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You are Here: Home > Benefits > Legal Holidays

Legal Holidays

Legal holidays are also referred to as legal paid holidays or legal public holidays. All terms mean official holidays as designated by Federal, state or municipal laws, or related regulations.

Legal Holidays for Private-Sector Employees

You might be surprised to learn that there are no such things as Federally-mandated "legal holidays" for private-sector employees, whether paid or not.

That's because the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the "main" Federal law that regulates work hours and pay, does not require private-sector employers to grant any holiday time off to their employees.

The FLSA also does not require public-sector employers to grant holiday time off to their employees. However, legal holidays for Federal government employees are designated by a different law that is specifically for such employees. More information is below.

Most private-sector employers still voluntarily grant time off to some or all of their employees on so-called legal holidays. They do so to attract and retain employees in competition with other employers, just as they voluntarily grant other benefits that are not required by law.

Under the FLSA, employers also don't have to pay their employees more than the standard rate for overtime work on legal holidays. More than the standard rate, such as double-time pay, is strictly a matter of agreement between employers and employees or employers and labor unions.

In other words, the FLSA treats legal holidays (or legal paid holidays, legal public holidays or any others) exactly the same as "regular" workdays regarding hours and pay.

If an employer has a policy of granting time off for legal holidays, then it's a good idea for the employer to apply that policy equally to all employees of the same classification. Otherwise, the employer might face a discrimination lawsuit. Contact the EEOC or a lawyer about that.

States and municipalities may enact FLSA equivalents that provide more generous provisions than the Federal version. Even so, the probability is low that a particular state or municipality requires private-sector employers to grant employee time off for all legal holidays.

But, to be sure for the state or municipality in which you work, check with the relevant state labor department or municipal equivalent, such as the city council.

Legal Holidays for Government Employees

Legal holidays are established annually by Federal, state and local government offices for public-sector employees, according to laws or related regulations.

For example, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) establishes the following legal paid holidays for Federal government employees each calendar year, as designated in Title 5 of the United States Code (USC) (Federal laws).

  • New Year's Day
  • Martin Luther King's Birthday
  • Washington’s Birthday (Presidents' Day)
  • Memorial Day
  • Independence Day ("Fourth of July")
  • Labor Day
  • Columbus Day
  • Veterans Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Christmas Day

If one of the Federal holidays listed above falls on a weekend, then the OPM will likely designate the preceding Friday or the following Monday as the official, legal paid holiday. See Federal Holidays at the Web site of the OPM, for the specific dates of Federal legal holidays in a particular calendar year.

For information about legal holidays for state or municipal government employees, start by checking with the relevant state labor department or municipal equivalent, such as the city council.

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