Can an employer force you to use vacation hours if they send you home early?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can an employer force you to use vacation hours if they send you home early?

I work with foster kids, supervising visits with bio parents and coaching them. Sometimes I’m scheduled to work 50-55 hours per week. If a parent cancels the visit, they send me home and make me use vacation time for those hours I missed. I can understand if Im scheduled 40 hours and need vacation time to bring me to 40, but over 40 hours cannot be OK. For example, last week I was scheduled 52 hours. A parent cancelled a 3 hour visit. They say I have to use 3 hours vacation time but I’m already over full-time. Due to this practice, I hardly have any vacation hours left to take some time off when I want to. I took this to HR and got into trouble for asking questions. This practice cannot be legal? Can it?

Asked on April 6, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, Illinois


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

No,they may not do this. If you are hourly, you only have to be paid for the hours actually worked, and should be allowed to use vacation hours to bring your pay up for the week--but you can't be forced to use your vacation for this purpose and could elect to only be paid for the short hours you actually worked. And if you are salaried, not only can they not require you to use vacation hours, but they also can't reduce you  pay if you are a little "short." What they are doing is effectively taking away vacation which you worked for (i.e. accrued or earned by working) and which is therefore part of your compensation: that is illegal, since they can't deprive you of that which you performed work in reasonable expectation of receiving. You may wish to contact your state's department of labor about possibly filing a complaint.

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