California Labor Code section 227.3 requires employers immediately pay a terminated employee for all his vested vacation time. In Howard Choate et al., v. Celite Corporation (May 2, 2013) B239160, the Court of Appeal decided the right provided in section 227.3 can only be waived if a negotiated collective bargaining agreement clearly and unmistakably waves that right.
Under their collective bargaining agreement, Plaintiffs in Howard earned their vacation based on hours worked the previous year and there was no waiver of section 227.3. However here was no past practice of paying out next year’s vacation time. Until the lawsuit, neither the terminated employees nor their union had objected to this practice.
The court found the parties' past practice of not enforcing the vacation rule did not count as a clear and unmistakable waver of section 227.3. Therefore, the Court said the Plaintiffs were entitled to be paid for time earned. However, the court did not grant special penalties to Plaintiffs because it said the employer did not act “willfully”.