Is Holiday Premium Pay a 'Right'?

By on January 19, 2016 in Pay & Benefits, Q&A with 3 Comments

Q: I’m a WS 2 supervisor. Management recently announced that each supervisor now will work only 4 out of ten holidays each year, and will be excused from work on the six holidays they are not scheduled to work.  For many of the supervisors this will be a financial hardship, and some even think of it as a pay cut. Out of all years that I have worked there, we get paid if we work or not, and, as a result, were paid holiday premium pay for the time worked on each holiday. Can management do that? Do we have rights in this situation?

A: The problem is that holiday premium pay is not a right, but is due to an employee who is assigned to work on a legal holiday. When the employee is excused from work on a legal holiday and that day is part of the employee’s regular workweek, then she or he is entitled to receive his or her regular pay without the holiday premium pay addition. The regs are at 5 CFR 532.507.

Holiday premium pay by its nature is not considered part of an employee’s basic pay, so there is no right to it unless the employee is actually assigned to perform work on a legal holiday (or an in lieu of day) rather than being excused from work on the holiday. The premium pay is to compensate the employee for performing work on a day she or he would otherwise be excused from work.

Management has the right to assign work and set employee work schedules in a manner that will accomplish the agency mission. The regs are at 5 CFR 610.121, especially at 610.121(b)(1) and (2).

All of this is by way of saying that if management has figured out a way to get the work accomplished without every supervisor working all 10 Federal holidays, then they have a right to schedule the work in that manner.

However, the last sentence in 610.121(b)(2) reminds managers that they “…shall inform the employee of the change, and he or she shall record the change on the employee’s time card or other agency document for recording work.”

Typically when this happens, the supervisor also indicates why the change is being made.

With the recent tightening of budgets by Congress, my guess is that one of the issues may be that the your organization has fewer dollars to compensate employees. This change in the number of holidays each supervisor will work may be one way of addressing reduced compensation dollars.

I’m sorry that my answer cannot be more positive, but I hope it helps to explain the rules under which work assignment and premium pay decisions must be made.

Wayne Coleman is a federal pay expert available to help your agency avoid premium pay claims through on-site training. Contact him for more information.

© 2016 Wayne Coleman. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Wayne Coleman.

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About the Author

Wayne Coleman’s career at various Federal agencies spanned about 32 years.  Since his retirement he has consulted on, written about, and provided training on overtime and premium pay, on the principles of FLSA coverage and exemption, and on related federal compensation issues.  He can be reached at wayneslyhouse@comcast.net.

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