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What You Don’t Know About Labor Laws: Most Workers Don’t Receive Holiday Pay


With the holiday season upon us, many business are extending their hours. While this is convenient for shoppers and provides some otherwise unemployed workers with seasonal employment, it also comes with longer hours and sometimes extremely inconvenient hours for workers. Some jobs, unfortunately, must be performed on holidays, like those of emergency room doctors, prison guards, and firefighters.

However, each year more retail and other non-emergency/security workers find themselves working the holidays. Many assume these workers are receiving overtime wages for working on days like Thanksgiving or Christmas. Unfortunately, that is often not the case.


(Photo Credit: tobi_digital/Flickr)

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Federal Law on Holiday Pay

The main federal law that deals with wages is the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA is the law that requires employers to pay a minimum wage, sets the 40-hour work week, and requires overtime pay for certain workers who are required to work more than 40 hours a week. If a federal law were to require any sort of special holiday pay, the FLSA would be it. Instead, it leaves decisions about holiday pay to individual employers. So while some employers may pay overtime rates for those stuck working a holiday and some may even provide workers with a paid day off, employers are not required to do this. Government employees do receive certain days off according to federal or state statutes and what government agency for which they work, but private sector employees have no such protections.

Some Lawmakers Are Trying to Solve this Problem

Fortune reports that state lawmakers in both California and Ohio are making efforts to provide some sort of special holiday pay for those required to work on holidays. The effort in California, proposed by Assemblyperson Lorena Gonzalez, would guarantee double-time pay for both part-time and full-time workers required to work on Christmas or Thanksgiving. Employees of both small and large businesses would be covered.

Representative Mike Foley in Ohio has proposed a plan that goes even further. Under his bill, stores would be required to pay triple an employee’s normal wage if an employee is required to work on Thanksgiving. In light of recent trends that have pushed Black Friday into being more of a Black Thanksgiving Afternoon, this proposal could be a massive windfall for workers stuck working the holiday. Other states like Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island are relying on their blue codes to discourage retailers from forcing people to work Thanksgiving. These blue codes, which, just like bans on alcohol sales on Sundays, were designed originally to drive citizens to church, prohibit stores from being open on certain holidays.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you know someone who has been forced to work on a major holiday? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Daniel Kalish
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Steven arnold
Steven arnold

I am an exempt employee with the state of Texas . We are given off two weeks at Christmas every year with pie we have two energy conservation days in there and we must use our own time to cover those two days we are given off two weeks at Christmas every year with pie we have two energy conservation days in there and we must use our own time to cover those two days From my vacation time to… Read more »

Jeff Bridges
Jeff Bridges

One difficult thing about labor laws and holiday pay is that not everybody celebrates the same holidays. It seems like it’s generally easier to leave that option up to the employer rather than to mandate it. Like you mentioned, some careers require you to work those days regardless.

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