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Employer Won't Approve or Deny Vacation Time California

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  • Employer Won't Approve or Deny Vacation Time California

    I have a multi-faceted situation in my work environment. The situations below refer to exempt employees working at a public institution in California.

    Situation #1
    Policy states that an employee requests time off and the supervisor approves or denies the request. A particular supervisor refuses to approve or deny vacation or sick leave unless pestered and, even then, only at the last possible second. Sometimes, the supervisor does neither and employees just take the time off because the lack of response is too ambiguous to cancel a doctor appointment or hotel reservations.

    If the employee is disciplined in the future, could the supervisor rationally state that the employee takes vacation without approval or would the consistent lack of approval/denial provide guard against that being used against the employee? Moreover, are supervisors legally required to respond to vacation/sick leave requests in any reasonable amount of time?

    Situation #2
    Rhea v. General Atomics established that an employer may require use of hours for partial day absences of exempt employees. Current institution policy states that exempt employees shall only record full day vacation or sick leave for an absence and that exempt employee absences of less than a day shall not be counted against accrued vacation or sick time (thus, they're not taking advantage of Rhea, just yet). A supervisor is (unofficially) not allowing exempt employees to take partial day absences anymore. The only way partial day absences are being approved are with the employee offering to use vacation/sick time for the partial or full day.

    Can the supervisor make such an unofficial/unspoken requirement if it is within the realm of Rhea, but not supported by institution policy?

  • #2
    Is there a union contract involved with this public institution? Some might be covered there or there might be written/unwritten management policies that non-supervisors may not be privy to. Hard to know if either situation breaks those.

    In Sit 1, it could be argued that the employee should have known that they would get very late or no approval and work around that. If they had accepted it before, it would be hard to make a case that this time was different *(from either side) And no, the supervisor doesn't have to respond in a reasonable amount of time. Maybe unfair or bad management, but no law requires it. However if they don't respond, I would seek HR's or their supervisor's help prior to just taking the (unapproved) timeoff just to have an extra layer of protection.

    In Sit 2, sounds like the supervisor is putting an extra requirement of approving partial days off. Not against the law, possibly against the institution's/union's policy but it might be that TPTB/HR allow individual supervisor's to make that call. Which in and of itself is not illegal as long as there is no discrimination due to legally protected reasons.

    So it sounds like a supervisor is being allowed to manage poorly. Has the supervisor ever managed before or is this a case where they moved up from a non-management/business position with no training/coaching?

    One warning -> It can be a career limiting move to hop the supervisor on either situation to go to HR or his/her boss. Neither complaint would be protected from consequences (again unless you have a union contract that protects you).


    • #3
      The institution does have very large contracts with major unions, but no unions are involved with the employees in question. The supervisor is well-experienced, but has had multiple complaints brought against him for a variety of reasons to no visible/known result.

      Thank you for your insight. It's greatly appreciated.


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