“Afraid to Take Vacation? Here’s Seven Ideas”

Published on August 26th, 2014 by Alan L Sklover

Question: Hi, Alan. I have been employed with a company for almost 12 years. I have accrued more than 400 hours of paid time off, which included vacation and sick time. If I leave tomorrow, (or they fire me) I can only be paid for 240 hours of the more than 400 I’ve accrued. 

I’m hardly ever sick and my job is so busy I cannot take more than a day or two of vacation at a time. I do make it a habit of taking a solid week in the summer and usually every Christmas holiday. But that hardly makes a dent in my accrued time off. 

My question is this: Are there any protections for employees in this situation? 

I am afraid that if I ask to take a good portion of my accrued PTO, my managers will view me as something less than a loyal employee. However, this is PTO I’ve earned – trust me on this! If I can’t use it without fear of retribution, what’s the point? 

I’d appreciate any insight you might have on this.

Hanover, New Hampshire 

Answer: Hi, Christy. It is a widely known fact that many employees – especially in the U.S. – are afraid to take off for vacation (and other paid time off, commonly called “PTO”) that they have earned. Coupled with the fear of losing your job for being viewed, as you describe it, as being “less than loyal,” and you have a recipe for loss of earned benefits, if not problems with your health. There are a few things I might suggest that might – or at least I hope will – lighten your burden.

1. First, give serious consideration to whether your fears are based in reality. You know, fears are fears, and they cannot be dismissed out of hand. I do not at all mean to trivialize your fears, or dismiss them. Rather, what I do mean to do is to ask that you examine whether your fears of retribution are based in reality. It is often the case that fears are not, and for this reason sometimes fears needlessly hold us back from enjoying our lives. 

As for a few examples, have you ever heard of a colleague being accused of being “less than loyal” for taking accrued time off? Being denied a raise, bonus, promotion on that basis? Does everyone in your department avoid taking time off like you do, or do some of your colleagues seem to find a way to enjoy their paid time off? Have you ever been treated in any negative way due to your taking the week off in the summer, and the week off around Christmas time? Just curious: have you asked friends at work if they have the same fear? These are just a few of the ways you might perform a “reality check” about your fears of taking time off. 

More than I have ever seen in my 30+ years assisting employees, it seems to me that employees are more fearful about their jobs, more fearful about possible retaliation on the job, and more fearful than ever of losing their jobs. Fears are sometimes based in reality, but sometimes they are not. Your first step ought to be to determine if “real data” exists to believe your fear of retribution is a real one. 

2. I know of no “legal protections” for employees afraid to take off vacation or PTO time, but creative “navigation” of workplace problems almost always works better than “legal protections.” Many states have laws that speak to whether employees must get paid for accrued but unpaid vacation time when they leave their employees, but I have never heard of any law that protects people from “retribution” or “being viewed as disloyal” if they take advantage of paid vacation or PTO time. (Your state of Kansas, in particular, has no such legal protection. For more information about this, go to www.dol.ks.gov.) 

I do believe, as I discuss below, that creative “navigation” is almost always your best route to fairness and success in work-related issues; not always successful, but usually more successful than relying on laws, rules or regulations. 

3. Many people in your situation use the federal FMLA law to use their extra vacation and PTO days. If by chance you or a member of your family becomes ill, injured, requires an operation, begins to need some type of therapy, or even in need of serious rest, and a physician will certify the need for your taking a medical leave of absence to assist in the healing process, by invoking the Family Medical Leave Act (usually called “FMLA”) you can take what is usually unpaid time off – but make it paid time off –by using unused vacation and PTO time. 

Such legally-protected leaves of absence can be up to 12 weeks each year, and can be one week per month (or even shorter intermittent intervals) if physician-certified as necessary and appropriate to full recovery. Such leaves are very much more palatable to others, and BY LAW cannot be retaliated against without very tough legal penalties. 

One of the ways the United States Congress made the FMLA law quite strong is by incorporating a provision that provides that any person who interferes with the exercise of FMLA rights can be individually sued, even if they acted in their corporate capacity. Such personal accountability goes a long way to prevent retaliation.

Act Wisely! Consider using our Model Memo Requesting FMLA Information, Forms and Procedures from Human Resources. It shows you “What to Say and How to Say It”™ and makes a permanent record of your request. Just [click here.] Delivered Instantly By Email to Your Printer.  

