UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022
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While I know that employers are not required to honor holidays off, if they are
explicitly guaranteed in an employee handbook, can there be any negative
repercussions for the employer if they force an employee to work a federal
holiday when they have outlined otherwise in the signed employee manual?
Asked on April 23, 2019 under Employment Labor Law, California
SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney
Answered 3 years ago | Contributor
There would almost certainly be no repercussions for two reasons.
First, the vast majority of employee handbooks are not held to form contracts, and if they don't form a contract, they are informational only (e.g. showing what the policy generally is) but are not binding or enforceable. If there is any language anywhere in the handbook to the effect that "employment is employment at will," or "policies may be changed at will," or "nothing in this handbook forms a contract," there is no contract and the handbook is not enforceable.
Even if the handbook formed a contracty, there are no agencies enforcing provisions like this. The employee could theoretically sue, but if he or she received pay for the day, he or she suffered no loss, so there is nothing to sue over or for--i.e. the employee would not get any compensation.
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