Do I Get Extra Pay For Working Holidays? If The Office Is Closed For Holidays, Do I Get Paid?

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AOL Jobs readers have lots of questions about holiday pay. Most think you get paid extra if you work on the holidays. Here are some questions I've been asked:

On my job here in Illinois I worked on the holiday and was paid regular time. My boss said she gave me two days off doing the week so working on the holiday gave me 40 hours and I don't get paid double. I explained to her that it if you work on the holiday you get paid double pay. I went out on an appointment with a patient and stayed out 4.5 hours over and was told I had to leave 4.5 hour early so my time adds up to 40 hrs. that week. My question is this legal?

My employer has several "policies" that are unfair at least if not illegal. This is a construction job out of NJ. Among other issues, there are no paid holidays. Is this inconsiderate, immoral or illegal?

I work in a NY hospital. I worked a 6 pm to 12 pm shift, on New Year's Day. The day shift got paid time and a half for their hours but I was told that my shift did not qualify for holiday pay. I thought the holiday is a 24 hour day. Did this hospital do anything illegal by paying some employees and not others for the same work performed?

So, are you entitled to time and a half or double time if you work on holidays? Does the employer have to pay if you don't work on a holiday because the company is closed? Here's what you need to know about holiday pay:

Extra pay for working on holidays

There is no federal law requiring any extra pay for working on a holiday for non-government employees who aren't working on federal contracts. Not double time. Not even time and a half. What the federal law requires is that if you work over 40 hours per week, and you aren't exempt from overtime, you must be paid time and a half. So if you work Christmas Day as a favor to a coworker who wants time off, and you already worked 40 hours this week, you have to be paid overtime if you aren't exempt. But yes, if you work on Christmas and that takes you to 40 hours, your employer can demand you take the rest of the week off to avoid paying overtime

If you don't know whether you are exempt, check out my column, Salaried Workers, Do You Get Overtime? Odds Are You Should. My column 10 Tricks Employers Use To Cheat Workers Out Of Overtime might help too.

I haven't found any state laws requiring extra pay for holidays for private sector employees either, so if your state has such a law, let me know in the comments section. (By the way, Rhode Island has an interesting law, saying employers can't make you work on holidays, and can't discriminate against you if you refuse.)

If you have a contract, union agreement, or if the employer's policy says you get paid holidays, then it may also require extra pay if you have to work on a holiday. Some employers offer incentive pay to encourage employees to voluntarily work on a holiday. However, they can designate all or part of the holiday for paying that incentive pay. If the employer's policy or the contract designates the entire holiday for extra pay, then the entire 24-hour period probably qualifies for that extra pay.

Otherwise, you probably get regular pay for working on a holiday.

Holiday pay if the office is closed

If you're exempt from overtime, and you worked any part of the week, then you must be paid if the office is closed. If you aren't exempt, then there is no federal law requiring any paid holidays for non-government workers who aren't working on federal contracts. I haven't found any state laws requiring any paid holidays in the private sector either. If your state has such a law, let me know in the comments section. So, is it inconsiderate and immoral not to pay employees for holidays? Yes. Illegal? Probably not.

If you don't work for government, then you may have a contract or union agreement requiring paid holidays. Many companies offer paid holidays, but private sector companies can change their holiday pay policies whenever they want.

Working on government contracts

Two federal laws address holiday pay as benefits for employees who are working on federal contracts: The McNamara-O'Hara Service Contract Act and the Davis-Bacon Act. These laws mandate certain paid holidays. How much extra you get paid under these laws for working overtime depends on whether you are full-time or part-time and some other factors. The details on holiday pay for McNamara-O'Hara are here. More information on Davis-Bacon Act holiday pay is here.

Happy still-employed holidays

So, have a wonderful holiday season, but don't get yourself in trouble demanding extra pay you aren't entitled to, or by refusing to work unless you get extra pay. This is a very bad time of year to get fired.

If you need legal advice, it's best to talk to an employment lawyer in your state, but if you have general legal issues you want me to discuss publicly here, whether about discrimination, working conditions, employment contracts, medical leave, or other employment law issues, you can ask me at AOL Jobs.

Please note: Anything you write to me may be featured in one of my columns. I won't be able to respond individually to questions.
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