Most people aren’t aware of their employer’s policy on what happens to their benefits when they quit or get fired. But when one of these things happens, it’s important to be clear on what you’re entitled to. If your boss tells you that you lose your vacation time at termination, it’s definitely something you should question.

Many employees in Illinois are entitled to be paid for their unused vacation time if and when their job comes to an end. It largely depends on whether your employer offers paid vacation time. If your employer does in fact offer paid vacation time, and you haven’t used all that you have earned, then the law says you must be paid for that time.

Note that Illinois employers are not obligated to offer paid vacation time. This law applies only where paid vacation time is offered and has been earned (and not used) by the employee. You might have to double-check your employer’s policy, as well as your vacation time records, to know what you are owed, if anything.

If you have already left your job, and you are now realizing that you were owed payment for unused vacation, it might not be too late. An attorney can help you get the information you need to know for sure whether your former employer owes you money.

Employment doesn’t always end on good terms. Your employer may believe that you don’t deserve your vacation pay, or that you shouldn’t be asking for it. However, it’s a form of compensation that you have earned. It’s yours.

You should receive your final paycheck, including all compensation such as unused vacation pay, at termination, according to the law. Strictly speaking, this means your last day on the job. However, the law allows it to be paid as late as the next scheduled payday. If your employer is dragging their feet on your final paycheck, which isn’t uncommon, an attorney can help you understand your rights and get the paycheck you’re owed. If your employer cannot be convinced to pay, then your attorney can file a claim against them.

Written by Michael Helfand