In 2017 I had my 10 year anniversary on my job. I work for a small law firm. There are 5 full time lawyers and 1 part time lawyer. I am the only staff member. When I began this job there were only 2 lawyers. I’ve stayed at this job because I know how long you have to be at a job to accrue 4 weeks vacation. As the firm grew, naturally my job has grown and to say I am busy is an understatement.

As per firm vacation policy, after 10 years I was entitled to 4 weeks vacation (1-4 years you get 2 weeks vacation and 5-9 years you get 3 weeks vacation). The policy had been in effect for 10 years.

So as of January 1, 2018 I would have earned earn 4 weeks vacation. However, I was told on December 20 that the firm was intending to change their vacation policy and nobody was allowed to take 4 weeks vacation.

I am the only employee (a different policy applies to because lawyers’ based on their billable hours). They said it’s because I am the only employee and they can’t have me gone for 4 weeks. They acknowledged it didn’t look good on their part - being that they changed the policy just when it applied to me.

  • Short of leaving the company as soon as I find another job, what are some other options in this situation?
  • How might I approach re-negotiating the benefits and/or salary to make up for the change in vacation policy?
  • Other than implying I can resign, is there anything else I can use as leverage in my negotiating position?
  • 1
    So what's the question?
    – Dan
    Jan 12 '18 at 3:44
  • 3
    Why "start over" somewhere else? Just negotiate for better pay and more vacation time in the new position. Jan 12 '18 at 4:29
  • 1
    If I am understanding, the issue is taking 4 weeks off consecutively. But the OP is confusingly stating that she has 3 weeks of vacation so it's unclear exactly what the issue is. Are you trying to find a place that allows you to take the full 4 weeks off of vacation?
    – Dan
    Jan 12 '18 at 14:02
  • 1
    The amount of vacation time is sometimes negotiable when you get a new job. I got an extra week the last time I got hired because I would not agree to accept the job until they gave it to me. So at a minimum, don't accept less than the leave you currently get.
    – HLGEM
    Jan 12 '18 at 14:31
  • 3
    How can they retroactively change the vacation policy? Isn't the policy part of your employment contract? If it's not, then what stops them from taking away all your vacation if they feel like it?
    – sleske
    Jan 13 '18 at 22:39

While it is understandable that you feel betrayed by this behavior, be aware that it also tells you what is your better course of action: they cannot afford you to be away for 4 weeks? Find another job and be gone for more than 4 weeks! (and stitch to the minimum notice when giving the news to them)

You say you have several years experience, so you won't start from the bottom of the ladder when job searching.

It really doesn't matter if they have done this to force you to leave or because they really can't afford you to be gone: they admittedly changed the rules to prevent you from having benefit from them.

From their point of you view if you just swallow it without any reaction, it just set the threshold for how much you can be squeezed a tad further.

  • 2
    I should add they are labor lawyers. All we do is advise businesses how to handle HR issues and defend employment lawsuits. They would NEVER advise a client to do this. All the other lawyers (non owners) privately apologized and said they were horrified by how I was treated
    – Darianne
    Jan 12 '18 at 21:22
  • 1
    No I am not looking to take the 4 weeks off consecutively. Just looking for the policy - that they wrote- to be applied to me now that I’ve earned it
    – Darianne
    Jan 12 '18 at 21:26

Both you and your employer have real problems to solve. You want more vacation, and were promised it until it was almost due. Your employer is worried about you being away for four weeks at a time. They handled it extremely badly, but remember they are not experienced HR people, but lawyers with one employee. There may have been an element of panic.

There should be a win-win in there somewhere, and you probably have the best skills and motivation for finding it.

How have your three week vacations been handled? Can that be extended to four weeks? Could bringing a temp worker on a week before your vacation for training help them look after things for the four weeks? Are there ways you could organize your work to make a four week vacation smooth?

Could you take two vacations each slightly longer than two weeks work? That way you get five weeks total vacation, but your longest absence would be shorter than the three weeks they have already handled.

Try to construct a plan that gets you vacation you will be happy with, and that ensures smooth operation while you are away. Write a report or presentation on it, and discuss it with whoever normally acts as your supervisor.

I see no problem with also testing the job market, and including your vacation time requirements in your salary and benefits negotiations.

  • bringing a temp worker It sounds more structural, i.e. they need extra staff.
    – user8036
    Jan 12 '18 at 9:22
  • 3
    @JanDoggen You may well be right. They have a poor bus factor if they are so dependent on the OP being there. I am just suggesting the OP analyze the situation and make recommendations, not what those recommendations should be. Jan 12 '18 at 11:08
  • @ jan Doggen what’s an x-y problem?
    – Darianne
    Jan 12 '18 at 23:08
  • @Darianne for an explanation, see: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/66377/what-is-the-xy-problem
    – Erik
    Jan 13 '18 at 16:15

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