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In Colorado, vacation is a matter of policy. If you can establish the existence of a policy via handbook, past practice, etc, you can compel the employer to pay accrued vacation pay in accordance with the policy. If the practice or written policy says "use it or lose it on the anniversary date" that is what you'll have to live with. On the other hand if terminated employees are entitled to unused vacation pay then it must be paid along with unpaid wages under Colorado's Wage Claim Act within a very short period of time. If not, have a lawyer send a demand letter in compliance with the CWCA and if the employer fails to pay within the established time, he can be liable for penalties (payable to the employee) plus attorney fees. Most states have a similar statute.