Smart SpendingSmart Spending

Could taking a vacation get you fired?

One-fifth of American workers say using vacation time puts them at risk of losing their jobs, a survey finds.

By Aug 21, 2014 1:18PM

Unemployed man © Rubberball/JupiterimagesBy Christine DiGangi,


One-fifth of Americans working at least 35 hours a week think using vacation time makes them look replaceable, therefore putting them at risk of losing their jobs, a new survey found.

The concerns could have a foundation in reality -- after all, there's no federal law guaranteeing people the vacation they've earned, and unless a termination breaches a contract or discrimination laws, employers can fire people for pretty much whatever they want to.

The aforementioned survey includes responses from 1,303 adult Americans working at least 35 hours per week and was conducted June 20 to 30 by GfK Public Affairs and Corporate Communications for the U.S. Travel Association. The sample is weighted and scaled to be nationally representative, and the margin of error is plus or minus 2.71 percentage points. The sample included responses from 235 workers with managerial responsibilities, and the margin of error for their responses is plus or minus 6.39 percentage points.

Taking time off is generally considered beneficial for an employee's health (though you should be careful not to overspend on vacation) and, in turn, beneficial to his or her employer, but that alone doesn't persuade workers to take a paid break from the job. Beyond the desire to work harder and longer hours as a way of proving your worth -- what the study calls a "work martyr complex" -- there seems to be poor communication between management and employees about taking time off: 67 percent of survey respondents said their company says nothing about, sends unclear messages about or discourages use of paid time off, while 19 percent of managers say they never talk to employees about the benefits of taking time off (14 percent said they rarely talk about it).


The vast majority (95 percent) of managers said they recognize the importance of taking paid time off.

Whether you should be worried about vacation adversely affecting your job stability depends on your individual situation. Employment lawyers will say your boss can't discriminate who gets paid vacation by gender, race or another protected class, but outside of those parameters and any contract you have with a company, employers can fire you for a wide variety of things. It may not make sense to fire someone for taking vacation he or she has earned, but as far as legality goes, you should check your employment agreement and state laws.

Fear of losing one's job is no small matter: Without a regular source of income, you face the risk of defaulting on loan obligations, incurring late fees on a slew of bills or worse. Your income isn't listed on your credit report, but your ability to repay a loan is often considered when a lender reviews a credit application, and if past unemployment prevented you from paying bills, you could see the effects of that in your credit scores and, ultimately, your access to credit products and decent interest rates. (You can obtain two of your credit scores for free each month on 

The chance of losing your job is also an argument for building an emergency fund. Having a few months' worth of expenses set aside will help you avoid falling behind on bills or going into debt during times of economic hardship. If you don't have a sufficient emergency fund now, here are some tips for getting started

More from


Aug 21, 2014 2:57PM
In present day America (and pyramid building in 5000 BC Egypt):  No vacation for you slave! We work, work, work all 52 weeks here. Get to work and be glad you have a job! What, you have the gall to ask for a vacation? You're fired! Overtime pay? You're fired! Health insurance? You're fired! What a pension? Are you crazy? How do you think we pay the CEO 1000 times your pay? You're double fired!
Aug 21, 2014 2:44PM
GEOCON did it to me in 2009.  Five years as a senior staff level geologist and project manager, took two weeks of vacation (had six weeks on the book) for my birthday, and was fired two weeks after returning.  And since we are in  a "Right to Work" state there was no recourse.   Businesses DO NOT CARE about their employees, employees are a liability to business.
Aug 21, 2014 2:54PM

Maybe the word "employee" should be replaced with "indentured servant".

Aug 21, 2014 3:11PM
What a phucking disgusting joke this country is becoming!
Aug 21, 2014 2:34PM
On the flip side, I've used vacation time to look for other jobs.
Aug 21, 2014 3:26PM

My mother died, and my brother was told, "You can go to the funeral, but you might not have a job when you come back."

I went home on 3 days 'bereavement leave', and while I was on 'bereavement leave', my supervisor called me and said he understood that I had a dentist appointment the day I was due back and I could take that day off (a Thursday), and didn't expect me to be in to work the next day after having a wisdom tooth pulled.  So, I had 3 days bereavement leave and 2 days regular leave after and a weekend.  Big difference between my company and my brother's.

