For context, I live in the US, in California.
As a new employee, I get 10 days of PTO to use in our first year of employment, pending approval from our boss. We're asked to submit our PTO request as early as we can, preferably at least 2 weeks in advance, and will be accepted or denied based on company needs. That all makes sense to me.
One month before my birthday, I requested PTO because I was going to Vegas (I requested 1 day, the Friday for a 3 day weekend). I hadn't gotten approval or heard anything back so 2 weeks before my birthday, I followed up and asked if my PTO was approved. My boss then proceeded to say the following: "We'll see how much work you get done in the next 2 weeks. If you get enough done, you can go." As I work in software development, we work in 2 week sprints. So basically she said "Get enough done in this sprint and show me you've gotten enough done at our retrospective and you can go."
I understand not being able to accept and grant every PTO request based on business needs, like "there's an important deadline coming up" or "there are too many people taking PTO for this weekend", but is it legal to deny PTO based on performance, and even more so hold my PTO hostage and finally only accept my PTO request the day before the actual requested day off?
As a side note, this has already happened and has passed. I ended up just putting in a little bit of overtime to make sure I would get my day off. I just want to know the legality of basically holding my PTO hostage contingent on the work I get done in a specific sprint.