Is Holiday Pay Mandatory In Your State?
Is Holiday Pay Mandatory In Your State?

Is Holiday Pay Mandatory In Your State?

The FLSA Only Requires Employers to Pay for Time Worked

Unlike most of the European Union, the United States has no federal law requiring private companies to pay for national holiday time off (by law, all employees in the EU also get a minimum of 28 paid vacation days). The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires an employer to pay its employees only for time worked. This means that if an employee takes the day off for Christmas, you don’t have to pay them for time not worked.

But Most Employers Offer Paid Holidays

In practice, though, most private sector employers in the US give their employees the day off for national holidays, or they pay them time-and-a-half for working on the day. Some companies also offer a floating holiday, which the employee can take at any time. This time off is considered to be an employee benefit, just like health insurance and free soft drinks in the break room.

Public Employees Play by Different Rules

Public employees—those folks who work for state and federal government—however, play by an entirely different set of rules. They’re mandated to take off for the following holidays with pay:

  • New Year’s Day (January 1)
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (3rd Monday in January)
  • Washington’s Birthday (3rd Monday in February)
  • Memorial Day (last Monday in May)
  • Independence Day (July 4)
  • Labor Day (1st Monday in September)
  • Columbus Day (2nd Monday in October)
  • Veterans Day (November 11)
  • Thanksgiving Day (4th Thursday in November)
  • Christmas Day (December 25)

Do You Own a Business in Massachusetts or Rhode Island?

If so, be advised that these states march to their own drumbeat. Massachusetts and Rhode Island are the only two states in the union that require private companies to offer paid time off for national holidays.

Massachusetts State Holidays

In addition to the above federal holidays observed by public entities, Massachusetts also observes the following dates and requires employers to pay their workers:

  • Evacuation Day (March 17 – Suffolk County Only)
  • Patriot’s Day (3rd Monday in April)
  • Bunker Hill Day (June 17 – Suffolk County Only)

Their holiday time off rules fall under Massachusetts’ Blue Laws, and they further break down the paid holidays by retailers, non-retailers and manufacturers.

Retail Rules for Working Holidays

Retail employees can only work on Christmas, Columbus Day (before noon), Thanksgiving and Veteran’s Day (before 1:00 p.m.) if they have a permit from their local police department as well as approval from the state’s Division of Occupational Safety.

They can work without a permit on New Year’s Day, Labor Day, Memorial Day, Columbus Day after noon), Independence Day and Veteran’s Day (after 1:00 p.m.), but they can refuse to work. If they do work, they must be paid time-and-a-half.

They can work on Martin Luther King Day, Patriots’ Day, President’s Day, Bunker Hill Day and Evacuation Day without limitation.

Non-Retail Rules

Non-retail employees, on the other hand, can only work Christmas, Veterans Day (before 1:00 p.m.) Thanksgiving, Columbus Day (before noon), Labor Day, Independence Day and Memorial Day only if they have a permit from the police. If they are working on a holiday, they’re paid their regular rate. They can work without limitation on New Year’s Day, Patriot’s Day, Martin Luther King Day, Bunker Hill Day, President’s Day, Columbus Day (after noon), Evacuation Day and Veterans’ Day (after 1:00 p.m.).

Manufacturing companies generally operate by the same laws as non-retail businesses. They can stay open on holidays with police permits, but their employees can’t be required to work except for under very limited circumstances: The work must be absolutely essential, and the business must require continuous operation (such as a power plant).

Rhode Island State Holidays

Rhode Island’s law is less restrictive than Massachusetts’. It requires private employers to pay employees time-and-a-half for working on Sundays and the following holidays:

  • New Year’s Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Independence Day
  • Victory Day
  • Labor Day
  • Columbus Day
  • Veterans’ Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Christmas Day

The law also permits employees to refuse to work on Sundays and legal holidays. In addition to the holidays above, Rhode Island also recognizes:

  • Rhode Island Independence Day (May 4th)
  • Victory Day (2nd Monday in August)
  • Election Day (1st Tuesday of November)

Sample Content for Employee Handbook

Here’s some sample wording you can use if you’re building an employee handbook and your company offers paid holiday time off.

