Can an employer take away paid vacation and sick time from an employee after the employee had been receiving it for 9 years?

UPDATED: Nov 8, 2011

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Can an employer take away paid vacation and sick time from an employee after the employee had been receiving it for 9 years?

My husband was told the company could not afford to pay him sick time or vacation time anymore but that he could have an unpaid vacation. Some people were able to take an unpaid vacation but he and another were denied their vacations all together even though it is an unpaid vacation. Is that legal?

Asked on November 8, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Pennsylvania


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

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

First of all, any time that has already been earned must be paid. However, as to any future vacation/sick time, company policy can be changed. The fact is that such time is not legally mandated by law; therefore it is a benefit provided at an employer's discretion. Accordingly, an employer has control in setting the terms and conditions of this benefit, or whether or not it is given at all (paid or unpaid). For their part, an employee can continue to work for an employer or not; their choice. This known as "at will" employment.

So unless your husband has an employment contract or union agreement to the contrary, his employer's action is legal. This is true even if others were allowed to take unpaid vacation time. The fact is that not all employees need to be treated the same or even fairly as long as no form of actionable discrimination is the reason for the difference in treatment. In other words, his treatment cannot be based on his membership in a "protected class". This means that he cannot have been denied unpaid vacation time due to his race, religion, gender, etc.

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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