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
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
- 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.