Will Federal Employees Get Extra Time Off on New Year’s Eve?

Will federal employees get extra time off on New Year’s Eve? It is an unlikely scenario when one looks at historical precedent.

Now that Christmas is over, the next question that often comes in from readers is along the lines of, “Is there any chance we will get extra time off on New Year’s Eve?”

Friday, January 1, 2016 is a federal holiday. But, while anything is possible, getting an extra four hours or an extra day for New Year’s Eve is based on wishful thinking more than a logical analysis.

There are three times in the last several decades when federal employees have been given extra time off on New Year’s Eve.

  • Dwight D. Eisenhower: Executive Order 10508 – 12/14/1953 4 hours on 12/31/1953
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower: Executive Order 10744 – 12/10/1957 4 hours on 12/31/1957
  • Richard Nixon: Executive Order 11750 – 12/13/1973 8 hours on 12/31/1973

When President Nixon gave an extra eight hours off in 1973, the actual extra holiday was on December 28, 1972 which was a Thursday. Federal employees had December 29th as a holiday since New Year’s day actually fell on a Sunday. The executive order indicated that the time off was granted as a mark of respect for Harry S Truman, the thirty-third President of the United States. President Truman died on December 26, 1972, the same date that the executive order was signed.

We do not know if the Watergate affair may also have had an impact on the generosity of President Nixon. In July 1973, evidence was building against the President’s staff, including testimony provided by former staff members in an investigation conducted by the Senate Watergate Committee. The investigation revealed that President Nixon had a tape-recording system in his offices and that he had recorded many conversations. The extra holiday for New Year’s Eve was granted by an executive issued in December of 1973.

Some federal employees have had New Year’s day off as a federal holiday since 1871. Based on a law passed in 1870, New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Christmas Day, and “any day appointed or recommended by the President of the United States as a day of public fasting or thanksgiving [were] to be holidays within the District.” These holidays only applied to federal employees working in Washington, DC.

At the time, there were approximately 5,300 federal employees working in Washington, D.C., and some 50,600 in other locations across the country. Federal employees in other parts of the country apparently did not begin to receive holiday benefits until 1885.

There is no written record that any federal employees were to be paid for these holidays, but holiday legislation subsequently signed by President Rutherford B. Hayes in April 1880 supports the conclusion that some were paid despite having the day off. This legislation was prompted by a grievance filed by a group of employees who had been denied holiday pay for the previous New Year’s Day while other federal workers had been paid.

So, while it is unlikely that federal employees will get an extra day of holiday time in 2015, the situation is much better than in earlier times when some federal employees may have had extra time off of work but did not get paid for it.

Happy New Year to all of our readers and thank you for taking the time to read FedSmith.com!

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47