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EE Forced to Use Vacation for Day Taken For Mandatory Work Meeting? Rhode Island

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  • EE Forced to Use Vacation for Day Taken For Mandatory Work Meeting? Rhode Island

    My sister-in-law works for a large corporation based in RI but works in a retail location in NH. She was told by her district manager that she had to attend a management meeting on a day she was supposed to work, the Friday before a holiday weekend. Her only shift-partner had made plans to be away that weekend and refused to switch a shift with her. She informed her district manager that she would not be able to attend the meeting because of this. Her district manager told her that the meeting was mandatory and she needed to get shift coverage so she can attend, then told her to request outside shift coverage, if needed. She found outside shift coverage and attended the meeting.

    Her company is reimbursing her for her mileage for this day, as the meeting location was over 50 miles away from her store location. She spent almost 6 hours at this meeting, not including travel time, and all items discussed at this meeting were company and work related. She returned home and requested information from her district manager as to how to write this up on her time-sheet. Her DM told her that she had to use a vacation day for the time she spent at the meeting. She questioned this, as she was at a mandatory work meeting, and her DM informed her that as she was not able to switch shifts to make up the hours then she would need to take a vacation day so that 2 EEs were not paid for the same time.

    My question is this: Is it legal to require an employee to use their Paid Time Office time to cover a period in which they were forced to attend a company meeting, a meeting which the company is also reimbursing travel costs? How can this NOT be Work Time?

    Thank you.

  • #2
    What kind of written policy does her company have regarding the use of vacation?
    The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.


    • #3
      I don't have access to her policy information but she says it's a typical vacation policy statement, such as how many days you get and how they accrue. The company policy is, however, that you have to set up your scheduled PTO days at least 6 months in advance, due to scheduling troubles, and because of this all her current PTO days are already scheduled. She didn't see anything in the policy specifying the use of them for circumstances like this. This is also the first time they have asked her to do this and she has been with the company for 20 years. This is a brand new District Manager who has already been reprimanded by HR for treating the older EEs differently and for refusing my SIL's reasonable requests for accommodation based on her ADA status (a letter from her lawyer has already been submitted to HR and HR is in the process of investigating the treatment by this DM).

      I don't doubt that this could all be related as the meeting became mandatory two days after the DM received a copy of the lawyer's letter. I would rather not assume that this is related, however. I'd much rather try to help my SIL based on the merits of their reasoning and laws regarding what is considered work time versus PTO. She tells me that in the past 10 years or so she has never been asked to use her own PTO should she need to bring in outside assistance due to a scheduling issue. The only time she has been asked to use any form of paid leave time is when she has had to take sick leave and bring in outside assistance for those days, which makes sense.

      Generally speaking, assuming that PTO is not typically used in these scenarios, can the company force her to claim a full day of PTO when she spent that full day attending a mandatory work-related meeting? Also, to simply clarify, she is a salaried employee and has attended several of these meetings each year, most often after completing a full 40 hour week and attending the meetings on her scheduled days off. The company does not offer her an altered schedule on these occasions to make up her day off, she does this on her own time.

      I have tried looking through the RI labor laws and cannot locate any specific sections that relate to this. Even a link to an area of the laws that makes this clear would be of great help.

      Thank you!

      Originally posted by cbg View Post
      What kind of written policy does her company have regarding the use of vacation?


      • #4
        That was a lot to leave out of the original post.

        There is no law requiring employers to provide paid vacation; therefore, when it is provided, the employer is free to have its own policies on how and when it is used. The law also only cares that people are paid the wages that they are owed and doesn't really care what bucket those wages come out of. So, if you're looking for a law that says that "making someone use a vacation day in a week when they've also used someone else to cover for them is illegal", it doesn't exist.

        The law does, however, take a really dim view of retaliating against someone for requesting a reasonable accommodation. Your SIL might wish to call her attorney, since she has one, and discuss it with him or her.
        I am not able to respond to private messages. Thanks!


        • #5
          The only thing the law requires is that she be paid for all time owed for the workweek - the law & DOL doesn't care that vacation time pay be used to pay part of wages owed.

          She needs to discuss any possible discrimination/retaliation with her lawyer.
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