As the holiday season approaches, CDA’s Employment Practices Analyst Michelle Coker receives calls from members with questions about the laws governing holiday pay. Here he gathers some tips to guide California dentists based on his conversations with callers.
“Having a clear written holiday policy that defines all aspects of holiday time and pay, and following best practices, can go a long way toward maintaining an efficient and harmonious office,” Coker said.
Paid holidays not required by law for private companies
Many employees are surprised to learn that federal and state laws do not require employers to give their employees paid holidays. Federal and state employees have designated legal holidays, but private employers are under no obligation to provide that time off. Instead, they determine which holidays are observed in practice and whether hourly employees are paid or unpaid.
Salaried employees may be required to be paid on a day when the practice closes to observe a holiday. If an unpaid employee is “ready, willing and able” to work, deductions cannot be made for time (less than a full week) without work.
Since some holidays fall on different days each year, the dates must be reviewed and updated annually. As a best practice, employers should annually provide practice closing dates and state when employees will be paid on practice closings to eliminate confusion later.
If the practice has a request time policy, such as within a certain number of days in advance, employees should read and acknowledge that policy as well.
Premium pay for weekend, holiday work not required by state law
California law does not require employers to pay employees premium pay for work they do on a holiday or weekend day except for overtime pay if the employee works more than eight hours in a day. at work or more than 40 hours a week at work.
Employers may provide holiday pay on the first business day following the holiday
If a designated payday falls on a holiday observed on a Saturday or Sunday, employers are permitted by state law to pay their employees on the first business day following the holiday. California holidays are listed in the government code.
The employee’s manual in practice must include a list of salary days that show any exceptions due to holidays observed by the state and update and provide the list to employees every year.
If holidays are paid in practice, limitations may apply
Employers who choose to pay employees for holidays are not required to provide holiday pay if the holiday falls on a weekend or other day the practice is regularly closed. Employers are also not obliged to pay employees who do not normally work on a day that falls on a holiday or is observed. For example, if a holiday falls on a Thursday, and an employee normally has a day off, the employer is not obligated to pay the employee for that day. However, if the employer’s policy states that all employees receive pay for observed holidays, the policy should clearly mention any exceptions.
Also, employers who provide paid holidays must explain what happens if an employee must work on a day designated as a paid holiday. Courts have interpreted the policy of granting a paid day off as a contract to do so. Therefore, the employer must make up the employee’s lost benefits in some way, such as payment for all hours worked and eight hours of holiday pay on time. Another option is to pay for all hours worked and give another day off instead of holiday pay.
Allowing the use of sick pay for holidays may set an undesirable precedent
Employees often request to use available paid sick leave for paid vacation or holiday time. But Coker says that allowing employees to use paid sick leave for vacation or holidays instead of for its intended use under the California Paid Sick Leave law “sets a precedent that makes it difficult to deny future similar requests.”
“As a best practice, employers should separate and designate paid sick leave for the intended need and circumstances,” he added.
The CDA’s holiday pay FAQ answers further questions. Members can also log in to access CDA’s Sample Employee Manual, which contains sample policy language on holiday benefits, or create a customized manual using the Employee Manual Generator.