Can My Employer Deny My Vacation Request?

By: Brad Nakase, Attorney

Email  |  Call 888-600-8654

It’s December, and the holidays are approaching in Southern California. Travis is excited. He bought his fir tree, his lights, his booze, and is looking forward to taking time off the week before Christmas to enjoy the season. He has already made plans to visit his parents and drink Baileys in the company of his cat, Pickles. However, when Travis submits his request for time-off to his employer at Walmart, he is shocked to find it denied. When he asks for the reason, his employer explains that because the holiday season is so busy at Walmart, Travis is needed at work. Furious, Travis wonders whether his employer has the right to deny his vacation request.

Can My Employer Deny Time Off?

Under California law, an employer can indeed deny an employee’s request for time off. The time off may fall under vacation time, paid time off (PTO), or sick time. Believe it or not, paid vacation time, or sick time, is not a legal requirement in most parts of the United States. Therefore, your employer does not have to accept your request, and may deny it with no legal consequences.

Laws regarding vacation and sick time do vary, however, based on the state in which one lives. States like Maryland, Michigan, Maine, Nevada, and New Jersey by law require employers to give workers paid sick time. It’s rarer for states to require employers provide vacation time beyond sick leave.

On a federal level, employers are required to provide sick leave that falls under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Laws like the FMLA protect an employee from being fired while ill or caring for an ill family member. Of course, and employee must meet the qualifications for FMLA in order to receive the sick leave.

When it comes to requesting time off for the holidays, there are few protections. Technically, one may be able to get some time off if he or she observes legitimate religious customs. Employers normally must provide time off to employees with religious obligations – a rule relevant during the holiday season.

What Can I Do If My Request is Denied?

If a paid time off, or vacation, request is denied, the employee still has a few options. If the employee wishes to take time off at the holidays for religious reasons, he or she may raise this issue with their employer. The employer may be required to accommodate this request. An employee may also offer to work a different shift or come in part-time during the holidays.

That said, unless an employee lives in a state with protections regarding paid time off, an employer can require an employee to be at work, even over the holidays. If an employee decides to simply not show up for work, he or she may be legally disciplined or terminated.

An employee may be tempted to call in sick on a holiday. However, his or her employer is allowed to ask for proof of illness, such as a doctor’s note.

If an employee is adamant about taking time off, and is not willing to work, he or she has the right not to appear. In the same way an employer can terminate employment for any reason, an employee can quit for any reason. There is no need to be concerned about that two-week notice. While a courtesy, a two-week notice is not legally enforceable, so you may quit at any time without notice.

To refer to our example above, Travis is not entitled to any time off. However, if he is determined to take his vacation with Pickles the Cat, he may try to negotiate with his boss. Perhaps he offers to work an extra shift two weeks prior to the holidays. But let’s imagine his boss rejects this offer. Travis decides to quit his job at Walmart on the spot. His boss asks for his two-week notice. Knowing his rights, Travis declines to give it, and he goes home to enjoy his holiday season with Pickles.

Can My Employer Fire Me for Using My PTO?

 Technically, an employer can fire an employee for any reason. That said, if the employer’s company has a specific PTO policy, then terminating an employee for using his or her PTO can open the door to a lawsuit.

In certain circumstances, it is possible for an employer to legally fire an employee for taking PTO. For example, an employee may be terminated if he or she does not follow the appropriate procedure for requesting vacation. He or she may also be fired for not properly managing his or her workload during the absence.

Can I Use My PTO During My Two-Week Notice?

 An employee may use his or her PTO during a two-week notice. However, an employer may legally deny the request, as at any other time.

It is important to know that some employers have policies that require them to pay an employee for any unused PTO time. Therefore, if PTO time has been denied, it may be worth getting that payout when leaving the job.

Are PTO Blackout Dates Legal?

 A blackout period is a stretch of time during which an employer bans employees from taking time off. An example of this is the holiday season, when employers often need all hands on deck for a busy time of the year. Under the law, blackout dates are legal.

If, however, one has a religious reason for not working on a holiday, one may request a religious accommodation. 

