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Details on State Legal Holiday Laws

A legal holiday is a day set aside by the federal or state government to honor an event, historical figure, or cultural observation. Government employees generally receive a paid day off of work or are paid a higher hourly wage (usually 150 percent of the regular rate) for working on a holiday. While getting a three-day weekend is fantastic, not all holidays are treated equally and not all employers treat holiday pay the same. Private employers are not required to provide employers with a paid day off on legal holidays. Some states stick largely to national holidays but also add additional days such as the state of Delaware's observation of Good Friday.

Private Employers

Private employers are not required by state law to provide any holidays as paid (or unpaid) days off. Therefore, a private employer can require his or her employees to work on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, or any other holiday and pay the same rate as he or she would for any normal workday. However, some employers will treat legal holidays as overtime and provide overtime pay for working on a holiday. If you have an employment contract, you may wish to review it or speak to your human resources department to learn more.

Legal Holiday Laws: Federal vs. State

Under federal labor law, employers are not required to pay employees holiday pay (whether it's for hours not worked or premium pay for work performed on legal holidays). However, holiday pay is required for employees of the federal government and certain government contractors.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

The diversity of our country is reflected in the various holidays recognized by the individual states. The recognition of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday has sparked a great deal of controversy. It is not recognized in every state, and in some of the states where it is recognized, it is not a paid holiday for state employees. And in a few states, though it is an official day of recognition, it is not a legal holiday.

The most interesting variation on the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is in Louisiana, where it is one of six holidays -- including Robert E. Lee Day -- that are interchangeably recognized. Each year the governor is authorized to declare any two of these days as an official state holiday, except that every two years Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday must be one of the days selected.

The following is a list of legal holidays. Due to the myriad local holidays in the states, only the major holidays are featured below for comparison. See FindLaw's Employment Law section to learn more about your rights as an employee.


Date Observed

New Year's Day January 1
Martin Luther King Jr. Day Third Monday of January
President's Day Third Monday of February
Memorial Day Last Monday of May
Independence Day July 4
Labor Day First Monday of September
Columbus Day Second Monday of October
Veteran's Day November 11
Christmas Day December 25

Note: State laws are always subject to change, usually through legislation, ballot initiative, or court ruling -- contact an employment law attorney in your state or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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State Legal Holidays Laws: Related Resources

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