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Working on Labor Day? You're Not Alone

image for Antonio Guillem/Shutterstock
Antonio Guillem/Shutterstock
  • Labor Day is one of the most common paid holidays in the U.S.
  • 97% of employers give some employees Labor Day off. However, more than 40% of businesses will still be open and have some staff members on the clock.
  • Large organizations are much more likely to have some employees working on Labor Day than small businesses.
  • There are no federal laws requiring employers to give employees paid holidays or to pay those who do work those days any extra compensation.

The very first U.S. Labor Day was celebrated on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 1882, in New York City. It was a parade planned by the Central Labor Union where 10,000 workers marched from City Hall to 42nd Street. Labor Day weekend typically signifies the unofficial end to summer. While many will be enjoying the three-day weekend, not all workers will be joining in on the fun.

Labor Day – which falls on Monday, Sept. 2 this year – is one of the most common paid holidays. This year marks the 125th anniversary of the holiday. But many employers are not closing up shop for everyone. Previous research from Bloomberg BNA found that a good chunk of employees will be working on Labor Day.

The study revealed that 97% of employers will be giving Labor Day off to at least some of their employees, whether they're full- or part-time workers. However, 41% of those businesses will still require some staff members to work on Labor Day.

Those most likely to be working on Labor Day are technical and security workers. The survey of more than 100 human resources and employee relations professionals revealed that 15% of employers are making their security or public-safety personnel and technical employees report to work on Labor Day.

In addition, 13% of the employers surveyed will have professional employees working Labor Day, 11% will have managers or supervisors on the clock, and 10% will have service and maintenance, sales, and customer service personnel report to work.

Larger businesses are those most likely to have some workers reporting for work on Labor Day. The research found that 80% of businesses with at least 1,000 employees will require at least some of them to work on Labor Day, compared to just 29% of small businesses.

The study also found that 56% of nonbusiness organizations, such as hospitals and government agencies, will have some employees working on Labor Day, compared with only 35% of nonmanufacturers and 30% of manufacturers.

Research from the Society of Human Resource Management shows that Labor Day is one of the most common paid holidays, trailing only Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year's Day.

Despite the popularity of not requiring employees to work on Labor Day, there is no labor law requiring companies to give this or any other day off. The federal government does not mandate that employers provide workers with time off for holidays or vacations.

Employers who choose to give their employees the day off are not required to pay them for the day. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require organizations to pay employees for time they don't work. "These benefits are generally a matter of agreement between an employer and an employee (or the employee's representative)," the U.S. Department of Labor says on its website.

While paid holidays, like Labor Day, are not required by federal law, they are a benefit that employees find appealing.

"Paid holidays are a nice perk that can attract candidates and improve employee morale, as they provide employees a much-needed break without the worries of loss of income," Lisa Porro, an HR consultant with Inspiring HR, told Business News Daily. "Labor Day also celebrates workers, and historically, many have had the day off to spend time with family and friends." 

Although many employers pay those who work on Labor Day a little extra for their time, this is not required by law either.

"Under federal law, a holiday doesn't have a special designation for overtime pay, nor is working on a holiday considered overtime," Rocket Lawyer says on its website. "Federal law views holidays as just another business day."

Though they are not required to do so, the Bloomberg research shows that 86% of employers give some extra compensation to employees working on Labor Day. Specifically, 27% of employers will give time-and-a-half pay, 18% will give both extra pay and compensatory time, 16% will pay double time, and 16% will reward employees with another form of extra pay, such as double-time-and-a-half. 

The study also found that 9% of employers will provide extra days off in addition to regular pay. Less than 10% of the organizations that make employees work on Labor Day provide just regular pay.

When deciding which holidays to give employees off and how many, if any, employees should be required to work on those days, Porro recommends employers take several factors into consideration.

  • Employees should consider finding an equitable method, such as a rotation, to determine which employees get which holidays off and which are on the schedule to work, rather than assuming that someone's personal situation, such as marital or family status, makes them more or less inclined to want time off. 
  • Employees may ask for holidays off that correspond to their religious beliefs, and employers should consider accommodating these requests if it will not create hardship for their business. These do not necessarily need to be paid days off, but if there is a PTO or vacation plan available, employees should be allowed to use that time in such a situation.
  • Some states require additional compensation or another day off in lieu of a holiday when an employee is scheduled to work while other employees get the day off with pay.
  • If holiday operating hours will be shortened, employers should ensure that employees who are scheduled to work are notified in advance. Some states require a minimum number of hours to be paid if employees report in to work and are sent home earlier than scheduled due to lack of work or early closing. 

Porro also says employers should have a well-defined written holiday policy that explains which holidays the company is closed on, if holiday pay is offered on those days and if a premium is offered for those scheduled to work if the company remains open. "If the holiday schedule changes, employees should ideally be notified in advance so they can make arrangements accordingly," she said.

Labor Day, celebrated on the first Monday of September, is a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated in 1882 in New York City. It wasn't until three years later that the holiday spread to other industrial centers of the country.

There is some debate as to who the true founder of Labor Day is. "Many credit Peter J. McGuire, cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, while others have suggested that Matthew Maguire, a secretary of the Central Labor Union, first proposed the holiday," says History.com.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer with more than 20 years of media experience. A graduate of Indiana University, Chad began his career with Business News Daily in 2011 as a freelance writer. In 2014, he joined the staff as a senior writer. Currently, Chad covers a wide range of B2B products and services, including business phone systems, time and attendance systems, payroll services, and conference call services. Before joining Business News Daily, Chad spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago. Chad's first book, "How to Start a Home-Based App Development Business," was published in 2014. He lives with his wife and daughter in the Chicago suburbs.