Do I Have a Legal Right to Vacation Time and Sick Leave?
There are no federal or state laws that mandate employers to grant vacation time or routine sick leave. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act, however, does require certain employers to grant leave without pay, subject to restriction, to employees who are seriously ill or who have to care for a seriously ill family member. Any allowance for vacation time or routine sick leave, therefore, is something that is provided by the employer on its own initiative.
The terms and conditions of employment are affected by many legal standards in both the private and public sectors. Things that are considered employee benefits, however, are normally in place because employers want to attract people to work for them or, in a union environment, because the benefits have been negotiated into a contract between the company and the labor union. Vacation time and sick leave are two of the most common employee benefits offered by employers.
In non-union employment settings, the terms and conditions of employment are normally set forth in an employee handbook. This is a document that an employer develops to formalize the various policies under which employees work and to spell out the benefits to be received. While not considered an employment contract, necessarily, handbooks sometimes constitute implied contracts that employers can be required to honor.
While most employers formally grant sick leave, the amount of time permitted is often very limited. This was a primary reason that Congress enacted the Family and Medical Leave Act in 1993. This law allows up to 12 weeks of leave per year for employees with a serious illness and for those who have immediate family members who require care for a serious illness. For more information on the FMLA, see our blog here.
At Tipp & Buley, we have over 55 years of collective experience practicing employment law. If you feel your employer has breached its contract with you, please call us. We'll put our experience to work for your benefit. Call 406-549-5186 or visit us online to set up a one-on-one consultation..