Q: We have Christmas approaching. In past jobs, I have taken the week off between Christmas and New Year’s to visit family out of state. I just started working at a new company and employees recently received a memo that taking vacation time is not allowed during that week. It is called a “black out” week. I have never heard of this and am really disappointed. Is this legal to do?
A: Vacation time is a benefit offered by many employers. Usually full-time employees receive vacation time benefits and sometimes part-timers do as well, usually on a pro-rated basis.
It sounds like this restriction was a surprise to you. The week between Christmas and New Year’s is a popular vacation week, particularly for those employee traveling for the holidays. Most companies have a policy that vacation requests should be submitted in advance and then the employer can use a specific criteria, like seniority, to decide who is able to take the week off. However, there are often exceptions. For example, if an employee is planning a honeymoon or if an employee is attending a memorial service for a loved one out of state.
Your company’s “black out” practice is legal. Employers can mandate when employees use vacation time. However, I would explain to your manager that you were not aware of this practice when you were first hired. You can politely request an exception, but as a newcomer, don’t expect it. A valuable lesson is to mention a planned vacation before accepting an offer. You have more leverage asking for an exception before you accept an offer vs. after you have been hired.
by Patricia Hunt Sinacole, First Beacon Group LLC
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