As the holiday season draws near, it’s important to understand your rights as an employee when it comes to time off work and federal holiday pay. Perhaps you want to work on Thanksgiving because you need extra cash. Or maybe you requested Christmas Day off work to celebrate with your family, and are scheduled to work anyway. But will your employer still pay you for time worked on Thanksgiving? Is it even legal for your employer to make you work on a federal holiday? The answers may surprise you.
Before you consult an employment attorney or head to HR to complain, consider the following.
Understanding Time Off for Holidays and Holiday Pay Under California Law
It’s true. Under California law, employers don’t need to pay their employees on federal holidays when the business is closed. For example, if you’ve worked every Friday for five years, but a federal holiday lands on a Friday this year and your employer decides to close its doors for the day, you won’t get paid unless your employer has a policy that allows employees to be paid for holidays. If you’re an employee whose finances are tight, you may want to check with your employer to see if you can come to an alternative agreement such as working on a day that you normally have off.
This includes any other federal holiday defined in Government Code Section 19853 such as Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and Independence Day. Employers, of course, may have to provide religious holidays off to accommodate religious observance and beliefs. So, if you’re planning a big family trip to the beach over the Fourth of July, you may want to speak to your employer about their policies before committing to lodging, flights, and more.
Under California law, your employer does not have to pay you a special premium for work you perform on holidays – or even Saturdays and Sundays. Of course, your employer is required to pay you overtime if you work in excess of eight hours in a workday or 40 hours in a workweek. If your employer has their own policy for paying workers more for working on a holiday, then you’re in luck. But, in the majority of cases, employers are only required to pay employees at their regular rate of pay under California law.
You may not be able to work on certain federal holidays due to your religion. If this is the case, your employer must provide reasonable accommodations to you for religious observances. Accommodations like these are analyzed on a case by case basis due to the type of business in which you work as well as the accommodation itself.
Say pay day lands on Thursdays. Because Thanksgiving lands on the fourth Thursday of November every year, you may want to double check if you’ll be paid on Friday instead – especially if you plan to hit some of those late-night holiday sales before Black Friday rolls around. So, if you have direct deposit, don’t be surprised if your paycheck doesn’t clear until the day after Thanksgiving, or even the Monday following, depending on where you work.
*When a federal holiday falls on a Saturday, it is usually observed on the preceding Friday. When the holiday falls on a Sunday, it is usually observed on the following Monday.
** December 25, 2016 (the legal public holiday for Christmas Day), falls on a Sunday. For most Federal employees, Monday, December 26, will be treated as a holiday for pay and leave purposes.
***Inauguration Day is an eleventh holiday designated by Congress for observance every four years on January 20 following a U. S. presidential election. It is only observed by government employees in Washington D.C. and the border counties of Maryland and Virginia.
Note: California employment laws are always changing, so it’s important to consult a California employment lawyer if you have more questions about federal holiday and pay laws.