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The company I am a full time employee at announced this week that all employees would be required to take the same, one week of PTO in early August. This PTO deduction would be done automatically unless there was an exception. The reasons they stated in the announcement they were doing this are:

  • Benefits employees because we are all off the same week so little to no missed work, emails, messages, etc... to catch up on when returning
  • Specifically helps take stress off employees who are parents to school age children before school starts again
  • Since there has been little PTO taken since the start of the pandemic the employer will reduce liabilites owed due to accrued PTO balances

They did say they would make exceptions for employees that were essential to work that week but would expect anyone who was excepted to take PTO the week prior to the required week. There were some hints that they might make other exceptions for employees who had other vacation plans already scheduled and that no one would be made to go negative into PTO balance.

I had plans this year to travel internationally but not surprisingly those plans were put on hold until early next year so I have accrued a fair amount of PTO. We have until end of March 2021 to use our PTO balance from 2020 so I have some amount of time where I may be able to do this with my 2020 days if things improve. It is my plan to take some time late in the year or early next year to travel (perhaps not internationally) but I chose not to make any concrete plans until the Fall when hopefully things are more certain.

My Question is: How can I best request an exception from this requirement to so I can take a meaningful vacation that is on my own terms and not a last minute rush. The other part of this is I want to keep this bank of days because of uncertainty: what if I get sick (our PTO is also our sick days), what if my aging parents do? Just like having a healthy bank account for emergencies these PTO days would make me feel safer knowing I have a buffer to uncertainty. How can I word this best to my manager and HR so that I stand the best chance of getting an exception.

Side Question: From what I have read likely there is no real legal angle I could invoke here. I work in NC, company is based in FL but has offices in CA as well which this policy applies to uniformly. I did read somewhere that at least in CA it may be required that employers give 90 day notice for mandatory PTO but doubt there is something similar for NC. Is there maybe something I'm missing here like some magic legal words I could invoke in requesting an exception that would help my case? The company did specifcally call our employees with children as part of the reasoning but not having children isn't protected right?

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    What does your contract say? And if it refers to your employee manual, what does your employee manual say? Are you an at-will employee? – Stephan Branczyk Jun 26 at 19:04
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    Given the times we live in and the consequences, do you want to choose between when you have PTO or your job? And that is from someone who has just had some furlough and is now on (compulsory) holiday, with no choice about when it is taken and a long stretch of work beckoning. – Solar Mike Jun 26 at 19:12
  • @StephanBranczyk No contract, at will yea. The employee manual does say "Employees have the flexibility and responsibility for managing their own PTO usage to allow for adequate reserves that require time off from work." - it makes no mention of any policy regarding mandatory PTO. – ptoquestions3421 Jun 26 at 19:13
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    "The company did specifically call our employees with children as part of the reasoning but not having children isn't protected right?" - Your company is treating everyone equal. So even if not having children is protected, since everyone is required to take a week of PTO (eventually), so you really wouldn't have a case. – Donald Jun 26 at 22:56
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    Can't you just talk to your manager and say you would like to book a holiday early 2021, so would it be possible to therefore be exempted. – Monstar Jun 28 at 20:39
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Unless you can come up with a good business reason as to why you need an exception, you're likely to not get one, and you're likely to put a bit of a target on your back by being labeled 'difficult'.

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They did say they would make exceptions for employees that were essential to work that week but would expect anyone who was excepted to take PTO the week prior to the required week. There were some hints that they might make other exceptions for employees who had other vacation plans already scheduled and that no one would be made to go negative into PTO balance.

My Question is: How can I best request an exception from this requirement to so I can take a meaningful vacation that is on my own terms and not a last minute rush.

Sounds like you can explain how you are essential that week, assuming you want to take your vacation the week before.

Or you can explain your late-year vacation plans and hope that is acceptable.

Perhaps some combination of the two would work out.

I once worked in the IT Department for a manufacturer that required everyone to take the same two weeks off each summer. It wasn't ideal, but we found a way to make it work.

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    I have known people who worked at factories with a fixed 2-week shutdown. They could plan and book vacations many months in advance. – Patricia Shanahan Jun 27 at 1:52
  • @PatriciaShanahan I have worked those shutdowns - pay rate can be very good :) – Solar Mike Jun 27 at 8:36
  • there are quite a few factories in the uk with a fixed 2 week shutdown. – level_zebra Jun 29 at 14:51
  • @PatriciaShanahan and level_zebra: What is the relevance of your comments? It seems quite different to the question that the shutdown is reugular and fixes in advance (and hopefully in the contract). – guest Jun 29 at 17:08
  • @guest The last paragraph of the answer on which I was commenting mentioned being able to "make it work" for a planned, regular summer shutdown. I see that as very different from an unplanned shutdown with relatively short notice, the situation in the question, because the regular shutdown allows advance planning. – Patricia Shanahan Jun 29 at 17:33

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