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Are Employers Required to Give Holiday Pay or Paid Holidays? (2018)

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!

 

63 Comments

  1. Henry Mitchell on August 17, 2018 at 10:55 am

    If I work from 10:00AM to 4:00PM do I have to clock out for a meal time?

    • Eugene Lee on August 17, 2018 at 12:40 pm

      Since you worked 6 hours, unless you signed a meal break waiver, you would be entitled to one unpaid 30-minute meal break. But if you choose to skip the lunch break and your employer is okay with that, then you can skip the meal break.

  2. K. Hill on August 9, 2018 at 2:55 pm

    1. I have one full time employee. I pay him a salary of $500 week. He works about 38 hours a week. I also give him a monthly bonus. The bonus is on a scale depending on productivity. The bonuses range between $2,500-$4,000 per month. I also give him paid days off, usually 2 per month. Do I need to pay additional tax or reporting for the paid days off?

    2. Am I in compliance with the salary I am giving him (exempt status)?

    3. Lastly, I will be gone for a total of 12 days. My employee wants to work everyday while I am gone. Do I need to pay him more for working 12 days in a row? I usually do pay him extra for working so many days in a row. I just want to make sure I am compliant with California Labor Laws.

    Thank you

    • Eugene Lee on August 10, 2018 at 11:43 pm

      Unfortunately, your questions require very complex analysis that is far beyond what I can do in this comment section. I strongly recommend you retain a employer-side lawyer. It will help you avoid very costly lawsuits down the road.

  3. Kaz on July 30, 2018 at 7:45 am

    I work for a company that offer me 128 hours of PTO time but you have to use This time for holiday pay when the facility is shut down. This also your vacation time and sick. I never experienced this before is this legal.

    • Eugene Lee on August 2, 2018 at 12:37 pm

      It is legal – as long as the PTO policy is established, and the company follows it consistently. Remember, an employer is not required to give employees paid vacation or PTO (although employees must receive at least 3 days of paid sick leave per year). However, if the employer offers it, then the employer must follow its own policies, and must not disfavor employees for retaliation/discrimination/harassment reasons.

  4. Jessica L. on July 18, 2018 at 3:42 pm

    I have a question regarding an employee who went part-time on July 1st, her email signature even states starting July first she only works Mondays and Tuesdays. And she is leaving for good the 31st. She has been with the company for just over 2 years. I believe she gave her 2 weeks notice to go to part-time on June 20th. Here is her question:
    “My last day of full time employment was July 4 however I did not receive Holiday pay for that day. It just worked out that that was 2 weeks from my date of notice. I’m not sure if maybe your last day falls on a holiday then it’s not paid?”

    • Eugene Lee on August 2, 2018 at 12:40 pm

      Although California law does not require employers to give holiday pay, employer can choose to give it. If they do, they must consistently follow their own holiday pay policy (and not disfavor certain employees because of retaliation/discrimination/harassment). In your case, that is a question that can only be answered by consulting the employer’s vacation policy. Hopefully, the employer has a written policy that is clearly written and comprehensive enough to cover your situation.

  5. Tim Sullivan on June 15, 2018 at 4:49 pm

    If I worked Memorial Day and my company pays time and a half, can they take back the time and a half if I have a sick day in that same pay period?

    • Eugene Lee on August 2, 2018 at 12:41 pm

      That completely depends on what your employer’s holiday policy says (assuming the employer has one). However, it sounds like your employer *may* be punishing you unfairly for taking a sick day, and is departing from its own holiday policy. If that is the case, you may have a case for paid sick leave retaliation. If you want to discuss it further, please give us a call at (213) 992-3299.

  6. Adriana Garay on June 13, 2018 at 8:28 pm

    As of today, the company I work for is making its employees take a day off during the week they work a holiday. For example, I work Sunday through Thursday. If I’m working the holiday on Wednesday July 4th, I will be forced to take an extra day off that week. Even though I normally work Wednesday’s. The company DOES pay holiday pay. But is it legal to FORCE employees to take an extra day off if they work the holiday? When it lands on there normal work day?

