In general, yes, employers may require the use of vacation/paid time off (PTO) and restrict its use. When there are no legal requirements, such as state and local paid sick leave laws, restrictions on the amount of notice required and the increments in which PTO may be used, are common. For consistency, employers should have policies regarding the use of PTO.
Many employers have peak operating times when an employee’s absence would cause a hardship. Employers may apply restrictions regarding the use of vacation leave during these times as long as they do so consistently and without discrimination. Keep in mind, however, that leave protected by law, such as FMLA leave, cannot be restricted due to the operations of the business. For more guidance on FMLA and PTO interaction, see Can an employer require the use of paid leave while an employee is on FMLA leave?
Employers are cautioned against