California Legal Holidays Laws: Employer Requirements Under Law

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Before buying those airplane tickets or making plans with friends in anticipation of the holidays, be aware that there is actually no guarantee of getting Thanksgiving or Christmas off. In California, employers are not required to provide employees with time off for any particular holiday. Employers are also not required to provide employees with extra pay if they do work on holidays. Under California law, hours worked on holidays can be treated just like hours worked at any other time.

California Holiday Pay Laws

While there are no employer requirements for the holidays, some employers do have special policies and/or practices regarding holidays. Some employees may get time off on all or certain holidays, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Eve. Some employees may also get a special pay rate, such as their regular hourly pay plus 50 percent of that hourly pay rate, if they do work on holidays. Even luckier employees get paid time off on holidays, meaning that they don't have to work but still get paid.

Since California has no specific holiday pay laws, if an employer does provide such benefits, it is because of its own employee policies or practices. For example, an employer may decide that its employees should get holidays off and/or get extra pay for hours worked during the holidays because they want to keep employees happy. Besides boosting employee morale, some employers may believe that it's important for employees to celebrate certain holidays and to spend time with their families during those times.

Employers may also provide time off, whether paid or unpaid, and/or special holiday pay in order to comply with a collective bargaining agreement, such as an agreement made with the employees' labor union. Employers and employees may also have individual agreements that dictate time off and holiday pay.

California Overtime Pay Laws

While there are no California holiday pay laws, employers in California are still subject to the state's overtime pay laws. Holiday or not, if a nonexempt employee works more than eight hours in a workday or more than 40 hours in a workweek, she is entitled to overtime pay. A workday is defined as a consecutive 24-hour period; a workweek is defined as any seven consecutive days.

If a nonexempt employee works more than eight hours in a workday or more than 40 hours in a workweek, she is entitled to overtime pay for each extra hour worked. How much the employee gets under overtime pay depends on the number of extra hours worked.

For the first eight to 12 hours worked in excess of eight hours in a workday, overtime pay is regular pay plus 50 percent of that pay. An employee also gets one-and-one-half times his regular rate for the first eight hours worked on the seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek. If a nonexempt employee works more than 12 hours in a workday or more than eight hours on the seventh consecutive day of work, then she is entitled to double her regular rate for each excess hour worked.

Read More: California Labor Laws on Split Shift & Overtime

Nonexempt and Exempt Employees

Who is considered a nonexempt and exempt employee? Executive, administrative and professional employees may be considered exempt. Generally, employees in these categories are considered exempt if they usually and regularly use discretion and independent judgment in performing their jobs. Exempt employees must also be paid a minimum salary of at least two times California's minimum wage.

According to the California Restaurant Association, exempt employees are usually managers or professionals. Nonexempt employees, meanwhile, are usually hourly paid, nonmanagerial employees. This means that the majority of employees in the restaurant industry – an industry that does a lot of business around and during the holidays – are nonexempt employees.

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About the Author

Karen graduated from Southwestern Law School in 2003 with a Juris Doctor degree. She has worked for several law firms, providing legal services in various fields including immigration, housing, bankruptcy and family law.