    • Eugene Lee on August 2, 2018 at 12:44 pm

      Yes, unless there’s a written policy, agreement, collective bargaining agreement, or email/text/offer letter that says otherwise. California is an at-will employment state. That means the employer is free to change the terms of employment or fire people at any time, and doesn’t need a reason to do it. In your case, the employer is exercising its right to set the work schedule during holidays. Of course, it would be illegal to do that if the employer were doing that only to you, and the reason for singling you out is retaliatory / discriminatory / harassing. If the latter is the case, you should consider filing a
      labor board complaint

  7. Beckie Wilbur on June 6, 2018 at 8:34 pm

    I am due for two weeks vacation on Aug 13 and my employer says that I our company only pays one weeks until after 5 years. I asked for handbook and owner can not find it. What do I do? I have had to fight for sick days and to see thhow handbook. I have an email in which th owner states she will pay me 2 weeks vacation after 3 years.

    • Eugene Lee on August 2, 2018 at 12:46 pm

      I think you need to try to get a current copy of the handbook and see what it says. The email you mention could be critical and in your favor. However, most employers reserve to themselves the right to change policies at any time without notice to the employee. So you might need to carefully review the handbook once you are able to get a copy. If it appears your employer is failing to follow its own handbook or policies, you may have a claim for breach of contract against the employer.

  8. Jennifer SC on May 23, 2018 at 2:52 pm

    I gave two weeks notice and am salaried and my last day of work was to be Memorial Day. This was accepted by my manager via email and our HR coordinator scheduled my exit interview on the holiday until today and said my last day would be Friday and I would not be paid for Monday.

    What gives? I earned the day off?

    Thank you for your replies in advance btw

    • Eugene Lee on May 23, 2018 at 10:50 pm

      I think you quit but your employer then preempted that by discharging you. So ultimately, you were discharged. Since California is an at-will state, the employer has the right to do that – fire you at any time for any reason (so long as it isn’t an illegal reason like discrimination or retaliation).

      • Jennifer SC on May 24, 2018 at 9:10 am

        So you are saying that they fired me? Should I ask for a copy of my employment file?

  9. Joshua on May 18, 2018 at 12:07 pm

    Can you get fired for texting about work on your day off and than in your conversation tell someone ill beat your ass. Even if you and the other employee resolved the issue on our own. And i mean i got fired a month after the text. And was told that because it was a threat at work i was let go. Again it was on my day off…

  10. Gene on May 12, 2018 at 10:28 pm

    I have a question . If your employer don’t pay for holidays to a techs in the field BUT the office gets paid holiday pay, paid time off (PTO) and vacation pay . Is this normal ? For office to get paid holidays but the techs out in the field are denied?

    • Eugene Lee on May 13, 2018 at 9:18 am

      I can’t answer if that normal for your particular industry. However, I can answer from a legal standpoint that California is an at will employment state, and that means the employer has discretion to set and change pay and other terms and conditions as they see fit – as long as it is not discriminatory (race, gender, national origin, skin color, sex orientation, etc.) or retaliatory.

  11. Christine on April 24, 2018 at 3:30 pm

    I have been working 30/hrs/wk and considered a full time employee. My rehab company lost the contract of the facility I am currently working for. I have talked to my director about changing my status as per diem and wrote a letter requesting a change if status 3 days after the announcement to the staff. I was just informed of losing the contract but not the information about getting a severance pay. I told my director that since the company will be giving a severance package,I would be working till the closeout. I have requested information in writing about the guidelines of eligibility and the company finally spoke to us 2 weeks after the announcement of the closeout and after the meeting I’ve texted our regional manager that I will keep my full time status instead and work till the closeout.
    Now, the company is saying that they will accept my resignation letter and there won’t be any per diem status that is open. I didn’t resign in my letter but just a change of status request. And all of a sudden they want to terminate my employment saying that I’ve written my resignation so that I won’t get a severance package. Just days before the phone patch meeting, my director asked me to work part time instead of per diem hours which I replied will let her know my decision after the meeting.
    Is this grounds for discrimination?

    • Eugene Lee on April 29, 2018 at 7:17 pm

      That is a pretty complicated fact pattern. I would recommend you consult a lawyer. Most lawyers offer free initial consultations that are confidential.

  12. Enrique arballo on April 20, 2018 at 1:14 pm

    I have worked for my employer for 16 years on march 2017 i went on short term disability due to a workplace injury after 6 months i went onlong term disability i have being shorted on my check more times than not also my W2 form had the wrong amounts after asking them to fix it they sent me one for the wrong year now after tax deadline past i still have not received one what can i do

    • Eugene Lee on April 20, 2018 at 3:22 pm

      If you’ve been shorted on your paychecks, that constitutes unpaid wages. You should consider filing a labor board claim. As for the incorrect W2s, you speak with a tax professional about that. You may need to contact the IRS as well.

