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Are Employers Required to Give Holiday Pay or Paid Holidays? (2017)

holiday payWhen it comes to holidays, many employers in California and across the country tend to give employees either the day off with pay (“paid holiday”), or give extra pay for hours worked similar to overtime pay (“holiday pay”). The most common paid holidays are:

  • New Year’s Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Easter
  • Independence Day (4th of July)
  • Labor Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Christmas Day

I hate to dim your holiday cheer, but: neither federal law, nor California law, requires employers to give holiday pay or paid holidays. This is true whether you are an exempt salaried or non-exempt hourly paid employee. So if your employer gives holiday pay, that’s great. If not, there isn’t much you can do, legally, about it.

As usual there are exceptions: e.g., if your employer has a holiday pay policy or practice, if holiday pay is promised for in your offer letter or employment agreement, if your union collective bargaining agreement requires holiday pay, etc. In those cases, the employer may be contractually bound to give you holiday pay or paid holidays. If that’s the case and you are being denied holiday pay, you should consider filing a labor board complaint.

By the way, studies have shown that paid time off boosts employee morale and can lead to higher productivity and reduced employee turnover. According to Forbes Magazine:

If employees would take just one additional day of earned leave each year, the result would mean $73 billion in output for the U.S. economy and positive impacts for both employees and businesses.

So if your employer is being a Scrooge about holiday pay, maybe point them to that Forbes article. Or consider looking for a more enlightened employer to work for. Happy Holidays!



  1. Cindy Dapice on November 9, 2017 at 1:19 pm

    Can an employer change your vacation rollover date without notice? The staff rollover date has been October 1, so without any notice , it was changed to January 1 . Is this legal?

    • Eugene Lee on November 9, 2017 at 1:22 pm

      Vacations are not legally required in California. However, employers are free to offer paid vacation if they want to. If they do, they must comply with their own vacation policies and promises. So the answer is: it depends on what is written in your employer’s vacation policy or what your employer’s policy otherwise was. Note, most employers usually include language that they reserve the right to change a policy at any time without notice to employees. You’ll want to look for that language as well.

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