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Could Taking Vacation Get You Fired?

Christine DiGangi

A 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 to not 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% of survey respondents said their company says nothing about, sends unclear messages about or discourages use of paid time off, while 19% of managers say they never talk to employees about the benefits of taking time off (14% said they rarely talk about it). The vast majority (95%) 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 see how your payment history and debt use have affected your credit by getting two of your credit scores for free each month on Credit.com.

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.

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