Can my accumulated sick hours be taken away?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can my accumulated sick hours be taken away?

Please help. The Union negotiated a new contract. It is up for vote right now. Under the current contract sick hours roll over from year to year and we are entitled to be paid for all accrued and unused sick pay bank hours after retirement. There is a cap of 300 hours. We can retire from the company after 10 years of service as long as we are 55 years old. That is in black and white and I believed it and for 10 years I almost never called off sick. Under the new contract, if it is signed by the majority, the company will start a new program of PTO hours and all accumulated sick-bank hours will be removed and placed into a catastrophic sick bank that can only be used for extended sick leave. After having been sick for 90 days in a row, it will start paying from day 91 forward. I have many hours in my sick bank and will likely never be sick for 7 month in a row. However, I will need the hours if I get sick or have an operation, or for expected FMLA to take care of my mother. I have elderly parents and have saved these sick hours up in anticipation of having to take care of them. Can the company and union take my hard earned sick hours? The new PTO program will let us earn monthly new hours that can be used for vacation or sick time.

Asked on October 8, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, Indiana


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Yes, unfortunately, they can do this. Sick hours are not considered compensation to which you have a legal entitlement by the law of your state; your right to it, if you get any (companies do not even need to provide it) is determined by the agreement between you and your company. There is also no right to be paid out for unused sick time on termination of employment--again, it is determined by agreement. If that agreement changes, you could lose your accumulated sick leave. There is no legal guaranty of keeping or being paid for unused sick time.
Sick leave is viewed differently than vacation time, by the way. Vacation pay is much more likely to be seen as compensation which you can "bank" for the future. Sick time is meant to be used, however, not banked; it is intended to be used to allow you to take time to recover, to rest and recuperate, for medical care, etc. without losing salary. It is designed to be used if and when needed and is not intended to provide additional pay.

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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