Do Your Workers Take Vacation?

It’s summertime, but do your employees actually take a break to recharge? A new survey shows that 64% of employees report that their paid time off is left untaken. This makes Oakland and San Francisco two of the most “overworked” cities in the country- coming in just behind Washington DC.

These are some of the findings from a new study, by Project Time Off, a survey sponsored by the US Travel Association. According to a recent article published in the San Francisco Business Times, researchers surveyed over 7000 workers who work more than 35 hours a week and received paid time off during the prior 12 months.

Workers reported that in the San Francisco/ Oakland Bay Area, more than any other city, they felt they had too big a workload to take time off.

An excessive workload was the number one reason why employees stated that they did not take vacation according to the study. The second most cited reason for refraining from taking time off was fear based – they continued working without a break to show the employer that they had a complete and unwavering dedication to their job. According to one survey researcher, this second reason reveals a significant undercurrent of anxiety about job instability.

Some employers create a culture (or allow it to exist) in which overwork is glorified and taking vacation is frowned upon. This is particularly troubling for those employers that have unlimited PTO policies. On the surface, unlimited vacation sounds great and can be an interesting recruiting tool. But too much work and too little time off can increase life stress and burnout. Worse, for those employees who fail to use their unlimited PTO, there is no cash out.

Ironically, although there is no clear correlation, the study found that employees who took 10 days or more off for vacation were less likely to have received a raise or bonus in the last three years.  Conversely, those who took 11 days or more off enjoyed better career progress and earnings. The researchers believe that employees who do not take PTO are more stressed and less productive and therefore do not receive raises and career progression.  Those who took vacation and recharged their batteries were more successful and productive at work.

Experts observe that while it may be more expedient in the short-run to keep our workers on the job and maintain the schedule, the long-term cost can be higher when turnover and employee burn out are factored.


Monitoring employee usage of PTO maybe a subtle, yet accurate barometer of the health of your workforce. Our consulting practice has observed, in general, that employees who do not take vacation time end up burning out and creating a more difficult work environment for themselves and others. In the Bay Area we have a hard driving work environment and we depend on our teams to deliver. The US has one of the most limited vacation cultures in the developed world. Making certain that all workers take a break can improve morale, reduce turnover and make the workplace happier and more productive.

Paul Finkle, CMC, SPHR – Executive Vice President

Disclaimer: Some information contained herein has been abridged from numerous sources and may be protected by various copyright laws. Such information should not be construed as consulting or legal advice. Please contact our office for specific advice and/or referrals.


Bay Area Human Resources Services

New Transgender Regulations for California

Formal regulations related to transgender identity and expression became effective in California on July 1, 2017, expanding the state’s employment discrimination statute.  Gender transitioning (a process some people go through to live as the gender with which they identify rather than that they had at birth) may include changes in name or pronoun, use of different restroom or changing facilities or changes in participation in employer-sponsored activities such as a sports team.  Some employees may undergo hormone therapy, surgeries or other medical procedures, though these are not always aspects of gender transition.

History of Transgender Workplace Regulations

California amended the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) in 1999 to include “sexual orientation” as a protected class, and the definition of “sex” was expanded several years later to include a person’s gender identity or gender-related appearance and behavior.  In 2011, “gender identity” and “gender expression” were included as protected classes.

Last year, FEHA issued guidance on transgender employees’ rights (Transgender Rights on the Workplace). Since March 1, 2017, businesses that offer a single-user toilet facility are required to designate those as available to all genders.  These latest regulations formalize requirements; expanding and articulating protections employers must follow.

New Developments

Employers must honor the wish of an employee to be identified with a preferred gender, name or pronoun and must not impose any dress or grooming standards that are inconsistent with an individual’s gender identity or expression.  There are some exceptions allowed for business necessity.  The new regulations also include protections surrounding the “perception” of an individual’s gender expression or gender identity.

An employee may initiate communication with the employer regarding gender transitioning as it relates to their work.  In this case, it is allowed for the employer to engage in that communication to understand the request and ensure working conditions comply with the law.  However, it is unlawful to inquire about or require documentation of an employee or applicant’s sex, gender, gender identity or gender expression as a condition of employment, and these inquiries are generally unlawful with employees.  Employers are permitted to use an employee’s assigned sex at birth or legal name as indicated in a government-issued identification only as necessary to meet a legally-mandated obligation, but otherwise must identify the employee based on their gender identity and preferred name.


Employers are prohibited from discriminating against an employee or applicant who is, has or is perceived to be gender transitioning.  Employees must be able to use (and request others use about them) the pronoun and name of their choice.  Grooming, dress and restroom use should be allowed based on the gender with which the employee identifies.  Employers are encouraged to be aware and sensitive to this topic in the workplace so that any related request or issues can be navigated in a respectful and positive way.

Amy Kelemen, SPHR – Director of Professional Services, Sr. HR Consultant

Disclaimer: Some information contained herein has been abridged from numerous sources and may be protected by various copyright laws. Such information should not be construed as consulting or legal advice. Please contact our office for specific advice and/or referrals.

Bay Area Human Resources Services