Can my employer revoke previously approved vacation time?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can my employer revoke previously approved vacation time?

I am currently in Ireland and have worked remotely for my company in Rhode Island for 40 hours. The next 2 weeks are approved vacation days and i had intended to not work at all. My supervisor just asked what my plans are for next week, they know I had planned to take it off but things have changed and now they may need me to work. I’m devastated. Family flew in from as far as Australia to spend next week together as a family in a vacation home. The last time we did this was 5 years ago and with my elderly parents we are fully aware this is very likely the last time we can do this. Do I have any options here or do i have to work if they tell me that I have to? Can they fire me if I tell them i cannot work? I dont even know if there’s WiFi at this

vacation home that will even allow me to work.

Asked on June 21, 2019 under Employment Labor Law, Rhode Island


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Under U.S. law, an employer may revoke previously approved vacation time: when you can take vacation is at the employer's discretion, so long as they don't prevent you from ever using it. It is not uncommon for time off to be revoked or rescheduled if there is a work crises, critical deadline, etc. Therefore, if you refuse to work, in U.S. law you could be terminated. However, if you spent money in reliance on the employer having booked your vacation time--e.g. rented a vacation house--the employer would have to reimburse you that cost under the theory of "promissory estoppel": when you change your position to your detriment based on someone's promise when it would be reasonable to know that you would act in reliance on what they promised, they may have to compensate you.
That is under U.S. law. Labor law is, however local, at least under U.S. theory: for example, if you work in NY for a CA-based company, NY labor law applies unless you have a written contract which by its terms applies CA law. If you are remote employee based in Ireland, it is possible that Irish law on this subject may apply. We can only comment on U.S. law; recommend you seek information about how Irish law may impact this situation.

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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