Regular employees who work 40 hours per week are eligible for holiday pay. Nonexempt employees become eligible after three months of service. Exempt employees are immediately eligible on hire. Temporary or part-time employees are not eligible.

[Company Name] offers the following paid holidays for all of our eligible employees. If a holiday falls on a Saturday, the day off will be taken on Friday. If the holiday falls on a Sunday, the following Monday will be the paid day off.

  • New Year’s Day
  • President’s Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day
  • Thanksgiving Day and Day after Thanksgiving Day
  • Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

How Paycor Helps

Paying employees can be a tricky business, especially when holidays, vacation days and overtime pay are in the picture (e.g., do you have to pay time-and-a-half or double time?). Paycor can help. Unlike many of our competitors, we don’t sell off-the-shelf technology. Instead, we tailor technology, including payroll and time and attendance, to your business. Learn more and view a demo today.


Paycor guided hr software tour

More to Discover

Emergency Sick Leave for Childcare: What Employers Need to Know About FFCRA

Emergency Sick Leave for Childcare: What Employers Need to Know About FFCRA

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) is a big part of the government response to the current public health crisis, offering emergency sick leave and paid family medical leave to those affected by Coronavirus. Take a look at our guide on managing employee leave scenarios.The FFRCA doesn’t just apply to employees who are directly affected by the virus—those who are infected, caring for the infected or quarantined. It also puts in place measures for the parents or guardians of children whose schools or day care facilities are closed due to the pandemic.These measures will apply from April 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020. How Does the FFCRA Work for Parents? If an employee has been on payroll for at least 30 days and cannot...

Essential Business Letter (Template)

Essential Business Letter (Template)

Many states and cities are imposing complete or partial lockdowns, with most businesses forced to temporarily shut their doors or move to remote work and only “essential businesses” unaffected. This has left many employers and employees asking what exactly counts as an essential business.Download Essential Business Letter Template What Counts as an Essential Business? On March 19, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA, overseen by the Department of Homeland Security) issued guidance on what business count as critical infrastructure. Some businesses are obviously essential—hospitals, pharmacies and law enforcement. The list is extensive—other essential businesses include stores selling supplies which allow people to...

Webinar: COVID-19 Summit - LIVE DEMO: See Paycor's COVID-19 Command Center - 4/23/20 @2pm ET

Webinar: COVID-19 Summit - LIVE DEMO: See Paycor's COVID-19 Command Center - 4/23/20 @2pm ET

Join Paycor’s Senior Product Manager, Kelly Silverman, for a live demonstration on how Paycor is providing HR leaders with the technology and expertise to help them prepare, respond and recover. The demonstration will highlight how Paycor Analytics and HR Support Center can offer the data and resources HR leaders need to mitigate risk and reshape business strategy.Speaker: Kelly Silverman Kelly Silverman is Paycor's resident benefits and HR marketing leader. An HCM industry veteran with a strong product and marketing background, Kelly’s responsibilities include driving the go-to-market strategy for benefits and analytics to Paycor’s customer base.Thursday, April 23, 2020 2pm ET

Webinar: COVID-19 Summit - How to Develop a Business Continuity Plan - 4/23/20 @1pm ET

Webinar: COVID-19 Summit - How to Develop a Business Continuity Plan - 4/23/20 @1pm ET

We’re all doing our best right now during these unpredictable times to protect our families, communities, employees and businesses. As many organizations have scrambled to launch business continuity plans to respond to the current crisis, there are things we’ve learned that will help us prepare for the future. Join Paycor’s Adam Leisring for insights into creating business continuity plans and key takeaways that can be applied from this pandemic.Speaker: Adam Leisring Adam Leisring is Paycor’s Senior Director of Information Security and is accountable for security aspects in Paycor’s Corporate IT and SaaS offerings. Having spent over 11 years with the organization and with a background in Information Security, Enterprise Architecture,...