Holiday and End of Year Employment Law Issues

By: Eva Zelson
On: December 24, 2021

Christmas business cocktail party in office

For many people, the end of the year is meant to be a time to celebrate the year, celebrate the holiday season, and spend time with our closest friends and family to acknowledge important religious traditions. However, our jobs can sometimes get in the way of enjoying time off. For this reason, it is important to understand your rights as an employee and how that intersects with end-of-the-year religious and federal holidays. In this article, we include everything you need to know about legal holidays, religious holidays, and the workplace.

Is My Employer Required to Offer at Least Some Paid Holidays?

Whether or not your employer is required to give you paid holidays depends entirely on your employer. If you are a public employee, and you are considered “non-essential” (e.g. you’re not a police officer, EMT, or other emergency responders), you will most likely have the day off. Furthermore, federal employers are required to give employees ten federal holidays off (or replacement days if their status as an essential employee requires them to work on a recognized holiday) each year.

If you work for a private company, it is entirely up to your employer whether or not you will receive paid federal holidays. There is somewhat of an exception for religious holidays. Employers must provide reasonable accommodations for employees who need time off of work to participate in religious celebrations. This can mean that an employer can offer you an alternative schedule, allow employees to use paid time off, or work with you to find another compromise so that you can participate in those celebrations.

Can My Employer Require Me to Work on a Federal Holiday?

Many private employers acknowledge federal holidays and are closed for business in observance of these holidays. However, there is no federal law that requires them to do so. In other words, if your employer requires you to work on certain holidays, that’s their prerogative, and they are entitled to be open on those days. The term “federal holiday” comes from the fact that most public offices are closed on those dates, thus giving the majority of public employees a day off on those occasions. It does not, however, mean that there is a federal mandate to provide a holiday to employees of private companies.

Is My Employer Required to Pay Overtime Rates If I Work on a Federal Holiday?

In the public sector, employees will have the day off and be paid their typical wage for that day off. However, private sector employees will only have the day off at the discretion of their employer. In some cases, a private employer will pay its employees extra for having to work on a federal holiday, but they are not required by law to pay their employees extra on these days. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) clearly illustrates this point by stating that employers do not need to pay employees for time that isn’t actually worked. In other words, because the employee isn’t actually working overtime hours, the employer does not need to pay them overtime rates.

Office Christmas Party

Is Failing to Allow Time Off for a Religious Holiday Tantamount to Religious Discrimination?

In some circumstances, a failure by an employer to work with an employee so the employee can participate in a religious holiday can be considered religious discrimination. The law requires employers to grant reasonable accommodations for employees with religious obligations, including an obligation to participate in a religious holiday or celebration. Thus, your employer must work with you to find a compromise so that you can either have time off or an alternate schedule for religious holiday purposes, assuming that such an accommodation will not put undue strain on the company.

Can an Employer Legally Require Employees to Use PTO When the Office is Closed?

If your office is closed for a federal holiday, your employer can indeed require that you use vacation time or paid time off for those days closed, even if you don’t want to do so. In some cases, employers may give you the option to either use PTO or take the time without pay. Employers can opt to give you time without pay too. This is because FLSA does not require employers to pay employees for time not worked. If the office is closed, and you’re not working, they do not need to pay you. The best way to know for sure how your company deals with holiday closures is to consult your company’s holiday and PTO policy.

Contact Zeff Law Firm if Your Employer Treats you Unfairly During the Holiday Season

If you are concerned that your employer is treating you unfairly when it comes to federal holidays or religious holidays, Zeff Law Firm is here to help. We are always happy to hear about your issues and help you determine if your employer is using unfair labor practices. Contact us today for a consultation.

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