Is My Employer Allowed to Ask Why I Want Time Off?

It is legal for an employer to ask why an employee is requesting time off. In fact, it is a typical part of filling out a Leave of Absence Form. While an employee does not have to answer this question, he or she may be required to if the reason affects the business. For instance, an employer should know about extended medical leave, such as that provided under the FMLA.

In general, an employee is required to provide basic information about his or her time off:

  • When the employee will return to work
  • If the time off is related to vacation or illness

We want to hear your story.

1 + 7 = ?

Retaliation for Reporting Harassment at Work

An employer who punishes an employee who reported sexual harassment in the workplace violates state and federal law and is liable for retaliation. Examples of retaliation include demotion, fewer working hours, segregation, or termination.

Obscene and Sexual Gestures a Work

We're not talking about the ubiquitous middle finger that says fuck you. Obscene and sexual gestures at work may include two fingers in a V shape, with a tongue in between. 

Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment

One of the most common types of sexual harassment is Quid pro quo sexual harassment, and it is one of the easiest to hide. All types of workplace sexual harassment are illegal.

Reporting Time Pay

Wages are what we mean when we use the term "reporting time pay." If employers do not pay all of this at the moment of an employee being terminated, there may be waiting time penalties involved.

Can I Sue My Employer For Not Paying Me Correctly?

Employees work hard and deserve to be paid correctly, and on time. It sucks when an employee works hard, and long hours only to be paid incorrectly while the boss is driving a Lambo or Benz.

8 FAQ Answer: Employees Must Know About Wrongful Termination

If an employee believes that he or she has been unlawfully fired from their job, he or she may file a wrongful termination claim in court. These claims are based on the alleged breaking of federal or state anti-discrimination law, employment contracts, or labor laws.

What Are the Signs of a Toxic Coworker?

The 8 identifying traits of of a toxic coworker are: 1. The toxic coworker is often sarcastic. 2. The toxic coworker often insults and mock others. 3. The toxic coworker is selfish...

Two-Week Notice Letter: 9 Tips and 2 Templates

If an employee decides to resign from his or her job, it is normal and expected to provide their employer with two weeks’ notice. Regardless of why a person is leaving their job, it is considered professional to give their employer enough time to make plans to cover the absence.

Do guys get paid paternity leave?

A father is eligible for paternity leave if three conditions are met: 1) welcome a new child within the first twelve months; 2) Paid into the State Disability Insurance; 3) Has not taken more than eight weeks of paternity leave in the past twelve months.

6 Things to Know About At-Will Employment

“At-will” means that an employer can fire an employee for any reason at any time without getting into legal trouble. The exception is that the reason cannot be illegal in nature.

7 Things Women Should Know About Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is an umbrella term covering many forms of unwelcome verbal and physical sexual attention. Sexual assault, meanwhile, is physical sexual contact or behavior that happens without the consent of the victim.

How Long Is Maternity Leave in California?

Under California law, companies with at least five employees must provide new parents with 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave. Similarly, companies with at least five employees must also grant up to four months of unpaid pregnancy-disability leave to workers who are unable to work due to pregnancy or childbirth.

10 Tips on California Law Expense Reimbursement Time Limit

Under California labor law, employers are required to reimburse employees for business expenses made during the course of their employment, so long as they are necessary and reasonable in nature. This means that an employer must pay an employee back for any financial losses the employee accepted as part of doing his or her job.

What are the 4 Caregiver rights in California?

Employers often face lawsuits from caregivers for violating caregivers’ rights, such as basic wages. A caregiver is an individual who has taken on the role of both care provider and advocate.

How to Find an Employment Lawyer

Often referred to as work lawyers, employment lawyers are attorneys who specialize in employment law and represent workers in all positions across many industries. In California, employment lawyers understand workers’ rights according to the state’s labor laws and can help wronged employees sue and seek damages for improper or unlawful treatment at a workplace.

6 Tips for Prorated Vacation

Employees can earn time off according to different methods, which are normally specified in an employee handbook. Some employers choose to have employees accrue vacation time based on hours worked.

© Copyright | Nakase Law Firm (2019)