Texas: Can employers require use of PTO and can they mandate lunch breaks at a set time each day?

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Can a company require employees to (A) take a minimum amount of PTO, (B) require them to use PTO if they have it available, (C) require employees to take their lunch break at a specific time?

For example, in our handbook it previously stated that employees must take at least 2 hours of PTO per PTO request. I have a couple of examples

EX 1: An employee is scheduled to be at work at 8:00am. The employee calls their supervisor and says they will be 30 minutes late. The supervisor then tells them to not come in until 10:00am because our policy stated they must take a minimum of 2 hours of PTO.

EX 2: An employee has sustained an injury, outside of work, that requires physical therapy during work hours. The physical therapy times change from week to week but are always for 1 hour during normal company working hours. Can the company require the 2 hour minimum if it is for health reasons? Can the company require her to take PTO for these sessions? Can the employee elect to take her lunch break at a different time to cover the time for the session?

Thank you!!



Many employers offer “paid time off” (“PTO”) in some form or another to employees. Some call it “vacation time,” “sick time,” “personal time,” some combination of those, or something else entirely, but the idea is the same- employees get paid for time when they are not working, usually up to a certain maximum amount.

When it comes to questions regarding your PTO policy, it is important to remember that (unless there is a local law that says different) an employer does not have to offer or allow any PTO at all. Since paid time off policies are usually voluntary, meaning the employer has chosen to offer PTO to employees as a benefit instead of being required to do so by law, there is very little in the way of legal requirements that employers must meet when applying or enforcing their policies. Employers are required to pay employees for their time worked, but they are generally not required to pay for time not worked, so almost any application or interpretation of a PTO policy is likely to be legal as long as it is applied in accordance with your written policy, and uniformly in similar situations.

Although your question didn’t mention it, I am going to assume that this question is about hourly, non-exempt employees. With that in mind, let’s look at an example.

Let’s say an employee who is paid on an hourly basis has to leave three hours early from work one day.  The employer could require that the employee use PTO for those hours and deduct them from the employee’s PTO / vacation / sick day bank, reducing the amount of time the employee has left to be paid for time not worked. The employer can pay the employee for the time and deduct it from a PTO bank even if the employee does not want the time deducted from the PTO bank.

The employer may choose to let the employee make the time up later in the week so that the number of hours worked and the pay received are the same as if the employee had worked a full day, but is not required to do so. Finally, if it is part of the employer’s written policy, the employer may require that the employee use a minimum increment of PTO time (e.g., 4 hours instead of 3).

So yes, you can require that employees use PTO in minimum increments and that they use PTO for work absences if they have it available.  Finally, Texas law does not generally require lunch breaks.  So, if you are going to provide a lunch break, then yes, you can schedule it.


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