Ho, Ho, Hold My Pay? Paid Holidays not Guaranteed by Law

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on December 24, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Can't wait for the holidays? Time to spend with your family can be a real treat, but don't expect the law to ensure that you get holiday pay. Although many of us have come to expect to have holidays such as Christmas and New Year, or even those festive favorites President's Day or Memorial Day off with pay, under state and federal labor law, its more like time off for good behavior.

Under federal law, there is no requirement that employers give employees holidays off with pay. Except for companies serving certain government contracts, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), does not require pay for time not worked. Even Christmas. Under most state laws, the same rules apply. For example, under California law, most employers would be likely to be closed major holidays such as Christmas or New Year's Day, but there is no specific law that requires a paid break. Such benefits are part of the private agreement between the employer and employee.

Overtime pay works much the same. Employers are required by law to pay an overtime rate for hours worked over the 40 hour standard work week. However, unless your agreement with your employer specifically guarantees a special holiday rate, do not expect an extra amount to be paid as a matter of state law. 

Worried that you won't get Christmas off at all? No need to check if your boss's Grinch fingers are nervously drumming. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, an employer must give reasonable accommodation the religious beliefs of an employee unless it would cause the employer undue hardship. However, back to the above issue, reasonable accommodation means time off, not a paid holiday. So, you can most likely count on a little time off for the holiday. Just don't expect your employer to pay for your holiday out of the goodness of his two sizes too small heart. Maybe next year.

Happy Holidays.

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