California Laws on Holiday Pay and If You’re Entitled to Them In 2021

Am I Entitled to Holiday Pay?

For many employees, holidays are the best days in a month. In addition to spending time with family and friends or just taking a break from work, some employees enjoy additional benefits such as having the holiday off with pay or get paid extra to work the holiday instead.  holiday payYet, this is not true for every employee across the board as some employers do not offer any sort of additional benefits associated with holidays.  Under California law, employers are not required to pay employees extra compensation for working the holiday or provide paid time off for holidays. While there are some exceptions to this rule, there is no state law that compels employers to provide additional compensation for holiday work. A number of other wage and hour laws, both state and federal, govern when and how much employees are paid in California. If you believe that your employer has wrongfully withheld pay, a skilled Orange County employment lawyer can help you file a claim, starting with a free initial consultation.

Does California Require Employers to Pay a Premium for Working on a Holiday?

Picture this Situation:

You’ve been at a job for a few months and you receive your schedule for the month of May. You see that you have to work on Memorial Day, and think to yourself that even though you’ll miss going to a cookout, at least you’ll get paid time-and-a-half for the day. However, when you get your paycheck two weeks later, you discover that you were paid your regular rate for that day. Is that illegal?
In short, the answer is no. California law does not require employers to pay a premium for hours worked on holidays. Companies are also not required to pay employees extra for working weekends (Saturday and Sunday). Similarly, employers also do not have to provide paid time off on holidays. However, there may be some situations where an employer may be obligated to either give you paid time off on a holiday or to pay you a premium for working a holiday. This generally happens when there is a contract, agreement, or policy is in place in which the employer offers paid holidays and other benefits. For example, if there is an internal policy offering employees holiday pay, or if you are working subject to a collective bargaining agreement, then you may be entitled to the additional holiday compensation. It is important to note that if you receive holiday pay, it does not count towards hours worked in a week for overtime purposes.

For Example:

Jan was given a paid day off for the Fourth of July. She also worked five days that week, for a total of 40 hours. She was paid for 48 hours of work at her regular rate — 40 hours of work, plus 8 hours of holiday pay. In this situation, Jan’s boss did not violate the law by not paying her overtime for those extra 8 hours, because Jan did not work those hours, and instead offered the extra compensation to Jan as an incentive for her employment.

Can I Be Required to Work on a Holiday?

As a general rule, employers can require employees to work on a holiday. This is true for national holidays, like Labor Day, President’s Day, as well as other types of holidays, such as Christmas or Thanksgiving. Employers are not legally required to give employees the day off for holidays. However, there are some exceptions where your employer may be required to give you a holiday off. For example, if an employee is religious, he or she may want to be off on days pertaining to their religion, i.e. Easter, Hanukkah, etc.. If the employee requests the day off, your employer may need to provide a reasonable accommodation to accommodate your religious holiday. The question of whether a day off for a religious holiday is a reasonable accommodation is fact-specific, and will depend in part on the type of business involved.

For Example:

Mark works at an emergency room in a hospital as a nurse. He is Jewish, and asks for an accommodation for the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The emergency department is open 365 days a year, and employees could typically be scheduled to work any day — including holidays.
If the hospital is short-staffed, it may not be a reasonable accommodation for Mark to be given those days off of work. However, if there are other nurses who could cover his shift, then the hospital will probably need to honor Mark’s request for those days off of work. If the hospital refuses to accommodate Mark when it could reasonably do so, then Mark may be able to file a claim for religious discrimination. In sum, your California employer does not have to give you holidays off or pay you extra for working on a holiday, unless exceptions apply. However, if you have any questions in regards to your employment rights, reach out to us today by calling (949) 833-7105 or emailing us at for a free consultation.

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