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How Does Holiday and Vacation Pay Work In California?

Holiday Pay

There are ten officially recognized federal holidays in the United States: New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Presidents' Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. California recognizes four additional holidays, including Lincoln Day, Cesar Chavez Day, Admission Day, and Good Friday. However, although these days are recognized under state and federal laws, workers are not guaranteed to have the days off—or even to receive extra pay for working.

Here are the most common questions workers have about working on recognized holidays:

Is it illegal to make employees work on holidays? 

No. As many businesses remain open on holidays (including movie theaters, restaurants, and gas stations), employers need workers to serve customers. California law does not require employers to provide any specific days off from work, so any holiday policy your business has in place is determined by the employer. Depending on your workplace rules, an employer can require you to work on a holiday or provide a paid or unpaid day off if he chooses to close the business on a holiday.

Does my employer have to pay more on holidays? 

No. Both the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and California state law do not require a premium holiday rate of pay. In addition, no law requires employees to be paid for holidays that they do not work, even if the business is closed for the day. It is up to individual employers to offer premium rates to employees who work on holidays.

Should I get overtime for working holidays? 

When holidays are worked, they are treated like any other workday in the week (for example, employees may be owed overtime if a holiday is part of a week where they have worked over 40 hours). However, if employees are given holiday pay for a day off, the holiday will not count toward overtime since the employee did not actually work on that day.

When do I get paid? 

If a regular payday falls on a holiday, employers must either pay employees on a business day before the holiday or on the first business day afterward.

Who should work on a holiday? 

There are no laws governing which employees can be asked to work on holidays. Employers are free to offer incentives (such as premiums) for working, as well as refuse requests for time off. However, employers must be fair and non-discriminatory in assigning holiday shifts to workers.

Happy clients with their class action settlement checks

It feels really good when you get your check for unpaid wages owed to you!

Vacation Pay

Under California law there is no legal requirement that your employer provide you with either paid or unpaid vacation time. However, if your employer does have an established policy, practice, or agreement to provide paid vacation, then certain restrictions are placed on your employer as to how it fulfills its obligation to provide vacation pay.

Under California Vacation Pay Law, earned vacation time is considered wages, and vacation time is earned, or vests, as labor is performed. For example, if you are entitled to two weeks (10 work days) of vacation per year, after six months of work you will have earned five days of vacation. Vacation pay accrues (adds up) as it is earned, and cannot be forfeited, even upon termination of your employment, regardless of the reason for the termination.

An employer can place a reasonable cap on vacation benefits that prevents an employee from earning vacation over a certain amount of hours.

When Does My Employer Have To Pay Me My Vacation Pay?

Unless otherwise stipulated by a collective bargaining agreement, upon termination of employment all earned and unused vacation must be paid you.

Vacation Pay and The Joy Of Math

Here is a quick example. I call this, “The Joy of Math.”  Go with me here. Suppose you were fired from your (it is not much different if you quit - see below). At that time, your employer paid you the wages for all of the hours that you had worked (if you weren’t - call us, we can help you this also), but your were not paid for your 15 days of earned, accrued and unused vacation pay until 30 days later.

In this example, you earned $19 an hour and worked 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week.

You are entitled to the waiting time penalty in the amount of 30 days’ wages. Under California law, earned vacation time is considered wages; and unless otherwise provided by a collective bargaining agreement, whenever an employment relationship ends for any reason whatsoever and you have not used all of your earned and accrued vacation, your employer must pay you at your final rate of pay for all such earned, accrued and unused vacation.

In this situation, since your former employer was obligated to pay you all of your wages at the time you were discharged, including your 15 days of vacation wages, and did not do so, you are entitled to the waiting time penalty in the amount of 30 days wages, the number of days between the date you were discharged and the date you received all of your final wages, i.e., the 15 days vacation pay.

$19 x 8 = $152
$152 x 30 = $4,560

Thus, your employer owes you $4,560 in California Waiting Time Penalties.

If you quit and gave your employer more than 72 hours notice that you were quitting, then the calculations are the same. If you quit and gave less than 72 hours notice, than your employer owes you $4,104.

What If My Employer Still Hasn’t Paid My Vacation Time?

This happens all too frequently. If your employer still hasn’t paid your vacation time, then you are entitled to the vacation time, plus interest, plus attorney fees. Meaning, you don’t have to pay your attorney fees - your employer does.

If you still have questions about California overtime pay, download a free copy of our book, The Ultimate Straight Talk Guide to Getting Your Hard Earned Wages Back.

Not all lawyers are alike

Lawyers have far different expertise and experience in handling different legal matters. We are only telling you all of this so you know that Bill Turley has the experience, resources and skill to handle unpaid wages class action cases and Private Attorney General Act cases. 

We are not telling you all this to brag, but to let you know that Bill has the skill and resources needed to prevail in class action lawsuits and/or PAGA lawsuits.

All lawyers are not alike. Putting aside all of the awards and accolades - Bill is also known for being blunt and honest.


“I give it to you straight. No sugar added. No lawyer talk, no double talk. Just old fashioned, unsweetened truth.” -Bill Turley

Bill Turley specializes in wage and hour class action cases. There are few, if any, lawyers in California that know more about these cases than Bill. Bill Turley has been instrumental in helping to make California’s strong worker protection laws.

Have Questions?

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Text us at 858-281-8008 - Be sure and put "new wage case" in your text. 

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Disclaimer: Please understand these discussions and/or examples are not legal advice. All legal situations are different. This testimonial, endorsement and/or discussion does not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter, your particular case/ situation and/or this particular case/ situation.

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