Do employees have to take vacation while on layoff?

The plant was going full blast from April through December. January through March was the slack time of the year. During this period, a third of the work force was laid off.
By Raymond Dreyfack January 1, 2000

The plant was going full blast from April through December. January through March was the slack time of the year. During this period, a third of the work force was laid off.

When Maintenance Foreman Griff Masters posted a notice in May that vacations for selected personnel would be deferred until the 3-mo slack period, the crew raised a chorus of protest.

A committee of three headed by Electrician Grade II Bob Rankin appeared at Masters’ desk. “This is a lousy deal,” Rankin complained. Most people don’t want to go on vacation during the winter. In my case, we always visit my wife’s family in July. My wife would kill me.”

“I sympathize with your problem,” Masters replied, “but the job has to come first. We’re loaded with work during the busy period. It makes good financial sense for the company to schedule vacations when employees can be spared. It makes sense for you too to stick around when you can pile up a lot of overtime.”

The foreman’s argument didn’t impress the committee. When Masters refused to back down, Rankin promised to carry their case to a higher court.

Question: Can employees be forced to schedule their vacation for a time when they will be on layoff?

Stone’s decision: “Kill the announcement,” Plant Engineer Bert Stone instructed Masters. “While it’s true that deferring vacations to the slack time of the year might be economically beneficial for the company, it would constitute a hardship for some employees.

“Vacation is intended as a time of rest and relaxation during work periods. The employee knows that following his vacation he will return to work in a refreshed and regenerated state of mind. When a person is on layoff he is understandably anxious and upset. The last thing he needs is a vacation. It is also generally conceded that in scheduling vacations the employee’s personal preference must be taken into consideration. While this isn’t always possible to the worker’s complete satisfaction, it should not be ignored entirely.”