If promised, vacation must be granted. Although no Mississippi law requires private sector employers to provide employees with vacations, paid or unpaid, most employers do offer their employees some version of vacation. Thus, it is important for employers to remember that if they “promise” vacation, they may be legally bound to provide it—and that a binding promise does not require embodiment in a formal employment contract. Mississippi courts have ruled that, under some circumstances, an employer's assurance of paid vacation time, whether made in an employee handbook or given orally, may constitute an implied contract, which is binding and enforceable.
Accrual method. Employers are free to devise their own system for vacation accrual. There are several different commonly used options:
• On a monthly basis
• On a pay-period basis
• Upon completion of a 6-month or 12-month period
It is important to be clear and unambiguous when drafting such policies. If the policy is intended to ensure that employees work the entire accrual period to earn their vacation days, it should state clearly that employees will not be entitled to pro rata payment if they leave partway through the period. Remember that any vagueness in the policy is likely to be construed against the employer.
Payment due upon termination. The Mississippi Supreme Court has ruled that a promise of paid vacation time is contractual, and that unpaid accrued vacation must be compensated unless there is an express agreement that employees will not be paid for unused time (Fuselier, Ott & McKee v. Moeller, 507 So.2d 63 (1987)).