Can my employer force me to use earned vacation days for pay or take unpaid days because their server failed and we cannot work?

The server that runs the computer programs necessary to do my job crashed and have been down for 10 business days. My employer is forcing me to use earned vacation days for pay during this time or take unpaid days. Can they do that?

Asked on November 10, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Michigan

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Yes, your employer can make you do this. The fact is that is that vacation time (or PTO) is not a mandatory benefit; that is it is not something that an employee is automatically entitled to. As a general rule there are no federal/state laws which govern. An employer determines whether or not to provide such time at its own discretion. Therefore, an employee does not have the right to use any unused time however they please. Accordingly, an employer can mandate when such time be taken. That is unless there is a union agreement, employment contract or a company policy to the contrary, or this is a case of actionable discrimination.

As for taking such time without pay, an employer can impose an unpaid furlough (again, absent a contract/policy to the contrary or discrimination). In an at will employment relationship, an employer can set the terms and conditions of the workplace much as it sees fit. An employee, for their part, can choose to continue to work for an employer or not.


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