The term “holiday” can mean different things depending on where a person is from. It can mean legal holidays on the calendar or even vacation time. For the purposes of this piece, because California is subject to U.S. Federal laws, we define “holiday” as any of the federally legal days the United States government.
These holidays are:
*New Year’s Day
*Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.
*Washington’s Birthday (President’s Day)
Confusion is often expressed among employees, and even employers who are new to running a business, because some places pay employees for holidays and others don’t. The same confusion is expressed about whether or not an employee is required to work a certain day, whether or not vacation time and personal days are required, and whether or not they are paid. The main source of the confusion comes about because there are federal laws that set down rules for employees and employers. These laws, however, are the minimum standards and individual employers can provide more compensation than is required by the law. The state of California has no provisions that state differently than the federal regulations.
Federal law states that no employee is guaranteed pay when they are not working a holiday. Businesses are not even required to close on federal holidays. When you consider that some jobs, such as those in a medical setting, require people to be on duty at all times, this makes sense.
If a business is closed on a holiday, it is not required to pay employees for their lost hours. In addition, if the business is open, employers are not required to compensate those who do work at a higher rate of pay than they normally receive.
Note: This also applies to weekends and night shifts. An employer is not required by law to pay a higher wage to employees who work weekends or night shifts.
Vacations and Personal Days
Other than an employer being required to schedule one day off in every seven-day period for an employee, there is no legal requirement to allow personal days or vacation days. This means that an employer doesn’t need to allow employees those days, let alone pay for them.
These are the only holidays that have some regulation. If an employee asks for time off because their religion does not allow work on a particular day, an employer can’t require that employee to work as long as reasonable accommodations can be made, such as someone to fill in or the work can be completed another time. The employer is not required to pay the employee but can’t penalize the employee as long as advance notice was given and the absence does not create undue problems.
Why Some People Get Paid
Federal laws set the minimum standard in the United States. No state, city or private employer can offer less than what is required at the federal level. They are, however, allowed to offer more than is provided by these laws. Minimum wage is a great example of this. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25/hour. Except for the exceptions laid out by the federal government, employers are required to pay their employees at least that rate. However, there is no legal reason a state can’t set the minimum wage at say $9.00/hour, making employers in that required to pay that rate. In California, the minimum wage is $10.50/hour. That means employers within California must offer the higher rate of pay is most cases. Individual employers can, however, willingly pay their employees more if they choose to do so.
This is where things stand in regards to paid holidays. The federal government says no employer has to offer pay. The state of California has chosen to abide by the federal law and not make state laws that make paying employees required. Individual businesses, however, can offer paid holidays, paid vacations, personal days, and more. Many do because they find it increases the quality of employees and provides employees with more incentive which keeps them happier.
Variation Within a Company
Companies determine who may receive certain benefits and when. This can happen when a company sets up its operation or may come about over time as employees negotiate contracts. The same compensation may be offered to all employees or be specific to individual contracts or positions.
For those who offer paid holidays and other paid days off, this is normally something only given to full-time employees. Part-time employees may be eligible in some places, but it isn’t often found to be the case. Rarely do temporary employees receive any benefits, let alone time off with pay.
How Do I Know What I Will Receive
When you are offered a position, you have every right to ask about what benefits you will receive. Just as you would not accept a position without knowing what you are going to be paid, whether by the hour or as a salary, be willing to ask what the policy is regarding holidays and other time off. Be willing to ask and be willing to allow the answer to be part of your consideration before accepting a position. Keep in mind, however, that once you sign employment agreement paperwork, you are not in a position to ask for a policy change.
Can This Be Negotiated?
The simple answer is that paid time off is a topic that can be considered negotiable in some instances. If you are in an entry-level position or even paid hourly, especially in a place with many employees, chances are the policy will remain as it is. If you are a salaried employee, however, you may be in a position to negotiate paid holidays as part of your contract before you sign. The key is that it must be done before signing. You lose your negotiating power once your contract is signed and won’t have another chance until it is time to renegotiate. Seeing that a company is not required to renegotiate contracts at any particular time, or at all, you may never get another chance.
While it may seem like an unfair system that some employees receive pay for holidays and others do not keep in mind that it is within your power to determine whether or not to accept a position under the terms they offer. If an employer in California offers benefits such as vacation pay, paid personal days and possibly even holiday pay, that employer is willingly doing so for personal reasons. If an employer does not offer these benefits, it is perfectly within their legal rights not to do so. Do not assume that because you got these benefits at one place that you will receive them at your next place of employment. Ask and be willing to either accept on the terms the employer offers, negotiate if possible, or look elsewhere. In the end, the choice is yours as an employee.