This is an actual question from a blue state employer.
Question: Our company does not provide holiday pay to employees who are on leave of absence. Recently, one of our employees filed a complaint, saying that this policy is incongruous with the company’s focus on equity and inclusion, and that she should receive holiday pay while on maternity leave. Note that the employee is already collecting money from the state through paid family leave. What should we do?
Response: Have you considered moving your business to Idaho?
Until then, let’s review the basics. The purpose of holiday pay is to allow employees to spend special, seasonal times with friends and family. It’s easier to do this when (1) you have the day off; and (2) you are not losing money by having the day off. Paid holidays are good for morale and demonstrate that the employer is not a grinch. Holidays also recognize the God-given rhythm of work and celebration.
Holidays are different from vacation days, because they are anchored to specific dates on the calendar. Vacation is generally accrued by working, but holidays do not accrue. They just magically appear. (This is why I do not recommend “floating” holidays, because this blurs the distinction between holidays and vacation.)
Private employers are not required to provide holiday pay to their employees. This means they can choose which holidays, if any, to designate as paid time off. It also means that they can set the terms for when employees receive holiday pay. Most employers require employees to work before and after the holiday, or be on approved vacation, in order to receive holiday pay. This prevents abuse of the system, for example, employees calling in “sick” and extending the holiday weekend without advance notice.
If you are on maternity leave, your employer is already giving you time off from your job. And – unless mandated by some crazy blue state law – your employer has no obligation to pay you while you are not working. This is doubly true if you are not working on a holiday during a time that you are not working.
May common sense trump the entitlements of equity and inclusion.
Laura, the Labor Lawyer
Please note that this post does not constitute legal advice on your specific situation, and you do not have an attorney-client relationship with Laura. If you have questions for Laura, please send to email@example.com. Such questions may be used for general edification in this column.