Company taking away earned vacation after employee has enjoyed this vacation time for many years

Is a company allowed to take vacation time away from an employee after the time has been earned and the employee has been using this time for many years? My dad has worked for a certain company since 1967 and has earned six weeks of vacation time. Recently his company bought another company in Missouri and my Dad was tranferred to the newly acquired company to troubleshoot
according to the larger companies
standards. He has been enjoying six weeks of vacation time for many years and now it seems they are trying to take some of this time away from him rather than grandfather the rule for new employees. Is this legal? What rights does my father have?

1021 Alonquin Road
Alonquin, Il 60112

3 answers  |  asked Jan 22, 2004 10:52 PM [EST]  |  applies to Illinois

Answers (3)

Francis Fanning
Different State - same answer

I'm not sure why you asked an Arizona lawyer for an answer about Illinois law. Payment of wages (paid vacation is part of the definition of "wages") is governed by state law. Arizona has a statute that merely requires that the employer pay wages that are agreed upon. As in Illinois and Georgia, the employer is free to terminate employment at will, and thus is free to change the terms of the agreement. Those wages that have already been earned must be paid, but wages not yet earned can always be renegotiatied ( a euphemistic term - these things are not really negotiated in most cases, but are unilaterally decided by the employer - i.e. your dad can take it or leave it). To determine what has been earned requires a careful review of the vacation policy and how vacation credit is given. See the other answers to your question. Although the different states have different statutes, the basic concept is the same - it isn't owed until it is earned.

posted by Francis Fanning  |  Jan 26, 2004 11:38 AM [EST]
Brian Pastor
Vacation Pay

Under Georgia law (another at-will state) an employer is free to change its policies at any time. Any time that has been FULLY vested to date is owed the employee. Thus, it is highly important to CLOSELY read the vacation time policy and determine if it vested all at once on January 1 (or the employee's anniversary) OR does it accumulate pro rata (1/2 week per month for a total of 6 weeks).

posted by Brian Pastor  |  Jan 23, 2004 08:48 AM [EST]
Alejandro Caffarelli

A company must pay an employee for earned vacation time. However, under your scenario, the company may not be violating the law. The answer depends on whether the six weeks of vacation already had been earned. If at the beginning of the year the company said that your father would receive six weeks of vacation time this year it cannot later change its mind during the year, once it has already granted the six weeks. However, it is not illegal for a company to change its vacation policy and, say, decide that people don't get any vacation at all any more moving forward. For example, if the company announced that your father would not be getting his six weeks anymore before the year started, he would not be entitled to those six weeks based solely on the fact that he had gotten them in the past. Illinois is an at will state, and that means that employers can change terms and conditions of employment at will, unless doing so violates some other law. The best way to ensure that such things as seniority and vacation are not taken away without negotiations is to bring in a union, but that has its pros and cons as well. If your father's vacation was earned but then taken away he can go to the Illinois Department of Labor and file a claim. He also can see a private attorney. Under the Attorneys Fees in Wage Actions Act, the company may have to pay his attorney's fees if he wins.

posted by Alejandro Caffarelli  |  Jan 23, 2004 08:13 AM [EST]

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