Are Employers Required to Give Holiday Pay or Paid Holidays? (2024)

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. CR on July 10, 2024 at 10:49 am

    I recently started a new job a new months ago and was told we are given commission for sales we close and also certain holidays (including the 4th of July are paid). I have not been pair any additional for working memorial day, the 4th of July, or any of my commissions for my sales. I was to check if this is legal?

  2. Janet Keene on June 18, 2024 at 1:36 pm

    This article is misleading when it comes to exempt employees. While it’s true that holiday pay is a discretionary benefit, exempt employees are entitled to receive the full week’s salary for any workweek in which they perform work. California employers are not permitted to reduce the salary for absences during the workweek that are “occasioned by the employer or by the operating requirements of the business.” If the exempt employee is ready and able to work, deductions cannot be made for days when work is not available, such as if the office is closed for a holiday observance. (See DLSE Enforcement Manual 51.6.14). By leaving out this information, you’re giving the impression that an employer could reduce an exempt employee’s salary during a week that includes a holiday observance, which would not be legally compliant.

    • Eugene Lee on June 18, 2024 at 1:42 pm

      Janet, you make a great point. I’ll revise this post to incorporate exempt employees. But you are correct.

  3. Wilma mccracken on April 22, 2024 at 7:13 pm

    Is it legal for an employer make employees pay for the company’s work app ,
    Are checks went derect deposit but when I asked the boss if I could have itemized copy’s of my checks and if my work file she asked what I planned to do with them I said for my personal records,
    That next day I went to pick them the next day she handed me those and my last check she said multiple client’s didn’t want me as there care giver but I’ve never had a client not like me or ever have a complaint about me what if anything can I do please help

    • Evelyn B on July 4, 2024 at 6:56 pm

      You should get a lawyer, your work can not legally make you pay for a work app from your earnings. This would like a lawsuit and they fired you which is also ilegal that they retaliated against you.

  4. Nicole on January 20, 2024 at 7:18 am

    My company closes thanksgiving and the day after. We receive holiday pay for thanksgiving but are forced to take the day after without pay unless we use a vacation day. Is that legal?

  5. Alex on January 19, 2024 at 6:37 pm

    So I work for a company in California who just updated their policies this year. Before when you worked on a company recognized holiday, they would give you a floating holiday as compensation. They have done away with that and instead instituted premium pay at a rate of time and a half. There was some confusion with the dissemination if the policy change where they said we would be getting premium pay in addition to regular pay, but after reading the policy and talking to an HR rep, it sounds like they are giving us premium pay in lieu of regular pay. This would give us less benefit than last year and less benefit than for holidays we don’t have to work on. Can they do this?

  6. Josey on January 19, 2024 at 10:28 am

    If my employer gives holiday pay and i work on the holiday my employer has given me as holiday paid can they only pay me time and a half for my clock in time on that holiday and not pay me my holiday pay as well? If the holiday falls on a day i have to work my employer does not pay me holiday pay, they instead pay me time and a half for my clock in time only. My employer says since they put it in the employee handbook that this is the policy they can do this. Is this true.

    • Eugene Lee on January 19, 2024 at 10:38 am

      Yes, the employer is correct if that is what their employee handbook says. California law does not require holiday pay. Whether to give it and in what form is entirely up to the employer. However, keep in mind, the employee manual is a form of “contract” between the employer and employee. If the employer does not comply with their own policy on holiday pay, that could in theory be a breach of contract.

  7. Scott on November 9, 2023 at 3:35 pm

    Hi, I work for a private company that published and delivered to me (I had to sign that I acknowledged all polices within) an Employee Handbook. In it they published 9 paid holidays: New Year’s Day, President’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, labor Day, Thanksgiving, Friday after Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day. This year Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday. When I inquired about how that holiday is handled I was told the company will not be paying PTO for a Sunday. Is this ok to do. I thought if published the paid holidays are the same every year. If the holiday falls on a non-paid day (weekend) then another day is identified, typically the Friday before or the Monday after…

    • Eugene Lee on December 14, 2023 at 7:43 pm

      California labor laws do not require employers to give paid holidays or holiday premium pay. That is left entirely up to the employer’s discretion. However, if there is a holiday policy in place, the employer must comply with their own policy. The policy is a “contract” between the employer and the employees. In your case, you would need to consult the employee handbook to see what it says about holiday pay when the holiday falls on a sunday. One more thing, employers typically retain the right to amend their policies with or without notice to employees. But again, you would need to see what the employee handbook says about employer amendments.

  8. Nestor on August 26, 2023 at 7:57 pm

    Hi I’m working in carehome my employer are not giving overtime or doble pay for Federal holidays weather you work or not my question is do I have rights or my co workers not to come work on especial holidays even I have scheduled on duty like Christmas or new year cause my employer will not give me OT or doble pay . Do I have rights to tell my boss instead to work on holidays like Christmas and new year I will go to my family or my friends to celebrate that kind of holidays

  9. Nakita on March 1, 2023 at 7:31 am

    I worked graveyard which was 10pm to 6 am and my employer said I was only allowed two, 10 minute breaks. So I was never allowed a lunch. I was fired because I did take more time for breaks. I am also pregnant and have been have some health issues related to my pregnancy and had ask for a day off because my foot was so swollen and has been for the past two weeks that I wasn’t able to where the shoes I normally did. I had slip proof boots and was told I couldn’t wear them so went out spent $85 dollars on some bigger shoes that didn’t really fit to make my employer happy. Then three days later I was fired. I worked my butt of at night and everything that was required of me was done by the time I got off work. Now my employer complain I didn’t do it. I’m a certain order or complete it in u der 5 hours. Three of those hours I would serve customers by myself. I’ve called out 1 day in 6 months and asked for 2 days off the whole time I’ve been there. He also made the comment I should have gone home and slept when he told me too. Now I’m 17 weeks pregnant, jobless, with no income to pay my rent and bills and will be lucky if I am able to find another job while pregnant. Do u think I have a case.

    • Clarissa on June 18, 2023 at 4:31 pm

      I’m pretty sure that’s illegal

  10. 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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