May we legally restrict when employees can take small amounts of vacation time?

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in Compensation and Benefits,Human Resources

Q. We have recently needed to cut back on some of our employees’ shifts, meaning that some of our workers are now working fewer than 40 hours per week. In order to bring their hours up to 40, these workers have been filling their time sheets with varying amounts of their earned vacation. Are we permitted to restrict when our employees use their earned vacation?

A. Neither Texas nor federal law requires private-sector employers to provide paid or unpaid leave of any kind to employees. (However, some amount of unpaid leave may be necessary as a reasonable accommodation in the event of a disability, pregnancy, or certain other conditions and under the federal FMLA’s provisions.) Nevertheless, most employers provide their employees with some form of paid leave.

If employers include provisions regarding paid leave in a written policy or agreement, the leave is an enforceable part of the wage agreement under the Texas Payday Law and this written policy will be enforced according to what it provides.

Depending on the terms of such a policy, employers, to some degree, are able to restrict when employees use their vacation time.

Employers often find themselves in very busy periods in which they would want to ensure that a large number of their employees are not out on vacation simultaneously. Conversely, there may be times when business operations make it necessary to temporarily reduce staffing levels.

In either of these cases, employers generally have the right to control when their employees take vacation and the amount of vacation that may be taken at any particular time.

The key to such policies on vacation use is to ensure that they are applied consistently and without discrimination.

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