What can I do regarding a change of vacation hours to sick hours without warning?

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What can I do regarding a change of vacation hours to sick hours without warning?

I work at the same place for almost 3 years. My employer has recently changed all the vacation time I have accumulated into sick time without my knowledge. When asked they said I only get sick time if I work under 30 hours a week. During the summer and fall, I work over 30 hours. My question is can they change my old vacation time from when I worked over 30 hours into sick time without my permission?

Asked on March 1, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

They cannot change time you have already earned or accrued: those days or hours were part of your compensation for having done work, and they can no more change them in a way which limits them or makes them less valuable than they could take away money/pay you have already earned. The only exception would be if you had a written employment contract or employment policy (such as would be contained in an employee handbook) stating the rule that employees who do not constantly or always work more than 30 hours per week only get sick, not vacation time. If there was such a policy known to you in advance, it can be enforced against you, since you worked subject to that policy (i.e. with the policy in place and governing your employment); but without such a previously in-place and known to you policy, they cannot change time off which you earned as vacation time into sick leave. You could potentially sue your employer for having taken away vacation time, though whether it is worth doing so for the number of hours or days is a different question: suing your employer is obviously a drastic step.
Note that *going forward* there is no doubt but that they can make this change--i.e. in the future, they change it so that you only earn sick leave. Employers may change compensation, benefits, policy, etc. at will (unless it is locked in by a contract) from when they tell you of the policy or change forward.


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