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Three Surprising Facts About Holiday Pay

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When it comes to holiday pay, Scrooge would love today’s wage and salary laws. As far as federal law is concerned, Christmas, New Year’s Day and even Labor Day are just regular days of the week if they fall on a day on which you are scheduled to work. If your employer gives you Christmas Day off, chances are you are not entitled to holiday pay. Here are three facts about holiday pay that might surprise you.

Working on a holiday: the plight of the non-exempt worker

Hourly workers or, as they are officially and legally known, non-exempt employees, are not entitled to any additional pay for working on a holiday as long as it is part of the 40 hours they work that week. The law requires employers to pay you overtime for each hour you work in excess of 40 hours a week.

Unfortunately, if Christmas Day is a regularly schedule workday for you, your employer is not required to pay you extra for working on a holiday. Some employers give their workers the day off on certain holidays and, sorry Mr. Scrooge, pay them for the day. Keep in mind that if the company you work for is one of those paying holiday pay, its owners are not doing so because of any legal obligation to do so. They are simply being nice employers.

Christmas parties and religious beliefs can turn the tables on holiday pay rules

So, you are a non-exempt worker and your employer gives you Christmas Day off without pay. As you now realize, there isn’t much you can do about it. However, if the company holiday party is an event that you are required to attend, the law treats it as a workday for which you must be paid.

You religion might not allow you to work on certain holidays. If it is truly a religious belief and your absence will not cause a burden to your employer, then you would have the right to take the day off. Don’t count on getting paid for the holiday unless your employer has a company policy in place of paying its workers holiday pay.

Different rules apply to exempt workers

Salaried employees are considered to be exempt from the rules that generally apply to hourly workers. Since you are not paid based upon the hours you work, your employer cannot deduct anything from your check if your employer closes on a holiday. On the other hand, if you work on a holiday when other employees are off, you might earn the thanks and gratitude of your boss, but don’t think that working on the holiday entitles you to receive holiday pay.

Whether you are an exempt employee or non-exempt, the presence of a union could change the rules about holiday pay. Collective bargaining agreements negotiated by unions could affect your entitlement to holiday pay. The best recourse if you are a union member with questions about payroll issues is to speak with your union representative.


This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. The Law Dictionary is not a law firm, and this page does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

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