4. Consider raising your concern – in writing – directly with your Manager and/or Human Resources representative. Though it surely might sound “confrontational” to “confront” the issue with those in charge, and especially to those with authority “over” you, doing so in a non-confrontational, respectful, matter-of-fact, way – but always first in writing –might help you in at least three different ways: 

(i) First, your Manager and/or Human Resources representative might have dealt with such concerns previously, and therefore might offer a solution that you have not thought of, such as taking a paid leave of absence to gain needed education or training, as time off for those reasons tend to be more “palatable” to others;

(ii) Second, your Manager and/or Human Resources representative might agree to an unofficial “bending” of the official time-off rules, such as a half-day each Friday in the summer, especially if either they seem to get something they want as part of the “bending,” or if they view doing so to be in their interests; and

(iii) Third, your Manager and Human Resources representative have access to higher authority in the organization, and so might be able to secure a formal exception to the rules for you, such as authorizing a “buy back” of your unused time off.  

I fully appreciate that these may be the very same people you think might think less of you for taking your paid vacation and PTO time off, I really do. It’s just that people can sometimes be more “angelic” and less “devilish” than we sometimes imagine. In most cases, I believe there will be little, if any, downside risk in doing so. 

You might want to watch our Video, “Job Security – Lower Your Odds of BeingLaid Off.” Just sit back, relax, watch and listen. One of our Sklover Videos On Demand. To see our Complete List. Just [click here]. 

5. Emailing your concerns about possible retaliation is unquestionably the number one way to prevent retaliation from taking place. Imagine the following: A boss is bullying an employee. The employee writes an email to the boss, with a copy to the bully’s boss and Human Resources, and says “You are bullying me. I am filing a complaint. Do not retaliate against me, because that would be a violation of our company’s policies.” 

Do you think the boss will retaliate? Chances are that the bully would be less likely than ever to do so, as it would surely be noticed and punished. Though it may seem counter-intuitive, it does really work.  

You may be saying to yourself, “Retribution works in a far more subtle fashion – and often in ways that cannot be proven.” I would agree, but that does not mean you can’t keep careful vigil, and keep your guard up – and your email ready – at the very first sign of retaliation.  

6. Also, might you think of ways to both (a) take time off, but at the same time (b) demonstrate that you are an extremely “loyal” employee. As is often said, “Perception is more important than reality.” Using your considerable creativity, can you find ways to get others to cover some of your responsibilities yet make certain – perhaps by planning ahead, maintaining contact through email and texting, or even attending certain meetings over the internet –that you are seen as both “present” and “performing,” even if you are really fishing on the lake? The use of digital communications is making such “virtual presence” easier and easier every day.  

In fact, though I often do my work outside of my office, because of the frequency of my communications my staff sometimes swear that either I am hiding somewhere in the supply room or I have a camera overhead. You could do the same.  

7. None of these suggestions can be considered guaranteed, but each might be the one thing that gets you what you want, need and deserve. There are innumerable ways to address fearful situations at work. You are only limited by your imagination and your faith in yourself. The truth is this: if you are viewed as a valuable employee – through showing up on time, hard work, a positive attitude, respect for others, and a loyalty to the organization – then your managers will not consider retaliating against you for taking the time you have earned.  

Christy, I hope one or more of these suggestions helps you. Your contributing to our blog has helped me share my own thoughts, with the hope it helps others. That reminds me of the saying “God gave us two hands – one to give and one to receive.”

My Best,
Al Sklover 

P.S.: Want to learn more about workplace negotiating? Consider viewing our Sklover On Demand Video entitled “Can I Really Negotiate with My Boss?” Just sit back, relax, watch and listen. To do so, just [click here.]  

  Repairing the World,
One Empowered – and Productive – Employee at a Time™

© 2014, Alan L. Sklover All Rights Reserved. Commercial Use Prohibited.

Sklover’s Thought for the Work Week

Published on August 25th, 2014 by Alan L Sklover

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The best advice I’ve ever received is, “No one else knows what they’re doing either.”

– Ricky Gervais

Now there is a truth applicable to daily life at work. Wait until you truly understand what you are doing, and you will wait a long time. Wait until you find someone who truly understands what he or she is doing, and you will wait even longer. Most “experts” are expert only at selling themselves. Understand that we are all in the same boat: dealing with a continuing struggle to figure “it” out, whatever “it” may be.

© 2014 Alan L. Sklover. All Rights Reserved

[If you would like to contribute a favored quote, saying or proverb, please submit it to us at info@SkloverWorkingWisdom.com].


“Thanks (Sort of) for the Rejection” – May Actually Be a Good Idea

Published on August 19th, 2014 by Alan L Sklover

“Rejection doesn’t mean you aren’t good enough;
it means the other person failed to notice what you have to offer.”

 -      Mark Amend  

ACTUAL “CASE HISTORIES”: Every now and then I come upon a workplace-related idea that is so simple and sensible that I just can’t help but pass it along to my readers. In a recent edition of Bottom Line Personal magazine, I came across one such idea submitted to the magazine by Susan P. Joyce, President of a company named NETability, Inc. 

