Question:

The Fourth of July is a paid holiday at my company. However, because of an important project that needed to be completed by Wednesday, I was scheduled to work on the holiday and told that I could take the next Monday off instead. While I appreciate having a three-day weekend next week, I assumed that I would be paid overtime for working on Monday the fourth. This is because by working on the Fourth of July, I am entitled to forty-eight hours of pay this week – eight hours of holiday pay and forty hours of pay for hours worked. My employer has now told me that I am not entitled to overtime pay, just forty-eight hours of straight time. Is this true? Also, was it permissible for my employer to require me to work on a legal holiday?

Answer:

The basic overtime obligation in California is that an employer must pay overtime at a rate of one and a half times the employee’s regular rate of pay for all hours actually worked in excess of eight in one day, forty in a single workweek, and for the first eight hours on the seventh day of work in a single workweek. Double-time compensation is required for all hours worked in excess of twelve in one day, and all hours worked in excess of eight on the seventh consecutive day of work in a single workweek. Employers are not required to include amounts paid for hours not actually worked in the overtime compensation analysis. This includes amounts for paid vacation, sick or holiday hours. Therefore, in determining whether you were owed overtime, the eight hours of holiday pay would not be considered since they were not hours worked.

With respect to your second question, while paid time off for holidays is a common benefit of employment, very few employers are actually obligated to provide paid holidays. The designation of a day as a legal holiday by the federal or state government may result in the closing of certain government offices. However, it does not guarantee all employees a day off, and an employer may require an employee to work on a holiday. In addition, there is no requirement that an employer that provides its employees with time off for holidays pay the employees for the time off.

Your employer was acting within the law, both when it required you to work on a holiday, and when it did not pay you overtime for a workweek that included work on a holiday. Although many employers provide paid time off for holidays, because it is not a legal requirement, your employer actually provided you with greater compensation than required by law.
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