My company published a policy handbook earlier this year that stated that unused vacation would be paid out at the end of the year. Friday they sent an email to the company that the statement in the book is incorrect and that unused vacation would be lost if not taken by end of year. Can they change their policy now when some employees did not take vacation thinking it would be paid out?
2 Answers from Attorneys
I would really look at the timing and how close it was to the end of the year when they notified employees. If ut was done in the middle if the year then presumably employees had enough time to plan accordingly. Technically, there is nothing "illegal" about it but it is bad business practice on their part. They should just make the changes effective next calender year.
It depends on how the handbook was written. Most will clearly state in a rather conspicuous disclaimer upfront that they are NOT a binding contract and that anything written can be changed at the employers discretion, but every case is different and if employees here lost money on account of that they probably have a good claim. What the employer should do, is put everyone on notice that the terms are changing after that year and that they are now on notice. They should honor what was stated in their own policy. Even where at will employment is obvious, the existence of a written handbook can sometimes constitute a contract, but not always.
If this is a serious matter, I suggest that you consult with a lawyer in private and discuss your objectives in more detail. You can start by calling around to several for a free phone consultation, get some insights then pick the best fit to work with.
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