Are you being fairly paid for working during the holidays?

In the working world these days, nothing says Merry Christmas like a smaller paycheck. With time off and companies being closed, the most expensive time of the year can also coincide with reduced pay.   Here's what you you need to know about holiday pay.

Exempt Employees

If you're a salaried, "exempt" employee, your paycheck has to remain the same if you work at all during the week. Even if you are out of vacation time (it is the end of the year!), a company can't dock your paycheck if you leave at noon on Christmas Eve.

You have to be paid for holidays when the business is closed; otherwise, your employer risks losing your exempt status, which means you'd be eligible for overtime pay, if applicable. However, it can require you to use vacation time to cover the time off.

If you work on Christmas or New Year's Day, there is no requirement that you be paid extra or be given time off to match, even if your coworkers got it off. Sometimes, it's your turn to work.

Non-exempt employees

Even though working through the holidays can be demoralizing and huge a pain, your company isn't required to do anything other than pay you your regular hourly rate. Lots of employers do pay time-and- a half or even double time for holiday work, and if yours does, fantastic! But they aren't required to. 

If you end up working more than 40 hours for the week, you are entitled to overtime pay for every hour over 40. 

Paid holidays aren't required for non-exempt employees, but many companies do offer them. If so,  an employer can put restrictions around that paid time off. For instance, in order to be paid for Christmas, a company may require that you work both Dec. 24 and Dec. 26 to qualify for holiday pay. Mean, but legal.

That holiday party on Friday night? That may be paid. If attendance is required, then it's work time and they have to pay you, even if it puts you into overtime. If attendance isn't required, then by law the company doesn't have to pay you because it's just a party. 

What about religion?

If your religious faith discourages or even bars you from working on Christmas, your employer can be required to give you that day off as long as it doesn't create an undue burden on the company. This needs to be a sincere religious belief and not just because you want to attend church with the family as an excuse to get out of working Christmas. That wouldn't count as a sincerely held religious belief.