Most employers see an uptick in time off requests in November through January, coinciding with the holiday season. Employers may find themselves faced with multiple vacation requests from employees and questions about pay.
Here are a few reminders about holidays and holiday pay for California employers:
1. Employers Have Discretion. California employers are NOT required to provide employees with paid holidays, close their business on a holiday, give employees the day off for a particular holiday, or provide premium pay if an employee works on a holiday. It’s really up to your company policy (or collective bargaining agreement). That said, many employers do close up shop on certain holidays and some offer extra pay. Make sure your company’s policies are clear as to which days are recognized holidays and whether any extra pay will be given if someone has to work.
2. Paid Holidays Don’t Count Toward Daily or Weekly Overtime. Let’s say your company chooses to provide a paid Monday holiday. That week, Jeff, a nonexempt employee, works Tuesday through Saturday/eight hours per day. Jeff is paid straight time of 48 hours for that workweek. Jeff then claims that eight hours should have been paid at the overtime rate of time and one-half. Is Jeff correct? No. The determination of whether overtime pay is due is based upon actual hours worked, over eight in a workday or more than 40 in a workweek. Since Jeff did not work more than eight hours in any one workday, or more than 40 hours in the workweek, Jeff isn’t entitled to any overtime pay for the workweek.
3. Exempt Employees are Different. If the employee is available to work and the employer chooses to close for a holiday, the employer still must pay exempt employees their full salary for the workweek without deduction for the holiday. In most situations, a designated “holiday” has no effect on exempt employees.
4. Follow Rules for Paying Wages. If an employer’s normal payday coincides with a day the employer is closed for a specific holiday listed in the California Government Code, the employer can pay wages on the next business day. The holidays to which this rule applies are listed here. Of course, paying the day before the holiday is acceptable, as well.
5. Handle Time-Off Requests Consistently. There is no set requirement for deciding which employees’ vacation requests to grant. Some employers have a first-come-first-serve policy or grant vacation requests based on seniority. Make sure employees are treated in a consistent and nondiscriminatory fashion—whichever method you choose. Communicate the method for granting vacation requests to your employees and train supervisors to evaluate requests consistent with that policy.
6. Accommodate Religious Needs. California and federal laws require employers to provide reasonable accommodation to religious practices unless there is an “undue hardship” (often a tough threshold to meet). Engage in an interactive process with employees to discuss any requests for religious accommodation. Reasonable accommodation can include allowing time off to avoid a scheduling conflict with an employee’s religious observances. It’s going to be a case-by-case analysis based on your business needs and the specific request—enlist the help of legal counsel if you have questions.