Can an employer deny an employee from cancelling a time off request?

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Can an employer deny an employee from cancelling a time off request?

I am part of a union for 911 dispatchers/paramedics and we have a clause in our bargaining agreement which states that PTO cannot be cancelled for any reason unless a major emergency. We have had several scenarios where an employee asks for a day off, then later decided they didn’t need the time off after all. Their shift was not filled by anyone, so there is no good reason for them to not be able to take back their PTO request, other than the fact that the clause is specific. We have even had scenarios where someone else gets mandated to work the shift we are a 24 operation and the company has to pay double time to someone when they could have just had the original employee work for regular pay. Is this legal?

Asked on June 8, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

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

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

PTO is a discretionary benefit, so an employer may or may not choose to offer it. To the extent that it does, it can set generally the conditions under which it may or may not be used. This is true unless there exists an employment contract or union agreement to the contrary. Also, no form of legally actionable discrimination must be the reason for your treatment.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

This is legal and the employer may deny the cancellation. The law does not require PTO at all: it is voluntary for employers to provide it. Being voluntary, it may be subject to any rules the employer wants (if there is no employment contract), or to whatever was mutually agreed between the employer and employee(s) (if there is a written employment, union, or collective bargaining agreement). Therefore, if there is a union contract limiting your ability to cancel PTO requests, that limitation is legal and enforceable.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

This is legal and the employer may deny the cancellation. The law does not require PTO at all: it is voluntary for employers to provide it. Being voluntary, it may be subject to any rules the employer wants (if there is no employment contract), or to whatever was mutually agreed between the employer and employee(s) (if there is a written employment, union, or collective bargaining agreement). Therefore, if there is a union contract limiting your ability to cancel PTO requests, that limitation is legal and enforceable.


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