Is it legal for my employer to require me to go home and use my vacation time for a building issue that has nothing to do with me?

I reported to work this morning and within 30 minutes was advised I was being sent home due to a burst pipe in the building. I was then advised that in order to get paid for this day I would have to use my vacation or unplanned time. I approached a supervisor who stated that this was all she was aware of at this time. Is this legal?

Asked on August 26, 2011 New Mexico

Answers:

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

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Your employer has the right to do this if you are an "at will" employee.  If you are, your employer can can increase or decrease your salary or hours, promote or demote you, and generally impose the terms and conditions of employment as it sees fit (it can even hire or fire you for any reason or no reason whatsoever). In turn, you can choose to work for your employer or not. This holds true unless there is a union/employment contract or a company policy to the contrary, or legally actionable discrimination is a factor.   

The fact is that vacation time (i.e. PTO) is not something that an employee is automatically entitled to. It is a discretionary benefit that an employer can choose to provide or not. This means that employees do not have the right to use such time whenever they please. An employer may deny a request for vacation time or it can mandate when such time is taken.


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