Woman talking(l+r), PTO on notebook(c)

Zolak/Shutterstock @shesintimidating/Tiktok (Licensed)

‘Unlimited PTO is the biggest scam’: Boss questions worker’s 2-week PTO request for being too long. She has ‘unlimited’ time off

‘I’m not saving my PTO ever!’


Beau Paul


After a long job search, you’ve finally found a perfect fit. And even better, it has unlimited paid time off (PTO). You’ve scored, right?

Maybe not. The Daly Dot has reported in the past that unlimited PTO isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. In fact, the policy often provides more benefit to your employer than you.

You may even find that that so-called “unlimited” time off comes with strings attached. That’s what TikToker Jess (@shesintimidating) is claiming in a video posted on June 26.

Jess, a TikToker who provides her viewers with budgeting and finance advice, claims that her boss questioned her recent two-week PTO request despite the company’s ostensible “unlimited” PTO policy.

The video has 670,300 views and counting as of this writing.

What’s the difference between unlimited and accrued PTO?

Early in the video, Jess points out that “when you get fired or when you quit” at a company that uses an accrued PTO policy, “you have to have that PTO paid out on your last check.”

In a video previously covered by the Daily Dot, HR professional Amy (@hackyourhr) told viewers, “Accrued PTO ensures that you can either take time off or you are paid for the time that they say you should take time off for your mental health. It saves the company a ton of money not to carry this on the books, the amount of accrued PTO that they have to pay out when someone leaves.”

Jess claims that under an unlimited PTO policy, companies “don’t have to pay you anything” if you quit or are terminated.

What went wrong?

According to Jess, she was planning a trip to Italy this year and submitted her request for PTO on the date her video went up, June 26, roughly two months before the trip would take place.

“Almost immediately, I get a text from my boss,” she says. “It essentially said, ‘Hi Jess, I saw your request [for the two consecutive weeks off.] Have you run this by ‘Blank’?”

Jess says “Blank” is an entity that is “technically my boss but not [the person who approves PTO] as she is employed by a [third party].”

“Like, when I take time off, I just say, ‘Here are the dates. It’s already been approved by my company,’” she states.

“So essentially, [Jess’s primary boss is] asking, ‘Did you get it approved through [“Blank”]?’ even though I’m not supposed to get it approved through her,” she says.

She adds that her primary boss asked whether she was going abroad and for details about the purpose of the request because he “typically [does] not approve two week’s PTO without an understanding of the reason.”

Jess says her response to her primary boss was, “I will be in Italy those dates. I have not discussed it with ‘Boss Blank,’ but she did mention to my other co-workers about my time off in April for a wedding I attended.”

Jess says she took around eight non-consecutive days off in April to attend the wedding. Additionally, she says she was told by co-workers that “Blank” had questioned co-workers about her time off and whether they agreed it was “a lot.”

“My time off is my time off. No one should be allowed to ask any questions,” she tells her viewers.

Jess states that her company only recently started requiring the submission of PTO requests. She then stated that she would be happy to provide her primary boss with a two-week resignation notice if her PTO request was not granted.

“[“Blank”] is not the one who approves [PTO],” she claims she replied to her primary boss. “I’ve already paid for and bought my flights as well as my accommodations.”

Jess says that at the beginning of 2023, her company announced that PTO requests were “Discretionary“—a term that is often used to describe a so-called “unlimited” PTO policy.

“Near the end of the year, we kept getting harassed by these emails [saying] like, ‘discretionary does not mean unlimited,’” Jess says.

According to the Human Resources website AIHR, while the terms discretionary time off (DTO) and unlimited PTO are often used interchangeably, “there are some key differences in their overall philosophy.”

The site states, “With DTO, the emphasis is on allowing employees to choose when to take time off, without a specific limit. For unlimited PTO, the policy focuses on ‘outcome-driven results.’ An employee can take time off without a predetermined limit as long as they meet their workload demands and performance expectations.”

“In their original email, they said, ‘Discretionary. Take at your own discretion.’ To me, that does mean unlimited,” Jess argues.

Regardless of the distinction, Jess says her company is not sticking to its word.

“Now they’re going back on it saying, ‘please refer to our old PTO limits in the past,’ and that’s how much time you should be taking off,” she states.

She says that even under the old policy, her PTO request falls within acceptable parameters.

“So no one should be asking me any freaking questions at all,” she insists.

“At the end of the day, they can go two weeks without someone in my place or two to three months while they try to hire someone else,” she states.

@shesintimidating Unlimited PTO is the biggest scam out there… #pto #unlimitedpto #corporateamerica #9to5 #italy #vacation #timeoff #europe ♬ original sound – Jess🫶🏽 | Budgeting & Finance

Jess’s arguments struck a chord with many of her viewers. However, some of her audience still seemed to want the “unlimited” model.

“I’m not saving my PTO ever!” one viewer wrote.

“Some companies’ unlimited PTO are legit though,” KellyNicole22 (@strwbryicecream22) wrote.

Another viewer wrote, “I have unlimited PTO and it’s the best!! My old company didn’t pay out unused days of PTO so that’s not a guarantee either.”

However, some viewers appreciated Jess’s perspective.

“My husband had unlimited PTO and was told he was taking too much time off … and then not too long after he was laid off,” arvs7140 (@arvs7140) wrote.

“I’m dying they can’t offer unlimited/discretionary PTO and then say you should follow the limitations of the old PTO model??? Like do they need a dictionary,” another viewer commented.

Another added, “I’m glad people are finally catching on to this.”

The Daily Dot has reached out to Jess via email and TikTok direct message for further comment.

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