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Do I need to provide extra pay or time off during the Thanksgiving holiday?

No, in nearly every state, private employers are not required to give employees time off work, or extra pay, either on Thanksgiving Day or the following day, or any other holiday for that matter. Federal law and state laws make Thanksgiving Day a holiday. Roughly half the states recognize the day after as a holiday, too. These laws, however, only guarantee time off, or extra pay, to government or public sector employees.

State and federal laws consider Thanksgiving Day and the day after as normal business days for private employers. The only exceptions are Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Can I deny requests for time off during the holiday season?

Yes. Employers may limit when employees can take time off from work, even during the holiday season. Leave taken under the Family and Medical Leave Act, however, may not be restricted or limited by the employer.

Appropriate times for vacation may be identified in a written Vacation Policy. Having this policy circulated ahead of the holidays can be helpful for your staff. In drafting the policy, you may include the following:

  • The specific dates when vacations are prohibited or restricted.
  • Whether there are exceptions to the policy for certain positions.
  • The procedure for requesting leave, such as making a formal Time Off Request.
  • How overlapping requests for time off from multiple employees will be resolved.
  • The appropriate use of leave without pay. 

Are contractors or freelancers entitled to extra pay on Thanksgiving? 

No. Contractors and freelancers are not entitled to extra pay for working on Thanksgiving, or other holidays, unless it is in their work agreement. Moreover, regular employees are not entitled to extra or overtime pay for working holidays either, except in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. 

You may have difficulty finding a contractor or freelancer who is willing to work for their normal rate on Thanksgiving. In such cases, you may want to consider offering extra pay as an incentive to secure the help your business needs.

Are contractors or freelancers entitled to time off for Thanksgiving when it is provided to employees?

No. One difference between contractors and employees is that contractors do not accrue paid time off. Contractors and freelancers get paid only when they work or per the terms of their agreement

A business may give its employees time off for Thanksgiving or Black Friday without providing the same time off for its contractors or freelancers. Contractors and freelancers, however, have more freedom to structure their own working hours, so they may choose not to work on their own accord. 

Requiring contractors to work certain hours may also potentially raise legal concerns over whether those contractors are properly classified or should be hired and paid as employees. Employers that have the same requirements for contractors as employees may want to ask a lawyer for help with making sure their workforce is properly classified, as the legal consequences of misclassification may be severe.

Yes. Employers are free to structure their compensation plans by offering extra pay or other incentives to work on Thanksgiving or Black Friday. Offering incentives and holiday pay may be a better strategy than prohibiting all vacation time during the holiday season. These can be used in combination with limitations on vacation time to make sure there is enough coverage. Some workers may opt to forego using vacation time for higher pay or incentives, leading to fewer scheduling issues. Additionally, employees appreciate options, so giving workers a choice between whether to earn some extra income or spend the day off with their family and friends can help keep morale high during busy holidays.

If you offer incentives for working on holidays, set out your plans in a written policy. The policy may specify the details of the incentive, the period or hours during which it applies, and what workers must do to qualify. This helps remove ambiguity and ensures enough help is available during the holiday season.

If you have more questions about holiday compensation and vacation time, reach out to a Rocket Lawyer On Call® attorney.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.


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