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While the weather may not suggest spring and summer are on their way, the calendar does. This means employers will likely see an influx of vacation time requests.  As an employer, it is important to know and understand not only the rules and regulations, or lack thereof, governing vacation time but also what it is your company policy says regarding use and approval of vacation time. Here are some commonly asked questions on the topic:

Q: Do Employer Have to Provide Their Employees With Vacation Time?

A: No. There is no law requiring an employer to provide an employee with vacation time off.  This is a benefit many employers choose to provide to entice applicants to join their company or to reward current employees for their ongoing service and work for the company.  Companies normally have the ability to control the accrual and use of employee’s vacations, unless they have divested themselves of that power by giving the ability to the employees.

Q: Can Employers Decline an Employee’s Request to Take Vacation Time?

A:  Yes. Employers can decline any employee’s request to take vacation time for a number of reasons or for no reason at all. Many companies may grant a certain number of vacation requests for a given time based on seniority of the employees requesting, on a first come basis, or however they choose.  However, employers who do have policies with regard to use and approval of vacation time should make sure they are following those policies so there are no discrimination claims when one employee’s vacation time is granted and another’s is not. Generally, though, companies have the ability to set the terms and use of vacation time.

Q: Can Employers Establish a “Blackout” Period Where No Employees Can Take Vacation?

A:  Yes, employers can and should establish blackout periods during the busiest times of the year if they need all employees to maintain productivity to avoid financial losses and hardships. It is important if an employer does use a blackout period to communicate the periods when vacation cannot be used and make it clear why such a policy exists so employees have some understanding of the reasoning.

Q: Can Employers Get Rid of An Existing Vacation Policy?

A: Sure. Because employers are not legally required to provide employees vacation time, there is nothing to stop them from taking this benefit away.  The only caveat to that statement is when the employer has a contract with an employee providing vacation time for a certain period of time. If a contract exists, it would be a best practice to honor that contract and allow the employee vacation time through the contracted period. It is important to know if the applicable company policy allows for pay-out of accrued vacation time or that a certain action be taken with regard to remaining vacation time because an employer may want to honor that policy at the time the policy is eliminated.


If you have any additional questions with regard to vacation/paid time off or need assistance drafting such a policy for your company, we would be happy to help. Just contact your Thompson Coe attorney at (651) 389-5000 or at You can also find additional information and tips for your company and HR professionals at

Thompson Coe and myHRgenius Tip of the Week is not intended as a solicitation, does not constitute legal advice, and does not establish an attorney-client relationship.


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Kevin M. Mosher

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