Can my employer automatically take my vacation hours when I call in sick?

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Can my employer automatically take my vacation hours when I call in sick?

I was told when I asked that I could not chose to not get paid for when I’m sick and have no sick leave.

Asked on May 20, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Idaho

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, yes it can. I know that this seems harsh but it is legal.  The majority of employment relationships are "at will".  This means that an employer can hire or fire someone for any reason or no reason.  It can also increase/decrease salary/hours, promote/demote, and generally impose requirements as it sees fit ( including when and how vacation time is used and whether or not to provide sick leave).  Absent something in the nature of an employment agreement, or a union contract, or a stated company policy to the contrary this holds true (or if some type of discrimination is a factor).

The fact is that while employees generally see vacation as an automatic condition of employment that can use as they see fit, the law doesn't see it this way.  Vacations are not legally required, nor is sick leave.  To the extent that an employer institutes a vacation policy it is a voluntary benefit and as such the employer can design it any way it chooses.  Again, this includes when and whether to allow an employee to take this time.


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