US Employment Law: can an employer give fewer than 2 work-weeks of vacation?

I’m a frequent reader of The Daily WTF, and today they had an entry that absolutely floored me:

Is this actually legal in the US? I thought that 2 weeks vacation was mandatory in the US. Can they actually get around that requirement by having a longer work week?

And would “company holiday” also include statutory holidays? Surely they can’t make somebody work on a stat holiday?

And yes, I know, I know, you’re either not a lawyer or not my lawyer.

As far as I know, vacation and holiday time is not required nor regulated in the US. It’s up to the employer to determine when and how they allow it and if they pay for it.

First of all there are virtually no federal employment laws (for non-federal jobs) other than anything over 40 hours per week is time and a half.

State laws cover this and they vary.

Things to remember in absence of a law to the contrary it’s LEGAL to do so

For instance, in Illinois there is no law saying you CAN’T require your employees to have a beeper on them at all times. So you CAN do this. In Illinois if it doesn’t say you CAN’T do something you can.

In Illinois for instance you can’t substitute time off for overtime. If you work 41 hours a week you MUST pay that person 40 regular and 1 hours OT. Of course the employer can simply schedule the person getting the OT that week to work less the following week, thus making everything equal

Salaried jobs differ from wage jobs. For instance, when I worked at one company whereIn your workweek was based on 49 hours per week for managers. Of course since you were paid salary and didn’t clock in, who knew, but you WERE expected to work 49 hours per week for your salary.

In fact when I did payrol for the company managers were paid out 7 hours per day, 7 days a week. So technically managers were scheduled 7 days a week.

There is no law saying employers must give holiday pay, vacation time or such. I’ve worked at many full time jobs (in the hotel industry) where we didn’t get any sick time or vacation time. I’ve worked at jobs where you got no extra pay for holidays either.

You can give different benefits to different employees. Like managers get holiday pay where workers that punch in get nothing.

You really have to check your state laws and see what applies to you. Or federal law if you work for the federal government.

And then remember if you have a union you are generally covered under what the union contract says. Many state laws say something such as “absent a union agreement, the following applies…”

Why would you think there’s a requirement to give a certain amount of time off? Must the government be EVERYWHERE???

Employers in the USA are not required by law to give any vacation time.

Ah yes. I was thinking of the situation here in Canada.

I negotiate vacation time just like I negotiate my salary.
My boss asked how I can afford to take off as often as I do, because he didn’t know I got more time off than he did. Always pays to ask.

My sides hurt from laughter. But not at you… at the tragedy of it all.

No, there is no mandatory time off in the US. Short of a few regulated industries and people in collective bargaining agreements, your employer could require you to work 24 hour days, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. There’s no mandatory holidays, schedule, work time, vacation, personal time off, etc.

About the only thing I can think of off the top of my head is Family & Medical Leave. By law, an employer (who employs more than 50 people in the US) has to allow for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for documented family/medical leaves. There are some basic notification requirements the employee has to follow too, or it could be disallowed.

I’ve worked in professional places where I got zero vacation my first year, 1 week the next year, 2 weeks the 3rd year and then been capped at that until I’d reached a much longer tenure. I’ve also worked some manual labor jobs where the only vacation you got was when there wasn’t any work for you… and that was unpaid.

This has probably already been covered, but I was too doubled-over in fits of laughter to read them before I posted.

Kinda sad, isn’t it?

There are vast differences in employment law between the US and Canada. I have had to explain to my American clients before that some of what they do as a matter-of-course in their US locations simply cannot be done in their Canadian locations.

I have to agree with JerseyFrank–the situation in the US, at least as far as employment goes, is kinda sad.

Again, YMMV. In California, employers are required to give sick time. IIRC 1 hour for every 40 hours worked or something like that (It’s been 15 years since this applied to me). This accrued pay must be paid upon leaving the company (voluntarily or involuntarily) within 48 hours although they can hold your final paycheck to the next regularly scheduled payday.

Open to correction due to faulty memory or changes in state law.

As for the OP, I’m a little suspicious. The company would have to pay time and a half on the extra 5 hours. Seems like a huge expense if it is accross the board. An employment law attorney could weigh in on a “salaried” employee being micro-managed in terms of hours still is an exemt employee.

The overtime might be cheaper than

  1. the cost of hiring and training new employees
  2. the risk of a double-dip recession requiring laying off those newly hired employees

Training and hiring is a more expensive process than many people realize. The total cost can easily be several thousand dollars when you factor in all the advertising, resume review, interviews and training. (I once looked into having AccountTemps screen bookkeepers and make a hire for me. Their fee: $14,000).

And layoffs are always bad for a company. Morale and productivity can be hurt, and unemployment insurance rates go up. Some states require companies to pay for retraining or for a portion of unemployment benefits.

That’s what I thought too but if they had 8 hourly employees, that would be 60 paid hours a week to cover a 40 hour employee. I suppose with a small company this would make sense.

I suspect that these were salaried employees because we all know that trick of sending the hourly workers home while the managers put in free work which is why I was curious of how far can they treat a salaried worker like an hourly and still have them be exempt. IIRC (2 decades ago?), something similar came up in California vaugely similar to this where because their hours were tracked a certain way, the employees were entitled to OT pay despite nominally being called “salary”

In the 80s and 90s I worked for CSC, a large federal contractor. They used to require a minimum of 40 hours per week even if you were exempt (and most of their workforce is exempt). Due to the recordkeeping required for federal contracts, you filled out an auditable timecard, so there was your micromanaged hours. And they most assuredly were not afraid of employment-law lawyers. (They changed their policy later, but not because of the law.) If the employees in the OP are exempt, they’re not getting time and a half for the extra 5 hours. But it is unconscionable to dock you for the extra 5 hours when you take a week off.

There’s nothing like getting notices from corporate carefully listing symptoms from the latest flu, reminding you that sick associates should stay home “for the sake of our customers and your coworkers”, and reminding managers & supervisors to “strongly encourage sick associates to go home” and to “contact human resources for further guidance” if the associate refuses to go home. This from a company that doesn’t provide sick days or health insurance to anybody at store-level who isn’t a manager. Or give vacation days to “part-time” workers. :rolleyes: And insists on a doctor’s note for 3 consecutive absences.

you paint an overly-broad picture with a very large brush.

you are correct that there is no mandatory time off under federal law, but states can (and do) have laws that specify mandatory rest periods in a given work week

My Bro sez there are some inducements in the Tax Code, etc that make it best for a company to give similar benefits to both the full time employees and highly compensated executives.

That does not mean they have to all be given the same amount of vacation time. And, it’s only a tax inducement, not a requirement.

I know this might strike Americans as unusual, but in most of the civilised world there’s this notion that workers have, you know, rights.

… unless you’re salaried, in which case anything over 40 hours per week is you’re screwed…

American workers have lots of rights, but time off is considered part of a total compensation package that is negotiated privately between the employer and worker and is set by the free market. Notwithstanding the large amount of government regulation that we do have, we value the free market. Maternity leave is another area not regulated by the government and where the U.S. seems to be a sweatshop compared to other civilized countries. Most employers offer some form of maternity leave but the typical benefit is maybe two weeks off, four if you’ve had a C-section. It is often covered as a medical disability rather than a unique event.

Some in this country have expressed the cynical view that some countries that mandate vacation time do so as a way for the government to get more people employed–if your workforce is taking 6 weeks of vacation a year you need to hire more people than if they take 2 weeks. I have no idea if there is any fact to back up this view.