  13. Me on April 1, 2018 at 11:14 am

    I work for a well known non profit company. Ever since i made a complaint about my coworker sexually harrassing me it seems im being singled out and my work and schedule is being sabatoged. I close at night to come back to a disaster or my schedule will be the worst working 6 days a week with minimum overtime. I brought the harrassment up to my sup. And was moved and now treated very poorly.i feel like im being forced to quit but i really use to enjoy my job. How do i prove im being harrassed and treated unfairly.

    • Eugene Lee on April 11, 2018 at 3:05 pm

      Make sure to do everything in writing. You should consider making a written complaint to your supervisor, or to HR. Take a look at your employee manual to see if there is a complaint procedure at your company, then try to follow it.

  14. Traci on March 16, 2018 at 10:20 am

    So.I work 10 12 hour days five days a week been there for over two years and they say im.not entitled to vacation pay I.wont to quit my job cause of this so fustrating I dont call in come.in when needed and no paid time off feel like a slave to bk

    • Eugene Lee on April 18, 2018 at 9:14 pm

      Unfortunately, California labor laws do not require employers to give employees vacation pay. It’s up to each employer whether to offer vacation pay at all. Studies have shown that paid vacations actually improve worker productivity, so you might want to consider showing some of those studies to your boss!

  15. Arnaldo on February 3, 2018 at 11:05 am

    Can an employer require you to work 24/7? Also, does an employer need to provide a work schedule with days and hours and provide a day off?

    • Eugene Lee on April 18, 2018 at 9:16 pm

      Employers are required to give employees 1 day of rest in 7. However, the catch is, the employer gets to define what a workweek is, whether it’s Sunday to Saturday, or Monday to Sunday, etc. As long as you get at least 1 day off anywhere in an employer-defined workweek, that is legal. Of course, this means an employer could have you work 12 days in a row, as long as you get a day off on either side of the 12 days. Pretty harsh, but that was the ruling of the California Supreme Court.

  16. Arnaldo on February 3, 2018 at 11:02 am

    I am a salary employee that travels around in my own vehicle as required for job. I receive .26 a mile. I am being told that I need to pay for my own fuel and insurance. When I was hired I was told that the .26 a mile is for ware and tear of my car. My question is, is this legit and legal in California?

    • Eugene Lee on April 18, 2018 at 9:18 pm

      I think I can safely say, “NO!”

      You should be getting the federal mileage reimbursement rate. That changes each year. In 2018, it is 54.5 cents per mile. So your employer’s 26 cents per mile rate violates the law. You should consider filing a labor board complaint.

  17. Stacy on February 2, 2018 at 2:28 pm

    Hi, this is a follow up to my last comment.
    My employer never gives me a 10 minute break, I usually am scheduled for a 5 hour shift. When I had a conversation with her about breaks, my boss told me that no one has ever taken 10 minute breaks. My boss said that I can take one if I need it and stated that if I did choose to take a 10 minute break it would be a first. Furthermore my boss added that not everyone can be a “worker” like herself and she would never tell anyone to go take a 10 minute break as she could work 8 hours straight without a break.
    I told her it wasn’t about being a hard worker, but that she was breaking the law by not allowing 10 minute breaks.
    She said she is well aware of what the law is and that I am free to take a break if needed. She stated, “we’re all adults here and we take care of our needs”, such as getting a drink of water or using the restroom but if I took an official 10 minute break that in my absence it would “put pressure on the rest of the employees.”

    So even though I was told I am free to take a 10 minute break if I needed, I felt strongly discouraged to do so.

    The next day after working 5 1/2 hours straight at work, I was flat out denied a 10 minute break when I said I needed one. I was told it was too busy. Once we were closed and cleaning up, I was then told by the person in charge that I could either help clean up so we could get out faster or I could go take that 10 minute break.

    I know what is happening is wrong, I just don’t know how to handle it.
    How do I get my employer to pay me for the breaks I’m denied?

    • Eugene Lee on April 18, 2018 at 9:20 pm

      I think you’ve already tried persuasion and that hasn’t worked. So your next step is to file a labor board complaint. If your employer punishes you for filing the complaint, such as by demoting you, cutting your pay, cutting your hours, suspending you, or even firing you, then that would constitute illegal retaliation. You would then need to file a retaliation complaint with the labor board.

