Changing vacation after prerequisite worked/absorbing a year's vacation

The company I work for has in it's employee handbook stated that after working a year and one day of the next, the employee will have so many weeks of vacation available to them (amount dependant apon years of service). It also states that if the employee were to leave the company after working a single day of that year, they would be paid the unused amount of vacation time. Christmas week 2010 an email went out from HR saying that starting Jan 1st 2011, vacation time would be accrued the year it is used and if the employer-employee relationship were to end and all the vacation time for the year was used, the employee would have to pay the company back. My position is that since the vacation policy is an advertised part of the employees' compensation and the employees had fulfilled almost all of their obligations to earn said compensation when the change was announced, the company is in breach of (implied maybe) contract to the workforce. Please tell me your thoughts.

1 answer  |  asked Mar 16, 2011 11:08 PM [EST]  |  applies to Florida

Answers (1)

Phyllis Towzey
Neither an employee handbook nor a company policy are considered contracts under Florida law. Accordingly, the company can change its policies at will.

The only argument you would have is if the company had announced this policy mid-year, and then enforced it against people whose employment terminated and who had "overused" their vacation days prior to the announcement of the change in policy. Similarly, if the company had previously allowed employees to "carry over" unused vacation time to the next year, and then discontinued that practice without allowing a grace period for employees to use the vacation time that would otherwise be lost, that would be improper.

However, since the new payback policy for vacation time was announced in advance for the year 2011 (i.e. did not apply to anyone who resigned and had used vacation time prior to the announcement of the policy and was required to pay that time back), in my opinion you have no legal basis to challenge the policy change.

posted by Phyllis Towzey  |  Mar 17, 2011 07:31 AM [EST]

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