Aug 21, 2014 4:06PM
Time to let the public know which businesses are doing this.  They will not like the BAD REP they will get either.  Most of us will not do businesses with company who THREATENS to fire employees for taking EARNED VACATION
Aug 21, 2014 2:52PM
For all the things I may or may not like about my job, this is one thing they get right.  We either have to use or lose our vacation time and we are strongly discouraged from losing it. 
Aug 22, 2014 2:11AM
I was offered a new job and told them I had a 7 days destination wedding at a resort planned in 7 months. The manager said no problem, but get it approved by HR. HR director said they have a "no vacation withing 1st year policy" but would make an exception (unpaid). Four weeks before my wedding I emailed my boss a reminder about my plans. The following week, she asked "how much do you have invested in these plans". She wanted receipts for everything, not including the families airlines and accommodations (because they don't work for her) and the cancellation policy for the resort. She said "vacation time is a privilege, not a right" and could deny the request based on the company's needs. I went to HR and he said sided with the manager. I refused to give them any receipts and said my wedding expenses are none of their business. That night I went on a resume sending binge. By the end of the week, I had 3 interviews set-up and called in sick. Two weeks before my wedding my boss emailed me "vacation request denied". I went on a break so I wouldn't go postal. At that exact moment, I got called with a job offer ($10k more, a company car and the option to work from home). I immediately ran back to my office and replied back "I quit. Today". The next day as I was lounging at home, enjoying my morning coffee and watching The View, the HR director had nerve to call and ask me to reconsider coming back if they approved my vacation!
Aug 21, 2014 3:13PM
Seems we need another Industrial Revolution and bring back unions...ect. Back in the day, bosses and companies treated their employees much better. I know I worked during the 70's and 80's when it was like that. In government and civil service jobs for the most part, employees are better protected. Nowadays, people are treated like servants and disposable one and replace them like computer parts or machine parts...employees have very little rights and with no democracy. 
Aug 21, 2014 4:17PM
I feel very fortunate to work for a company that encourages you to use your vacation time, what isn't used is there for sick days and unexpected occurrences. I can take my Vacation in November knowing that my job will be safe and right where I left it when I come back. Of course the company I work for is based out of Spain. In Western Europe they still respect workers and acknowledge that vacation time is earned and needed for a productive and happy work force. I can't say the same for American based companies and that is a shame!
Aug 21, 2014 4:05PM

I got fired (laid-off) for being out from an injury after 7-weeks. A teen-age driver (almost 18) T-boned my motorcycle in a Target parking lot, crushing my right leg above the ankle. I almost died in the hospital from a pulmonary embolism. I was allowed by the doctors to return to work 7-weeks later but was laid-off on my 4th day back. It seems they decided if they can work around my absence, then I must not be needed. Strange that our department (manufacturing engineering) was so over worked that I could not take a day off before the accident but now I was not needed.

Try getting work during a recession when you can't drive because of an injury and you can't pass a drug test because of the pain medication you have to take to sleep at night.

I couldn't sue for discrimination either; white, male, heterosexual. Even though I was disabled, I couldn't sue. When they laid me off, they also laid off five product engineers over 60. I balanced for them and they balanced for protected.

Aug 21, 2014 4:48PM

Vacation penalty? That has been in practice for many a year.

Your company will insist, even force, you to take your vacation. But the wheels are always turning in those feverish little brains of the board room. "He's on vacation, and things seem to work fine without him." It is noticed. You won't be fired immediately (too obvious for a lawsuit), but soon.

It's a catch 22. And if things are a mess at your office, while you are gone? It is still your fault.

Don't make a sound, when you live in a jungle.

Aug 21, 2014 4:03PM

I bet there are thousands of people who can tell stories about people taking vacation only to find they had no job when they came back.  I have seen it myself and it is not pretty.

People are afraid to take vacation because most companies run so mean and lean that there is no one who can cover for the employee on vacation.  Either the employee gets ahead before leaving or spend a lot of time catching up which is almost impossible to do while keeping up with the work that is required.

I could never get excited about a holiday since it meant always doing five days work in four days, some holiday.

Aug 21, 2014 4:13PM
I took 2 weeks of vacation time together and lost my job over it. The boss called 6 weeks later and asked me to come back. I did after he apologized to me. Vindicated !!! Yeah !!
Aug 21, 2014 2:48PM
If a company promises a benefit and fires you for using it. You are working for a company not worth working for. It is not a benefit you have if they fire you for using it. One time at work. I was told I had to take my 4 floating vacation days from upper management. I said I would and told my immediate boss. He said he needed me because they were short of people So I did not take it even though I could of and not be fired. Still my boss at the time. Remembered it and never forgot about it . I still got paid for it.
Aug 21, 2014 4:46PM
I find it very amusing that the people that have brought us to the train wreck the US is today are all from the "peace & love" generation. 
Aug 22, 2014 9:37AM
Aug 21, 2014 2:45PM
maybe their lawyers will send me another Cease and Desist letter..............
Aug 22, 2014 8:26AM
    Almost every modern nation has a mandatory vacation period from your job, even the Chinese get 10 days off every year. Why is America so backwards, clearly the corporations run the show here, not the working class.
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


Smart Spending brings you the best money-saving tips from MSN Money and the rest of the Web. Join the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.