This may be a sad reflection on the current state of my life, but I actually enjoy coming to work over the holidays. The roads are free from traffic, the office is quiet, and I can for once catch up on the backlog of work that I inevitably have pending. This is, of course, because most sane people use their vacation time during the holidays. This, in turn, might lead employers to field more questions about vacation time during this time of the year, so I thought that it might be a good idea to review some of the laws in Illinois governing vacation leave.
Employers are not required to offer vacation time. However, if they do, they must pay an employee for all of their unused vacation time if that employee leaves the company. An employer cannot require an employee to forfeit his or her vacation time pay upon leaving the company for any reason. The only exception to this is if a collective bargaining agreement permits the employer to do so.
Employers can implement use-it-or-lose it vacation time policies. However, these policies must give employees a reasonable amount of time to use the vacation time. So, an employer probably cannot announce in September that it is providing 15 days of vacation leave that must be used by the end of the year.
Employers can offer vacation time without requiring employees to have worked for a certain length of time, or they can permit employees to accrue vacation time for each day that they work. An employer can require an employee to work at the company for a particular period of time before beginning to accrue vacation time. The only restriction is that the time must accrue on a pro-rata basis. So, an employer cannot say that an employee can accrue one day of vacation time for the first three months worked in 2018, four days of vacation time for the next three months, three days of vacation time for the next three months, and six for the final three months. The vacation time must accrue evenly throughout the year.
Employers need to ensure that they are complying with the law in regards to vacation leave, because if they are not it could leave them vulnerable to a class action lawsuit, which would be both expensive and stressful. If the employer does not pay employees their vacation time properly when they are departing, these employees could potentially form a class (i.e. join together) to sue the employer for these improper vacation time payments. If the class prevails, the employer will be required to pay the class’s attorneys’ fees. Employers may want to consider contacting an attorney to review their vacation leave policy to ensure that it is in compliance with the law.