Topic of the Week Does the Law Provide for Vacation Pay?
- Is your company legally required to give you vacation time?
- What can you do when you don't get your promised vacation time?
My company has no paid vacation leave. Aren't they legally required to give me some time off for vacation?
Unless you are covered by a collective bargaining agreement or employment contract that requires you to be given vacation time, the law does not require employers to give their employees any vacation time off, paid or unpaid. Most employers (over 75%) choose to do so, to prevent employee burnout and maintain employee morale, but it is not legally required. In that respect, the United States is behind many other countries around the world, where vacation time may total four to six weeks a year or more.
The federal law applying to wage payments, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), does not require vacation leave at all. While a number of states have laws that require employers to pay their employees any vacation time they have accrued, those laws do not require employers to give their employees any vacation time at all.
Even if your company offers vacation time to some of its employees, it may have policies limiting who is eligible. Part-time or temporary employees may not be entitled to vacation benefits at all, although some companies make these benefits available on a pro-rated basis. Employers may require that employees work for the company a certain length of time, sometimes as much as six months or a year, before accruing vacation time or being allowed to use accrued time. (As Americans change jobs more frequently, this can mean that some employees frequently have to start all over again.) High-level or higher-paid employees may accrue more vacation time than lower-level or lower-paid employees. An employee may even negotiate more vacation time as a condition of accepting the job, although some companies are reluctant to do that, out of fear that other employees will feel slighted or claim they are treated unfairly.
All of these policies are legal, as long as they are administered according to the policy established by the company, and not used to discriminate against certain employees.
Though the FLSA does not require employers to offer vacation time to employees, the equal pay provision of the FLSA does prohibit unequal treatment between employees, hired to perform identical tasks. Discrimination in the workplace may be defined as differential treatment between two employees who perform jobs that require equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and are performed under identical conditions. Employers may not decide who is given vacation pay based on any legally protected characteristic such as gender, race, religion, or disability. For example, a company could not give its male employees three weeks off a year and its female employees two weeks off a year or vice versa: that would be sex discrimination.
My company's vacation policy is a joke. While we're told that we have vacation time, we're never allowed to take it when we want to, so none of us ever get to use the time to which we're entitled. What can we do?
Where providing vacation time is not required by law, state law and the internal policies of your employer govern the use of vacation time. If you are attempting to use your vacation time, and your employer is not allowing you to use your time, your best bet in this situation is to attempt to work cooperatively with your fellow employees, possibly the Human Resources department if you have one, and company management, to resolve this problem in a way that works for everyone. It is also wise to attempt to plan ahead as early as possible, as last-minute requests may be more difficult to accommodate. Scheduling your vacation as early in the year as you can, and during times that are not as in-demand (such as during school vacations or holiday weekends) is also a good idea, because employers may not be able to accommodate everyone who wants to take a vacation at the same time. Submit your request in writing, and have backup dates available if your first choice of dates cannot be accommodated.
If you are still unable to schedule vacation time, and this is very important to you, it may be a sign that you need to look for a job where time away from the office is not only permitted, but encouraged.