Paid time off on federal holidays is a benefit that most employers offer, though they are not obligated to do so. There is also no law that requires your employer to give you time off on or for federal holidays. An employer who gives you time off on a federal holiday is likewise not bound by law to offer holiday pay.
There are 10 federal holidays in a calendar year. These holidays are New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Day, Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. Most federal holidays serve to honor an important person, such as President George Washington, a group of people, such as veterans, or an important traditional event, such as Christmas or Thanksgiving.
Fair Labor Standards Act
While the Fair Labor Standards Act regulates the minimum wage or overtime rate an employer must pay an employee, it does not require an employer to pay an employee who takes a day off, whether one is sick or it's a federal holiday. There are also no laws that require your employer to pay you time-and-a-half for working on a holiday. An employer usually extends these types of benefits as part of its benefits package as a way of attracting and retaining employees.
Federal employees who work at state or local government agencies get paid time off on federal holidays. There are some guidelines that these types of employers must follow. For example, you get holiday pay if you are normally scheduled to work on the day the holiday occurs, but your employer does not need to pay you for the holiday if you are a part-time employee who does not work on that specific day. Guidelines also govern how to pay federal employees who must work on a federal holiday. In some cases, an employer can give you a different day off with pay or pay you a holiday premium rate for working on the holiday. In most cases, that premium rate is equal to two times what you would otherwise earn by working that day. For example, if you normally earn $200 during an eight-hour shift, you'll earn $400 for working that same eight-hour shift on a federal holiday.
There are some location-specific holidays that your employer may opt to recognize. For example, federal employees in the Washington, D.C., area get holiday pay and a day off on the day the President is sworn into office, which is normally the January 20th that follows a Presidential election. Massachusetts and Maine honor the battles of Lexington and Concord on Patriots Day, which is the third Monday in April, while other states do not. Even though Easter and Hanukkah are not federally recognized holidays, your employer may offer time off on these dates as well. Your employer is not required either to give you these days off or pay you if you do take them off, but may choose to do so.
- United States Department of Labor: Holiday Pay
- Washington State Department of Labor and Industries: Holiday, Vacation, Sick or Bereavement Leave
- US Department of Commerce: Federal, State and Local Holidays
- US Office of Personnel Management: Pay and Leave
- EmployeeIssues.com: Holiday Pay -- Paid Holidays
- New England Travel Planner: Patriots’ Day in Massachusetts
William Henderson has been writing for newspapers, magazines and journals for more than 15 years. He served as editor of the "New England Blade" and is a former contributor to "The Advocate." His work has also appeared on The Good Men Project, Life By Me and The Huffington Post.