Federal Holiday Pay Laws For Exempt Employees In California: Common Questions

Federal Holiday Pay Laws For Exempt Employees In California: Common Questions
Nov 23, 2016

The joys of the holiday season are quickly approaching, so it’s important for exempt, salaried employees to understand whether their employers are complying with California federal holiday pay laws.

The following article answers common questions regarding federal holiday pay laws specifically for exempt employees in California.

Am I an exempt or non-exempt employee?

First, it is important to figure out whether you are considered an exempt or non-exempt employee. Under California law, employers are not required to provide non-exempt employees with holiday pay if they are given the day off work, or if the business shuts down for the day. And if a non-exempt employee works on a federal holiday in California, the employer need not provide a special premium for work performed that day, other than overtime for working in excess of eight hours per workday or 40 hours per workweek. For this to apply, an employee must meet the following requirements to be classified as an exempt employee in California:

  • You must perform work that is administrative, professional, or executive in nature.
  • You must make at least two times the state minimum wage for full-time employment.
  • You must spend more than half of your work time performing duties that fall under one of these exemptions.
  • You must regularly exercise discretion and independent judgment while performing your exempt duties.

Understanding California Federal Holiday Pay Laws for Exempt Employees

Is it against the law for my employer to make me work on federal holidays?

To put it simply, no. Under California law, a private employer does not have to give you time off for federal holidays if you are an exempt employee. In fact, federal holidays are treated just like any other day of the week. So, even if your friends get the day off work on Christmas Day, this does not mean that your employer has to do the same. Many businesses with exempt employees do decide to close their doors on holidays and give their employees time off work due to the existence of their own internal workplace policies or practices, or pursuant to terms of an employment agreement between the employee and employer, or terms of a collective bargaining agreement.

Is my employer required to pay me for holiday time off?

Under federal and state labor laws, if you are an exempt, salaried employee in California you must be paid your full weekly salary when given a federal holiday off work if you perform your job duties for any amount of hours during the week that the holiday occurs. This means that even if you work just one half day (or even less) during the week that the holiday lands on, your employer is still required to pay you the salary you are accustomed to receiving. Your employer actually risks losing its employees’ exempt statuses if it does not pay employees for holidays when the business is closed.

Is my employer required to pay me during a holiday shutdown?

Sometimes employers in the state of California use holiday shutdowns for Christmas, Thanksgiving and even in the summertime around Independence Day. If you are an exempt employee in California and your employer has a policy in place for mandatory holiday shutdowns, they must pay you for a full week of work if you perform work for any amount of hours during the week in which a holiday shutdown occurs. For example, if your employer shuts down operations for half the week, it must pay you for the full week if you work at all during that week. However, if your employer has a full week of holiday shutdown time, it does not have to pay exempt employees for that period. Your employer may have an internal policy in place that does offer exempt employees pay for a holiday shutdown that lasts a full week. However, this is not required by law.

Does my employer have to give me time off on a federal holiday due to religious reasons?

Your California employer is required under law to provide reasonable accommodations on holidays due to religious reasons. If you are an exempt employee and your religious faith bars you from working on certain federal holidays such as Christmas Day, your employer must provide you the day off work for religious observances unless it creates undue burden on your employer. Because reasonable accommodations are analyzed on a case by case basis, you must be sure that your religious beliefs are sincere and not just an excuse to have the day off since you have relatives in town or for any other reason. That said, if your employer does give you the day off due to your religious beliefs, it is not required under law to pay you for the time you do not work.

Federal Holiday Pay Laws: Additional Information

  • California Legal Holidays – FindLaw.com
  • California Federal Holidays – State of California Department of Industrial Relations
  • Government Code Section 19853 – State of California Department of Industrial Relations
  • Understanding Federal Holiday Pay Laws in California

Holiday pay laws are constantly changing, so it is important to consult one of our experienced California employment attorneys if you have questions regarding holiday pay as an exempt or non-exempt employee. Get a free consultation.

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