Are Employers Required to Give Holiday Pay or Paid Holidays? (2023)

holiday payWhen it comes to holidays, many employers in California and across the country tend to give employees either the day off with pay (“paid holiday”), or give extra pay for hours worked similar to overtime pay (“holiday pay”). The most common paid holidays are:

  • New Year’s Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Easter
  • Independence Day (4th of July)
  • Labor Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Christmas Day

I hate to dim your holiday cheer, but: neither federal law, nor California law, requires employers to give holiday pay or paid holidays. This is true whether you are an exempt salaried or non-exempt hourly paid employee. So if your employer gives holiday pay, that’s great. If not, there isn’t much you can do, legally, about it.

As usual there are exceptions: e.g., if your employer has a holiday pay policy or practice, if holiday pay is promised for in your offer letter or employment agreement, if your union collective bargaining agreement requires holiday pay, etc. In those cases, the employer may be contractually bound to give you holiday pay or paid holidays. If that’s the case and you are being denied holiday pay, you should consider filing a labor board complaint.

By the way, studies have shown that paid time off boosts employee morale and can lead to higher productivity and reduced employee turnover. According to Forbes Magazine:

If employees would take just one additional day of earned leave each year, the result would mean $73 billion in output for the U.S. economy and positive impacts for both employees and businesses.

So if your employer is being a Scrooge about holiday pay, maybe point them to that Forbes article. Or consider looking for a more enlightened employer to work for. Happy Holidays!



  1. Alden on December 28, 2022 at 12:29 am

    Hi. I work in healthcare in a clinic department that is scheduled open M-F. On weekends staff is on-call for emergent cases. When I read meal break policy it usually refers to a “workday” when discussing policy. Is an on-call shift on the weekend considered a “workday” when staff is not there except for a call team? I’m trying to determine if typical meal/rest break policy applies in an on-call situation. Also, when called in for emergent cases, my manager is asking that we take a meal break between cases to avoid a missed meal. There is no one to relieve us in this situation, but we are asked to tell the physician that we need to delay patient care while we take a break so we avoid a missed meal penalty. This weekend we were on our second case when we realized we missed our meal break. We alerted our manager (offsite) and he replied we will not be paid a missed meal as we voluntarily chose not to take a meal break. I’d like to know how the laws apply in situations where staff is not scheduled but on-call and there is never a relief team available.

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