue to) take pride in treating its employees well.

But it does beg the question: 

Why does it take over 600 members of BuzzFeed’s employee base to create change? How do we, both as employees and employers, avoid these situations moving forward?

Over 750 Million Unused Vacation Days

According to the US Travel Association, more than 750 million vacation days go unused every year, resulting in over $80 billion lost by employees and billions in lost taxes.


For many people, paying out PTO means the difference between whether or not bills and student loans will be paid on time and how their families are supported. Instead of losing the value of unused or lost paid time off, PTO Exchange is changing the way employers are offering employees benefits—even if employees never leave their desk.

PTO Exchange offers a patented flexible benefits platform that gives companies an inclusive and flexible service that allows employees to self-direct their accrued paid leave for other things they value —student loan repayment, education support, healthcare or retirement savings, travel and charity.

What about Unlimited Vacation?

"Unlimited vacation"!

What a shiny buzzword. Companies are marketing unlimited vacation like a bad buffet.

When we strip the buzz and fluff from the phrase and call it what it really is, "unlimited vacation" is not a benefit for employees... it's a benefit for corporations.

Unlimited vacation is a work-around. By offering this perk, companies will now get away from tracking and accruing a liability that in some states, once it is accrued, is considered earned wages. Once wages are considered earned, they must be paid out at termination.

By offering this "benefit," corporations are able to get rid of the obligation of paying out lump sum payment upon an employee's departure.

Unlimited PTO looks enticing on a job description but companies know the data, and employees ultimately are the one that pay.

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Published on Feb 20, 2019 by Gregg Makuch

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Discover The Real Story Behind Unlimited PTO 

Unlimited PTO might not be as amazing as many HR executives make it out to be. Find out more with this research report conducted by Lighthouse Research and Advisory.