President Obama signed an executive order late this week that reads: “All executive branch departments and agencies of the Federal Government shall be closed and their employees excused from duty on Friday, December 26, 2014, the day after Christmas Day….”
So, the executive order is a Merry Christmas greeting from the White House to the majority of federal employees who will have a four-day weekend to celebrate the Christmas season.
The federal government has gotten more generous in giving federal employees an extra day off now than was the case in previous decades.
While feds got half days off on December 24 in 1946 and 1957, they were forced to work their regular schedules — both on December 24 and December 26 . When Christmas fell on a Wednesday in 1963, 1968, 1974, 1985, 1991 and 1996, federal employees did not get any time off. Most recently, however, President Bush gave the federal workforce a half day off on Christmas Eve in 2002, on a Tuesday.
President Obama provided a half-day off on Christmas Eve, Thursday, December 24, 2009 and a full day on Monday, December 24, 2012. President George W. Bush provided a half-day holiday on Tuesday, December 24, 2002, as well as several full days off the day before or after Christmas—Monday, December 24, 2001, Friday, December 26, 2003, Monday, December 24, 2007, and Friday, December 26, 2008.
Perhaps federal employees can credit the internet for more generous time off. Perhaps it was a coincidence but the extra day off for Christmas in 2012 was announced after a petition on the White House website asked the president for an extra day of vacation and the petition exceeded the minimum signature threshold to require a response. (Also see White House Responds to Petition for Christmas Eve Holiday)
This year, a similar petition failed to gather the required number of signatures even though the petition seeking an extra paid holiday had many more signatures than it did the previous year. The reason is because the minimum number of signatures to receive a response went from 25,000 to 100,000 (See Petition for Extra Day Off at Christmas Fails to Get Minimum Required Signatures)
We do not know if the approximately 99,000 signatures from federal employees asking for an extra holiday had an impact this year or not. It is somewhat surprising that the executive order was signed on December 5th this year. Oftentimes, an executive order on this issue is issued just several days before Christmas. For example, in 2012, the extra holiday was announced on December 21st.
Factors that may have influenced the decision to provide the extra holiday may be the items listed in the petition:
Federal Employees have dealt with pay freezes and furloughs over the past few years. Giving federal employees an extra holiday on Dec. 26th, 2014 would be a good gesture to improve morale of the federal workforce. Some bases are forcing their employees to take leave or LWOP because of base shut-downs on this day. This is also consistent with past practice. President Obama provided a full-day Monday Dec. 24, 2012 and a half-day off on Thursday, Dec. 24, 2009. President George W. Bush provided a half-day holiday on Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2002, as well as several full days off the day before or after Christmas: Tuesday, December 24, 2001, Thursday, December 26, 2003, Tuesday, December 24, 2007, and Thursday, December 26, 2008. We urge President Obama to issue an executive order.
But, whatever the reason, most readers are undoubtedly pleased with the extra holiday and the four-day Christmas weekend now added to their Christmas stocking.