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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.

  2. Jane Doe
    Jane Doe November 24, 2019

    I work for a private for profit organization. I was told they don’t pay holiday pay which is fine…but SOME get paid holiday pay (they have been there since the open and are “grandfathered” in ) (grandfathered to WHAT??). Is that legal? Can a corporation decide who gets paid and who doesn’t?

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers November 27, 2019

      Technically the FLSA does not have regulations regarding Holiday Pay, therefore, choosing to pay employees holiday pay is entirely up to the agreement from your employer. I would suggest speaking with your supervisor if you have concerns.

      • B
        B November 30, 2019

        I thought there used to be laws in place that did require holiday pay, but like many laws it had a time limit on it and wasn’t renewed. Yes? No?

        • Lindsay Sommers
          Lindsay Sommers December 2, 2019

          The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not have any requirement for holiday or vacation pay– that is an agreement between the employee and employer. If an employee works a holiday, it’s seen in the federal government’s eyes as a normal day. There are only certain situations where an employee has holiday pay protections. According to the FLSA, an employee may get holiday benefits when they are: “On a government contract to which the labor standards of the McNamara O’Hara Service Contract Act (SCA) apply, holiday and/or vacation fringe benefit requirements are stated in the SCA wage determinations in contracts that exceed $2,500. Or on a government contract to which the labor standards of the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts apply, holiday pay and/or vacation pay is required for specific classifications of workers only if the Davis-Bacon wage determination in the covered contract specifies such requirements for workers employed in those classifications.”

  3. Jesus Gonzales
    Jesus Gonzales December 6, 2019

    If I worked a Holiday & I get $12.50/HR how much should I get paid if I got paid Holiday Pay???? I received the same hourly pay $12.50 to be away from my family…. Why isn’t there a law requiring Employers to pay there Employee’s for there time away from there family on Holidays that they should be spent with there loved ones????

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers December 6, 2019

      Hi Jesus, I see your concerns, but there are no laws requiring employers to pay employees holiday pay. In fact, the federal government does not have any laws for vacation time, holiday time, or sick time. That’s usually dependent on your state’s policy or is an agreement upon an employer and employee. Getting holiday pay is typically a perk.

    • Liz
      Liz December 10, 2019

      If you’re not working the holiday you just get paid your normal wage an hour if you worked on the day then that’s up to your business. Not everyone does time in a half or double time on a holiday. Heck soon that won’t even exist anymore

  4. Sia
    Sia December 10, 2019

    An employee works Fri-Sun, 12 hours each day (36 hrs total) as her regular schedule. A holiday lands on a Thursday – does the employee get compensated for the holiday although she was never scheduled to work that day?

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers December 11, 2019

      The federal law does not require employers to compensate employees with holiday pay. If this employee is hourly and doesn’t get holiday pay, then you only have to pay the employee for the hours they worked (following federal minimum wage and overtime rules). If you have a company policy where you pay employees for holidays even when they’re not working, then you should compensate the employee accordingly.

  5. Keith
    Keith December 11, 2019

    If I am already into my overtime pay (over 40 hrs) and work a holiday for which I receive holiday pay (time and a half), does that mean I will get triple pay for that holiday? Or is it gonna be no different then if I was just working a regular day because I was already on overtime pay (over 40 hrs at time and a half) for that day any way?

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers December 16, 2019

      Hi Keith, that will actually be entirely up to your work policy and your employer. You may want to ask your supervisor or HR department to clear this up for you

  6. Joanna
    Joanna December 24, 2019

    Does time and a half fall into the following day if you work graveyard?

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers December 24, 2019

      This will actually be entirely dependent on when your workweek and workdays start and end. Your employer or HR department would know more about your specific policy.

  7. Payrick
    Payrick December 31, 2019

    My kids work for a company that survives on federally funded money. Can they not contest the holiday pay they will not receive? Just overtime?

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers January 7, 2020

      Holiday pay is not required by law, therefore they cannot necessarily contest to the fact that they’re not getting holiday pay. The law solely requires employers to pay employees at least minimum wage and proper overtime.

  8. Koreen
    Koreen January 13, 2020

    When a private business is going on their vacation do they have to still pay the employees

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers January 14, 2020

      That would be entirely up to the agreement from the employee and employer. Some businesses pay their employees, even when they are not working; others do not follow the same guidelines.

  9. Trina Webb
    Trina Webb January 29, 2020

    I am a public employee (I work for the Courts) and I know we play by different rules when it comes to federal holidays and pay. Our county commissioners are making an amendment to our county policy that will deny holiday pay to any employee (full time and on active status) that takes a vacation day before or after the holiday. Is this permissible under State of Ohio law? I can find where public employees are entitled to federal holiday pay and the list of holidays for which they are to be paid. But I cannot find anything that allows for restrictions or exceptions to this rule. Our county employees are in a state of panic (of course, we are so spoiled 🙂 ) and have turned to me for answers and I am not able to find anything definitive. Please help! Thanks!

    • timesheets_blog
      timesheets_blog February 5, 2020

      This would be a good question for a labor attorney in your state. Since the state has access to lawyers, it’s a pretty good bet they asked first, but worth verifying anyway.

  10. Ryan H
    Ryan H March 6, 2020

    If the company you’re employed with, had an employee handbook defining the specific holidays that they say “these are recognized as paid holidays”, does that bind them to pay holiday pay for the days listed in thier handbook?

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers March 18, 2020

      Holiday pay is dependent on how your employer defines holiday pay and what specific terms they offered. I would suggest that you speak with your HR representative to clear things up. If it turns out that your employer breached your handbook/contract, then you might be entitled to submitting a wage violation.

  11. Stacy Murphy
    Stacy Murphy May 22, 2020

    We have a private owned commercial cleaning company in Louisiana and if our employees have to work on a holiday they are paid time and half. My full time employees are requesting holiday pay even if the building they clean is closed on the holiday. Is this required of my business to pay straight time even if they are not working on actual holiday day??

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers May 22, 2020

      Employers are not required by law to provide holiday pay for employees. In fact, the FLSA only requires that you pay your employees for the hours they work along with any overtime they earned. If you have concerns about your company time off policies, I suggest speaking with an HR professional

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