  18. Stacy on February 2, 2018 at 2:26 pm

    Hi. If I am scheduled to work a 5 hour shift and either
    1. My boss requires me to be at work 15 minutes early, I clock in for that prep time but my boss doesn’t ever give me a lunch break. Is that breaking the law?
    2. I am scheduled to work a 5 hour shift, I clock in at my scheduled time but I always work later than my scheduled 5 hours due to overflow of customers and/or cleaning up duties. I never get a lunch break. Is my employer breaking the law?

    • Eugene Lee on April 18, 2018 at 9:21 pm

      Stacy,
      1. Yes, that’s breaking the law, if you work *over* 5 hours, e.g., 5 hours and 1 minute.
      2. See above. The answer is yes, since you work over 5 hours.

  19. Andy on January 19, 2018 at 8:50 pm

    Can a company that does pay overtime for holidays not pay you the overtime when you worked because you were sick the day after and with a Doctors note?

    • Eugene Lee on April 18, 2018 at 9:23 pm

      That depends on what the paid holiday policy of your employer says. However, that sounds very much like paid sick leave retaliation. You should consider filing a labor board complaint for retaliation (and potentially unpaid holiday pay depending on whether the employer is violating its own policy).

  20. Jennifer rogers on January 17, 2018 at 12:22 pm

    My employee policy is christmas is a paid holiday. I quit on 12/30 . And they are refusing to pay me for christmas. It is a company policy. Managers get paid.

    • Eugene Lee on April 18, 2018 at 9:24 pm

      Please consult your employer’s paid holiday policy and see what it says about your situation. The employer must follow its own policy, of course. If it isn’t, you would likely have a claim for unpaid holiday pay, in which case you should file a labor board complaint.

  21. Mc on January 10, 2018 at 2:06 am

    I want to know if a company can stop your shift at midnight and then start a new shift for the following day? I worked 0500 until 0325 the next day but to avoid double time pay they cut the shift off at midnight. Paid me 3 hours 25 mins for next day????

    • Eugene Lee on April 18, 2018 at 9:25 pm

      Yes, the employer can absolutely do that. The employer has the right the set when each work day starts and ends. Of course, the employer has to be consistent about it. They can’t change the cutoff from midnight to noon and then back again.

  22. Phil Ruloph on January 6, 2018 at 8:39 pm

    What is the guidelines or laws pertaining to driving a company vehicle. Which I take home every day. Example I leave my house at 6:15 every morning after 45 minutes of travel, I start getting paid. Whether my first job location is an hour and a half from my house. Should I get the consideration if my last job was two hours from my house. Or should I get paid all the way home?? Secondly correct me if I am wrong, but if I have an accident while in the company vehicle I am covered by their insurance, like I was still on the clock. Please clarify for me. Thanks

    • Eugene Lee on April 18, 2018 at 9:27 pm

      1. I think your employer is deducting 45 minutes as typical commute time, which they are allowed to do, assuming 45 minutes is a reasonable estimate of what your typical commute time to your employer’s main office would be.

      2. If you get into an accident while performing work for your employer, then your employer is liable and must “indemnify” you for the costs you incur relating to the accident. That is called “respondeat superior”, also referred to as “vicarious liability”. If that’s not happening, you should consider filing a labor board complaint.

  23. Gary Baldees on December 28, 2017 at 2:22 pm

    DO EMPLOYERS HAVE TO PAY DOUBLE TIME ON HOLIDAYS IF YOU WORK AND THEY CHARGE THE.CUSTOMER DOUBLE TIME.

    • Eugene Lee on December 31, 2017 at 7:19 am

      No they don’t, unfortunately. As far as California labor laws are concerned, a holiday is just another workday, no different in any way — unless the employer has a vacation pay policy that says otherwise (or there’s a union agreement, etc).

  24. Robert Iglesia on December 25, 2017 at 6:36 pm

    If an employer ask you to work on a Christmas holiday, shouldn’t that suppose to be double pay overtime?

    • Eugene Lee on December 26, 2017 at 9:57 am

      The law does not require it. Although good business practices probably favor giving holiday pay.

  25. Robyn Gorham on December 20, 2017 at 12:02 am

    I got a week’s vacation last year in Jan..now my company isn’t sure they are going to do vacation pay anymore..can they do that? And if they give it to one employer shouldn’t it be fair to give it to another?

