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?

UPDATED: Aug 26, 2011

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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


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

Answered 11 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.

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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