Massachusetts labor law- Termination or denial of vacation time

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Massachusetts labor law- Termination or denial of vacation time

Good afternoon, I am trying to find some information regarding possible termination or refusal to allow vacation time that has been earned.
I need surgery on May 17th. I have submitted the request off forms. I have a Dr. excuse for 5 days off of work following surgery. Employer denied vacation and told me it was my responsibility to find replacement. They would not.
it is a revolving shift, medical CT. so, although hourly position, it is a recurring schedule. Any help you could provide would be truly appreciated. Thank you

Asked on April 12, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Rhode Island

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

If this was accrued or earned vacation time, as you indicate, the empoyer cannot indefinitely prevent you from using it; to never let you use it is to effectively take it away from you, which deprives you of compensation you worked for and breaches the agreement, even if only an oral (i.e. unwritten) one, pursuant to which you worked in exchange for certain compensation, including vacation time. You could, if effectively denied the use of vacation time, sue the employer for its value.
An employer also may not after the fact (i.e. after you have accrued or earned the days) put additional limitions or restrictions on them, such as requiring you to find your own coverage or replacement. However, requiring you to find coverage for your vacation would be legal if that was known ahead of time--i.e. if the employer's policy, of which you had been made aware, before you earned the days was that to use the days, you had to arrange for coverage. In that case, that was simply part of the policy to which you effectively agreed in working for the employer after being aware of the policy.
The above said, an employer does have discretion about *when* you can take it, so long as that discretion is used reasonably, with justification. If an employer is short handed, if the time you want to take is a busy or critical season, if other employees already scheduled vacation for then, or if there is big project being worked on then, the employer can refuse to let you use your vacation *at that time*, but can instead require you to use it when it is less disruptive or costly to the employer. So if there is some valid business reason for them to not let you take vacation at that time, or to only let you take it if you provide/arrange for coverage, that is legal; they could require to schedule your vacation at  less-disruptive or -critical time.
 
Note that the doctor's excuse does not require them to give you time off; the doctor has no legal authority over your employer. You can ony take the time off if you have and properly use paid time off for the absence (and see above for reasonable restrictions your employer could put on you doing this).


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