Part-time workers are generally not legally entitled to holiday pay. There is no state or federal law that mandates it. However, many companies choose to provide it in order to attract talent and keep their current workforce happy. If the employment contract provides it, the worker is entitled to it. Moreover, certain part-time federal employees are entitled to holiday pay.
Are part-time employees legally entitled to holiday pay?
With limited exceptions, part-time employees are not legally entitled to receive holiday pay. Some of them do anyway, though, because their employer chooses to provide it. However, some part-time employees with the federal government are entitled to holiday pay.
Holiday pay is a higher wage for workers who are on the job during a federal holiday, such as:
- Christmas Day,
- New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day,
- Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday,
- President’s Day,
- Memorial Day,
- Independence Day, or July 4th,
- Labor Day,
- Columbus Day or Indigenous People’s Day,
- Veterans Day, and
There are no state or federal laws that require private employers to pay higher wages for hours worked on these holidays. Workers, including part-time workers, are not legally entitled to higher wages for working on these days. There is also not a law that mandates that employers give employees time off for the holidays.
One exception, though, is for certain part-time employees in an Executive agency of the federal government.1
An Executive agency includes:
- departments in the Executive branch,
- corporations owned or controlled by the federal government, and
- independent establishments in the Executive branch, like the Government Accountability Office (GAO).2
Employees in these agencies who have regular work schedules are legally entitled to additional pay for holiday work, unless they were in certain training programs. The amount is twice their rate of basic pay for the number of hours of non-overtime work.3
However, not all part-time workers in an Executive agency are entitled to holiday pay. There are exceptions. Some notable exceptions to this eligibility include:
- elected officials,
- heads of departments,
- employees of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and
Can employers provide it, anyway?
Even though it is not legally required by the Department of Labor, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), or state law, some employers provide holiday pay to their part-time workers, anyway. The provision of paid holidays is governed by the employment contract. If the contract provides holiday pay, then the worker is entitled to it. If the contract does not provide holiday pay, only provides it to full-time workers, or puts additional stipulations on holiday pay, then part-time employees are not entitled to it unless all of the conditions are met.
Employers who do offer holiday wages often use a premium pay rate of 1.5 times the worker’s regular rate of pay. In some cases, employers may offer double time for the number of holiday hours spent on the job. If the part-time employee works more than 8 hours in a workday on a holiday, or if the holiday work takes them over 40 hours for the workweek, he or she may also be entitled to overtime pay based on their state law.
Some other employers or small businesses may use a holiday pay policy that provides additional vacation days or vacation time rather than extra pay.
Employers may offer this employee benefit for a variety of different reasons, like:
- improving workplace morale,
- ensuring that holiday shifts are covered,
- compensating the worker for time spent on the job rather than with his or her friends or family during the holiday,
- enticing better workers with the opportunity to earn a higher rate during the holidays, or
- preventing workers from leaving for another company that does offer holiday pay.
Employers may also offer holiday pay if the part-time worker is in a union job and the collective bargaining agreement guarantees it.
If the employment contract provides holiday pay, can my employer refuse to pay it?
If the provisions of the employment contract or employee handbook would entitle a worker to holiday or vacation pay or other paid time off (PTO), the employer cannot refuse to pay it. However, the worker must satisfy all of the conditions that are attached to the payment in order to be entitled to receive it. Aggrieved part-time workers can file a wage/hour lawsuit to recover compensation for their unpaid holidays.
Some employers provide holiday pay, but only to certain workers or in certain circumstances. Some common conditions are:
- the worker is a full-time employee,
- the worker is a non-exempt employee, or
- the employee works the day before and the day after the holiday.
If these conditions are satisfied, then the worker is entitled to the holiday pay at the rate agreed upon in the employment contract. If the employer refuses to pay, the worker can pursue compensation for their unpaid wages in court.
For more discussion, please see our article on Is holiday pay mandatory?
- 5 CFR 550.131(a) and 5 CFR 550.101(a)(1).
- 5 USC 105 and 5 USC 104.
- 5 CFR 550.131.
- 5 CFR 550.101(b).