Am I entitled to vacation pay that I was promised but never given upon hiring?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Am I entitled to vacation pay that I was promised but never given upon hiring?

I was employed by a company over 3 1/2 years. The contract that I was hired under stated that after the first year I would be given 1 week paid vacation, which I did receive. After 2 years of employment, I

would be giving 2 week’s paid vacation, that was never honored. I was allowed to take a week vacation not knowing it was not going to be paid until I returned to work, Upon me returning back from my vacation and asking the owner how were we going to be paid this year for vacation pay, at that time

I was told I would not be getting paid. This was around Christmas time so there was no way that I would’ve took a week off without pay at Christmas.

Asked on July 11, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Michigan


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

The issue is, was the "contract" you were hired under an actual written contract between you and the employer, for a defined or definite term (e.g. a two-year, three-year, five-year, etc. contract), which term is still unexpired (so the contract is still in effect)? If, if there is a still-in-effect written contract which is not being honored, you could sue your employer for "breach of contract" to enforce its terms, and seek either a court order directing that you get the vacation, and/or that you get the monetary value thereof in compensation.
That the contract had to be for a definite term is critical: because the general rule is "employment at will," or the employer's right to change the terms of employment at any time, the law does not allow open-ended or indefinite or forever limitations or restrictions on an employer's discretion. "Contracts" which are not for a definite or fixed term are not actually enforceable contracts; they can be denied or changed by the employer, since their terms are not locked in for a fixed period of time.
Withouti an unexpired and unterminated written contract between yourself and the employer, the employer is free to change or reduce your benefits at will. This means that if instead of a contract, you just had an offer letter delineating or describing what the employer then intended to give you, you do not have enforceable rights; your employer could renege on or change what they had initially promised you. In this case, the employer could choose to not give you all the vacation previously promised.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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