Can an employer force you to use vacation time for mandatory days off?
The doctor that I work for has us all still work when she is out of the office. Catch up time. But all of a sudden she is making the techs all take 4 days off and use there paid time off meaning they won't have any vacation or sick time by April. But only them no one else in the office. Can they do this?
I know that this seems harsh but it is probably legal. First of all, the majority of employment arrangements are "at will". Meaning that an employer can hire or fire someone for any reason or no reason. it can also increase/decrease salary/hours, promote/demote, and generally impose requirements as they see fit. Absent something in the nature of an employment agreement, or a union contract, or a stated company policy this holds true (or if some type of discrimination is a factor).
More specifically, while employees generally see vacation as an automatic condition of employment that can use as they see fit, the law doesn't see it this way. The fact is that vacations are not legally required. To the extent that an employer institutes such a policy it is a voluntary benefit and as such the employer can design it any way it chooses. This includes when and whether to allow an employee to take this time.
Though many states have a use it or lose it policy, your employer cannot simply make the decision for you. Further, to make arbitrary decisions (between different types of employees) appears to be discriminatory though techs may require certain paid time off due to either union or medical organization bylaws or by the type of contract under which they are employed. Bottom line, there may be enough in what you described to at least file an inquiry with your state's wage and hour division (usually labor department) but absent additional material, the inquiry may not go very far.
I am assuming that you do not work in a unionized office. If this is the case, the only possibilities for change in what is going on would be through your employment contract, if one exists, or by negotiation with your employer.
If enough people are involved and you are not afraid of being terminated for complaining, it might be helpful to have a meeting with your employer to see if an accomodation can be reached.
If you are an employee at will, the employer can set the rules and policies and if you are not happy with them, you will need to look for other work.
You might want to check with the state department of labor and the federal wage and hour people to see if there is a violation of state or federal law involved in the conduct being practiced by your employer. If not, your alternative if nothing can be worked out with the employer would be to quit your job.
If you were to voluntarily quit, you probably would not be entitled to unemployment benefits so you should be sure to have another job lined up before you make a decision to confront the employer about your dissatisfaction with the use of vacation days that is occuring.