Her idea is this: Job applicants who are rejected from a hoped-for position should send “Thank You” notes to their interviewers or Hiring Manager. Why? It seems there are lots of good reasons to do so, among them: 

1. To express gratitude for being considered.  

2. To exhibit your continued interest in working for the company, perhaps in another position or capacity.  

3. To “keep the conversation going.”  

4. To bring up your name to those with hiring authority just one more time.  

5. To stand out from the crowd, that is, the majority who do not say “Thank you.”  

6. To show maturity, humility and depth of personality.  

7. To express continued interest in case the person chosen decides not to accept the position.  

8. To share a sense of disappointment but not one of discouragement.  

9. Perhaps to share a thought about something that came up in your interview.  

10. To illustrate that you are a person who does not “give up” easily.  

11. Because it costs nothing and may be worth a lot.  

12. Perhaps a much better question is: Why not?  

LESSON TO LEARN: When hunting for a job, don’t let rejection get you down. Instead see it as an opportunity to show others that you are not someone who is easily discouraged. If the name of the game is to get a job, keep at it, and if you do so the chances are only increased that you will, in the end, get the job. Say “Thank you.” There’s no downside to it. And keeping in touch sure can’t hurt. Everyone’s been rejected; successful people don’t give up. It’s that simple. 

WHAT YOU CAN DO: If you are rejected for a position you really wanted, by a company you really wanted to work for, in a role you thought would “fit you like a glove,” don’t give up. Don’t give in. Don’t take rejection personally. Instead, give it another shot, and another shot after that. Keep the conversation going. Send a “Thank You” note, and keep in touch. The world belongs to the perseverant. Here are six more thoughts: Continue Reading. . .

Sklover’s Thought for the Work Week

Published on August 18th, 2014 by Alan L Sklover

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“I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel all alone.”

– Robin Williams

Being alone is an objective fact, a fact that can be altered simply by the approach or presence of a friend. Even if that friend is your own self. Feeling all alone is quite different, for it is a state of mind, an ache of the heart, a body among many in a prison without bars, all inescapable by any known means. At work, at home and elsewhere, strive to make connections, and work to build connections, with those you may meet on the path who are daring enough to share your life.

© 2014 Alan L. Sklover. All Rights Reserved

[If you would like to contribute a favored quote, saying or proverb, please submit it to us at info@SkloverWorkingWisdom.com].


Injunction – Key Words & Phrases

Published on August 14th, 2014 by Alan L Sklover

Key Words

What is the meaning of:


An “injunction” is a Court order that requires a person to either (a) do, or (b) stop doing, a specific action.

It is considered an extraordinary judicial remedy because it extends the power of the Court into the lives of people in a way that is much more intrusive that would be a verdict for monetary damages. In fact, if a person fails to comply with a Court’s injunction, he or she can be held in “contempt of court,” and even jailed.

In general, there are two kinds of injunctions: “Preliminary” or “Permanent.” A “Preliminary” injunction is commonly requested at the very beginning of a lawsuit when someone claims to the Court “it is essential that we protect the status quo. We cannot wait years until the end of this lawsuit, or greater – perhaps irreparable – damage will be done.” If granted, a preliminary injunction lasts only until the end of the lawsuit.

For example, if an employer has reason to believe that an employee has stolen a secret and valuable recipe or chemical formula, it might ask the Court to issue a Preliminary Injunction at the beginning of a lawsuit regarding this issue.

Because Preliminary Injunctions are requested before the Court knows all of the facts – not just the employer’s version of the facts – the Court will require a strong showing of evidence before agreeing to issue the requested injunction.

At the end of a lawsuit, if the person bringing the lawsuit is found deserving of long-term protection, then a “Permanent” injunction may be issued by the Court, to remain in force indefinitely.

We are often involved in cases involving injunctions when an employer seeks to stop a former employee from allegedly stealing secrets or violating a non-compete agreement.

To obtain a copy of our 185-Point Master Guide & Checklist to Non-Compete’s, just [click here.] 

Fortunately, through “self-help,” non-compete agreements can be “navigated,” negotiated, defended against, and, quite often, defeated. That takes some knowledge, insight and perspective on restrictive covenants.

We provide Model Letters for your Self-Help to address issues of Non-Compete Agreements and other restrictions. Just [click here] and see Section M [Non-Compete Agreements and Other Restrictions.]    

To learn more about these matters, simply [click here.]  

© 2014 Alan L. Sklover. All Rights Reserved. Commercial Use Strictly Prohibited

Alan L. Sklover

Alan L. Sklover

Employment Attorney
and Career Strategist
for over 30 years

Job Security and Career Success now depend on knowing how to navigate and negotiate to gain the most for your skills, time and efforts. Learn the trade secrets and 'uncommon common sense' of Attorney Alan L. Sklover, the leading authority on "Negotiating for Yourself at Work™".

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