Holiday pay is awarded to many employees whose schedules are interrupted due to holidays. If an employee is scheduled to work a certain day, but is not given hours because of a holiday, the employer may pay a full day’s wages as holiday pay.

The Fair Labor Standards Act does not require that an employer pay an employee for time that isn’t worked. However, many employers offer holiday pay as an employment benefit, although some states such as Virginia explicitely state that employers do not have to pay their employees for holidays that they take off. This offer is considered an agreement between the employer and employee rather than a legal right.

Federal employees receive legally designated holiday pay. 

Exempt employees who receive a salary cannot have their pay reduced when they do not work because of a holiday. Employment law mandates that their salary distributions remain consistent even during pay periods that contain days off because of holidays. 

Which Holidays Merit Holiday Pay?

Employers who offer holiday pay often include the following holidays:

  • New Year’s Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Christmas Day

Federal employees also receive holiday pay for Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, Washington’s Birthday, Columbus Day, Inauguration Day, and Veterans Day.
Some employers offer holiday pay for Election Day and President’s Day.

When Holidays Are Exempt from Holiday Pay?

Except for federal employees, all holiday pay is offered at the discretion of the employer as part of their terms for employment.

Federal employees can take a paid day off if the holiday falls on a Sunday or another non-work day. This is called an “in lieu of” holiday. “In lieu of” holiday provisions do not apply to Inauguration Day, and if the federal office is closed because of weather on a holiday, employees are not entitled to holiday pay.

While it is illegal to discriminate against employees because of their religious practices, religious holidays are not necessarily granted as time off to employees. Again, this is an agreement employers make with employees.

Employers may offer personal days, floating holidays, or vacation time to employees who need to be out of the office for religious holidays. If an employer believes that the company will lose profits, lose efficiency, or harm employee morale, they can deny an employee’s request for time off work to celebrate a religious holiday. 

Do I Need a Lawyer?

If you believe you are entitled to holiday pay you have not received, an employment lawyer can advise of your options and help you make a case to recover lost or back pay.