    • Eugene Lee on December 21, 2017 at 1:51 pm

      California labor law does not require employers to give employees paid vacation. However if an employer chooses to give it, then the employer must comply with it’s own vacation policies and cannot be discriminatory or retaliatory when giving it. If you are singled out because of your race, gender, skin color, religion, etc, that would be illegal.

  26. Roberto on December 15, 2017 at 11:14 pm

    My employer gives me a yearly evaluation of 86 cents but only gives me cost of living which is 25cents is this wrong?

    • Eugene Lee on December 26, 2017 at 7:57 pm

      As long as they are paying you over minimum wage (and assuming you aren’t being treated as an exempt employee), they aren’t breaking the law. The problem, of course, is that minimum wage has not been keeping up with inflation. So the true value of minimum wage has actually been decreasing since 1968, when it last peaked. Had minimum wage kept up with inflation, it would be at $21.72 per hour today. See https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/13/minimum-wage-productivity_n_2680639.html

  27. Gould & Hahn on December 13, 2017 at 2:04 pm

    This should be up to the company. Some people dont even celebrate holidays so again this shouldn’t be regulated by law. That is like regulating religion almost.

    • Eugene Lee on December 26, 2017 at 7:58 pm

      California’s legislature reached the same conclusion.

  28. T on December 5, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    Can a employer pay you two different checks in a pay period to avoid over time hours?

    • Eugene Lee on December 5, 2017 at 3:32 pm

      No, that’s a blatant violation of the wage laws and wage theft. You should consider filing a labor board claim

  29. Jessica on December 3, 2017 at 7:28 pm

    If my employer offers holiday pay to other employees can they deny me holiday pay? Also in the past I have received holiday pay can they stop giving it to me and continue to give it to other employees.

    • Eugene Lee on December 3, 2017 at 8:06 pm

      That is a simple question, but the analysis is actually pretty complicated. For one thing, holiday pay is not required by law, but is discretionary by the employer. You need to confirm what the employer’s holiday pay policy is. It’s not just what’s written in the employee manual, it’s also the employer’s “practice”, meaning what the employer has actually done over the years regarding holiday pay. The holiday pay policy and/or practice is regarded as a “contract” between the employee and the employer. The employer is required to comply with that holiday pay policy and/or practice.

      The second issue is, WHY are you not getting holiday pay? Are you being singled out and why? If you are being singled out because of a protected characteristic (like your gender, religion, physical or mental disability, medical condition, skin color, etc.), then the failure to give you holiday pay could be a form of discrimination and/or harassment. It could also be retaliation if you are being punished for taking a medical leave, blowing the whistle on illegal conduct, complaining of illegal conduct, etc.

      So a simple question, but the answer is actually very complicated as you can see.

  30. Cindy Schroeder on November 21, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    Can an employer change your position and reduce your pay because they hired another person and flat out said they can’t afford to pay both of us? Also moved me from my desk to a counter for the other person to have my desk. Took one responsibility from me but added another. My main manager has been treating me like garbage ever since I started and I have no clue why. He makes me feel so incompetent when I have been working in this industry longer than him. He has only worked for one company…and that is because the owner and him have been friends for 30 years. He treats the new person wonderfully. He is training her whereas I got no training.I’ve been here over a year and I came from a competitor. I left that job of 7 years for this one.I have worked at allot of companies but this one is very odd.
    Thank you

    • Eugene Lee on December 1, 2017 at 5:40 pm

      The employer can do all of those things and more and it’s normally legal. But the question you have to ask is: why is this being done to you? If you are in fact being singled out based on a “protected characteristic”, such as your race, gender, sex orientation, marital status, religion, skin color, national origin, etc. or in retaliation for a “protected act”, then all of the things you mentioned become discrimination, harassment and/or retaliatory. I suspect you need to do a little investigation. If you determine you are being illegally singled out, the next question becomes: do you have the witnesses or documents to prove it.

  31. Olivia Contreras cervantez on November 21, 2017 at 11:23 am

    Im a hskpr for the Rodeway Inn hotel in Colton CA.
    Can my Emplyr threaten me everyday harass me ecrydy bcse they dnt want to pay overtime but sometimes it takes longer to finish cleaning the rooms so we go over the 8hrs a day but not everyday just like one or two days a week so they get mad Cse they have to pay us so they threaten us that there gonna take our days away is that possible or is it legal

  32. 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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