How can we manage conflicting vacation requests?

Q. We are a small company. Two of our employees in the same department have asked to take vacation at the same time. We’re afraid that we will be short-staffed if both employees are out at the same time. Can we institute a policy preventing employees from being out simultaneously?

A. Employers generally have the right to manage employees’ vacation requests by controlling when and how much vacation time employees can take. An effective way to do this is to institute a policy outlining the procedure employees must follow in order to be granted time off.

Such a policy should detail:

  • How employees are required to submit time-off requests
  • Names of those supervisors to whom employees must submit time-off requests
  • The amount of notice employees must provide when requesting time off
  • Dates of the requested time off
  • The procedure to be used when two requests conflict (for example, in the order of seniority or in the order that requests were submitted).

Remember, however, that under California law, earned vacation time is considered wages, and vacation time is earned or vests as labor is performed. Thus, a policy that provides for the forfeiture of vacation pay that is not used by a specified date (so-called “use it or lose it” policies) is illegal under California law.

An employer can place a reasonable cap or ceiling on vacation benefits that prevents an employee from earning vacation over a certain amount of hours. However, the time periods involved for taking vacation must be reasonable. If implementation of a cap is a subterfuge to deny employees vacation or vacation benefits, the policy will not be recognized by the Labor Commissioner.

Book of Company Policies D