Do vacation benefits accrue during layoff?

Does your labor agreement clearly answer this question? It's easy to get into semantic disagreements when vacation eligibility is based on "employment.


Does your labor agreement clearly answer this question? It's easy to get into semantic disagreements when vacation eligibility is based on "employment."

Labor and management aren't the only ones who don't always see eye-to-eye on this matter. Arbitrators often have differing opinions as well. Two points of view prevail -- depending on the area involved and, where a case comes to arbitration, the arbitrator involved.

In a manufacturing plant the contract specified that "workers earned one week of vacation after a year's employment." When maintenance department Welder Aaron Kagen was denied his week, he protested, claiming he had fulfilled the 1-yr requirement. Dan Rivers, his supervisor, disagreed.

"Six months ago, you were laid off for three months after being employed eight months. When you were recalled, it added two months to your employment. That comes to a total of ten months, two months short of the 1-yr requirement. I'm sorry, you don't qualify."

Kagen insisted that his employment under the company's vacation clause continued during his layoff. He threatened to file a grievance if he didn't get the week to which he was entitled.

Question : Do you think Kagen's claim is justified?

Malen's ruling: "No week's vacation for Kagen," Plant Engineer Sam Malen ruled after being filled in on what had transpired by Rivers. "The word earned is a key determinant in this case. It's obvious that an employee can't earn vacation entitlement while on layoff."

On the other hand, some arbitrators rule that employees do not have their vacation time accumulation interrupted by layoff if they are eligible for recall under the contract. A good way to avoid hassles of this kind is to include the words continuous employment in specifying vacation entitlement.

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