When is is right to deny an employee’s vacation preference?

Some labor agreements grant workers the vacation of their choice provided the company doesn't have a valid reason for denying it.
By Raymond Dreyfack May 1, 1998

Some labor agreements grant workers the vacation of their choice provided the company doesn’t have a valid reason for denying it.

When Pipefitter George Ready entered two weeks in August on his vacation request slip, Maintenance Foreman Hal Clifton turned him down stating that the two weeks overlapped the weeks requested by Pipefitter Mike Herroldson.

“I was counting on that time,” Ready complained. “My brother and his family will be visiting from Texas. That’s the only time they can make it.”

“Sorry,” Clifton said. “Mike has better seniority. He gets the preference. If you can get him to take another two weeks, I’ll okay the switch.”

Herroldson refused, explaining that his plans couldn’t be changed.

“It’s not fair,” Ready protested to Clifton. “The manual states employees can get the vacation they want.”

“Right. If there’s no valid reason to deny it.”

“My overlap with Mike isn’t a valid reason. It’s slow in August and Jeff Corman will be on hand to cover the pipefitting requirement.”

“That’s true. But what happens if Jeff calls in sick and a special job comes through? Or if an unexpected rush develops?”

“That’s not likely,” Ready replied, “but I’ll tell you what. If something like that happens, and you’re in a spot, I’ll be at home. Give me a call and I’ll come in.”

“Sorry, that’s too uncertain. You’ll have to make other arrangements.”

Ready looked miserable. “Do me one favor, okay? See what Mr. Radburn has to say about this.”

Clifton reluctantly agreed.

Question : In Clifton’s place, would you okay Ready’s vacation request ?

Radburns’s decision: When clued in on the situation, Plant Engineer Harry Radburn instructed Clifton to approve Ready’s request. “A valid reason for denial,” he said, “must assume that company revenues or productivity would be adversely affected by granting the time. Since the pipefitting function will be covered by Jeff Corman those two weeks, and especially in view of Ready’s willingness to come in should an emergency arise, I can’t see a good case being made for the company or operation being adversely affected.”