Can an employee be required to use PTO to make up for time off regarding a wrongful suspension?

UPDATED: Dec 1, 2011

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Can an employee be required to use PTO to make up for time off regarding a wrongful suspension?

My husband was suspended for no legal reason. His assistant was being insubordinate and my husband decided that she could not see his patients; he is a physical therapist and she a PTA. The assistant went to his superior who immediately barged into the therapy office and yelled that he was suspended. His boss and the assistant are friends and that’s truly the only reason the supervisor suspended him. He reported to his superior’s boss who has decided in my husband’s favor and told him that he would be reimbursed for the time off. Only they used his PTO hours to do so. Is this legal? My husband and I were planning to use those hours when I have our second baby and the amount of time he was suspended was pretty much the entire length of hours he had (probably will be all the hours by the time he’s allowed back at work since they haven’t fully concluded everything and given him a return date).

Asked on December 1, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Iowa


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

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

While seemingly unfair, making your husband us his PTO to cover this time is perfectly permissible. Unless his treatment is the result of some form of actionable discrimination, or an unpaid suspension violates existing company policy or the terms of a union agreement or an employment contract, no law is being violated. The fact is that most employment relationships are at will which means that an employer can set the terms and conditions of employment (including suspensions). For their part, an employee can choose to work for an employer or not.

Further, while using PTO in this situation may not seem fair, an employer is not legally obligated to provide it. So how, if and even when it is used is up to its discretion. Bottom line, while your husband got caught in a bad situation, he at least has PTO to cover the time off. 

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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