Employment Vacations

Date: July 12, 2011
Author: Daniel A. Lublin
Publication: Metro

Once booked, vacations cannot be “taken away”

About to leave on a much-needed vacation, Lerae Bigelow thought she had made plans for just about everything.  But when her boss demanded that she cancel her trip at the last minute, she realized there was one contingency she had overlooked – her own dismissal.
As a supervisor for the Alberta-based oilfields service company T.C. Mobile Vessels Ltd., Bigelow thought she had complied with the usual vacation protocol: she notified her boss that she was attending a family reunion at the end of August and spoke to him again one week before her trip to ensure that everything was in order.
However, on the day of her departure, her boss called from out of town demanding that she change her plans and work that night. Bigelow explained that she had scheduled a vacation and that it was too late to reschedule.  Thinking he was entitled to issue the directive and that Bigelow would have to obey, her boss got upset when she refused to take the shift.  He later called her demanding that she return her equipment to the company.
When she returned from vacation, Bigelow received a text message from her boss confirming that she had been dismissed.  Although he later testified that he would have considered rehiring Bigelow had she returned his calls, Bigelow was not interested in returning.
Since Bigelow was not paid any severance, she sued T.C. Mobile.  Recently she won her case.  In declining to change her vacation plans, Bigelow had disobeyed a direct order from the boss.  However, it was an order that was unreasonable, and it was the first time Bigelow had done so, the court ruled.
The court noted that “although an employer is entitled to request that an employee re-book vacation to accommodate its requirements, the employer must be reasonable.”  Here, the request was made at the last minute and after Bigelow had already obtained approval.
Vacations are important benefits and, once approved, should be not interfered with, unless there is a very good reason.