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Is Holiday Pay Required by Law?


When holidays roll around, employers start thinking about how much to pay their employees and whether holiday pay is mandatory at all.

The Federally Recognized Holidays

  • New Year’s Day
  • Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Washington’s Birthday
  • Memorial Day
  • Independence Day (4th of July)
  • Labor Day
  • Columbus Day
  • Veterans Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Christmas Day

Many companies offer 5 to 10 of these holidays paid per year. But the custom has left many employers unclear on whether holiday pay is actually a requirement or just a preference.

Holiday Pay Is Not Mandatory

It is a common misconception that the Federal government requires businesses to pay employees extra for holidays. There is no state or Federal law requiring private employers to pay employees extra for working on a holidays, nor is there any law requiring employers to give employees paid time off for holidays. Federal employees, however, do get paid holidays.

Many employers offer time and a half as incentive to work on holidays but that’s just a custom, not a law.

Paid Holidays Do Not Factor In to Overtime Calculations

An employee can earn holiday pay and overtime in the same week only if the employee spends more than 40 hours doing actual “work”. (In California, overtime is paid by day.) As an example, let’s say the employee puts in 36 hours during a holiday week and gets 8 hours holiday pay. That holiday pay does not figure into the overtime calculation. The payroll would look like this: 36 “regular” hours and 8 “holiday” hours at the the regular rate. This would not be 40 hours regular and 4 hours of overtime.

Other types of non-working pay include sick, vacation, bereavement, jury duty, ect., which are treated similarly with regard to overtime.

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  1. Mira Porter
    Mira Porter September 27, 2019

    Not looking for extra pay for holidays.
    An employer refuses to pay any amount, not even regular pay, to employees working on a holiday. Is that legal?

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers October 3, 2019

      The FLSA requires employers to pay employees for all hours worked. Your employer needs to pay you for all hours worked with any overtime you’ve earned.

    • Jen Prenier
      Jen Prenier November 19, 2019

      If your salaried, they don’t have to pay anything extra. If you are hourly then it is illegal for them not to pay for hours worked no matter what day of the year it is.

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