Can an employer take away vacation/sick paid days to compensate the company for accidental product loss?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can an employer take away vacation/sick paid days to compensate the company for accidental product loss?

2 veterinary technicians were on duty and at the end of shift we are required to
perform certain closing tasks. One of these tasks is to put away in house testing
supplies, if not refrigerated over night the tests are no longer good. One box of tests
with 20 remaining tests valued at 359.80 per management, were lost due to not
being refrigerated. Management gave us disciplinary notices which stated that there
will be loss of 2 vacation/sick days to compensate for the cost of the lost product. Is
this legal to do?

Asked on April 27, 2019 under Employment Labor Law, Massachusetts


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

They cannot take away sick or vacation days you have already earned, since you already performed the work you agreed to perform in exchange for certain compensation, including those days. So taking away existing days would be illegal. However, you may still wish to allow them to do this, since the things they can legally do are worse:
1) They can cut your pay going forward--reduce your salary or wages--for a mistake like this.
2) They could reduce the number of vacation, etc. days you earn in the future.
3) They could susped you without pay.
4) They could terminate you.
Unless you are protected by a written employment contract, you are an "employee at will" and the employer may suspend, terminate, or alter the terms of your employment whenever they want, for any reason--including for having made this mistake. It happens that taking away already earned days is the only thing they can't do unless you agree to let them do it, but their other options are worse for you. You may therefore wish to consent to this.

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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