Is It illegal to not get Holiday Pay?

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The question of whether it’s illegal for employers not to provide holiday pay is a nuanced topic in U.S. labor law, intertwining federal guidelines with state-specific regulations and individual employment contracts. This article demystifies the complexities surrounding holiday pay, offering insights into what laws govern these payments and under what circumstances, if any, withholding holiday pay could be considered illegal.

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Federal Laws and Holiday Pay

At the federal level, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require payment for time not worked, such as vacations or holidays. Employers are only obligated to pay for the hours an employee has actually worked, irrespective of whether the workday falls on a holiday.

Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA): “The FLSA does not mandate payment for time not worked, such as vacations or holidays. These benefits are generally a matter of agreement between an employer and an employee (or the employee’s representative).”

Thus, under federal law, the provision of holiday pay is left to the discretion of the employer, often outlined in the employment contract or company policy.

State Laws and Regulations

While federal law provides a broad framework, some states may have more specific regulations or laws regarding holiday pay, especially for workers in certain industries or public sector employees. However, like federal law, most state laws do not require private sector employers to offer paid holidays.

Employers are encouraged to review their state’s labor laws to ensure compliance with any provisions that might exist beyond federal requirements.

Employment Contracts and Company Policies

In the absence of specific legal mandates requiring holiday pay, the terms of employment contracts and company policies play a critical role. If an employer has agreed to provide holiday pay in an employment contract or company policy, then failing to honor that agreement could be deemed a breach of contract.

Employment Agreement Clause: “Employment contracts or company policies that include holiday pay must be adhered to, as these documents can be legally binding.”

Exempt vs. Non-Exempt Employees

The distinction between exempt and non-exempt employees under the FLSA is also significant. Exempt employees, typically salaried workers who meet certain criteria regarding their job duties and salary, may not receive additional pay for working on holidays, as their salary is meant to cover all hours worked. Non-exempt employees, usually hourly workers, must be paid overtime for hours worked over 40 in a workweek, although this does not specifically relate to holidays unless they contribute to overtime hours.


In summary, it is not inherently illegal for employers not to provide holiday pay in the United States, given the absence of federal and state mandates requiring such compensation. The provision of holiday pay is largely determined by individual employment contracts and company policies. Employers and employees alike should understand the terms of their specific agreements and applicable state laws to navigate the complexities of holiday pay.


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