Why is Inauguration Day Treated Differently Than Other Holidays?

Can you explain why Inauguration Day is treated differently than other legal public holidays, for “in lieu of” purposes? Some of OPM’s guidance on the holiday is perplexing.

Q: In reference to OPM’s guidance to agency HR Directors, can you explain why Inauguration Day is treated differently than other legal public holidays, for “in lieu of” purposes? OPM has issued guidance stating that if your alternative work schedule (AWS) day falls on Jan. 20th, you “are not entitled to a day off in lieu of the holiday.”

Also, OPM states, “If Inauguration Day falls on a non-workday, there is no provision for an ‘in lieu of’ holiday.”

This means if your AWS falls on Jan 16th, 2017 (MLK Day), employees will have Monday off and Tuesday off (as an in lieu of holiday). But if your AWS day falls on Jan 20th, you only have Friday off. Also, if employees with Jan 20th scheduled as an AWS day lose their AWS day that pay period, should they not only work 8 hours the rest of that pay period?

I’d be interested if you could find out why OPM treats Inauguration Day differently than other legal public holidays.

A: Your question is a good one. Here is an opinion based on guidance from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

Inauguration day is not a typical federal holiday. It only impacts some federal employees in a portion of what is normally considered the Washington, DC metropolitan area.

Friday, January 20, 2017, is a legal public holiday only for Federal employees who work in the “Inauguration Day area.” It only applies to the District of Columbia, Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties in Maryland, Arlington and Fairfax Counties in Virginia, and the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church in Virginia.

It is a holiday in this area in large part because of the traffic, congestion and problems in moving around the downtown Washington, DC area. It will also allow federal employees who work in Washington to view the ceremonies if they wish to do so.

Since it is not a typical federal holiday that is given to all federal workers throughout the country, it is treated differently than others for pay purposes.

The “holiday” is limited to a geographic area for specific reasons rather more that commemorating an event as is the case with traditional holidays. That is also a reason why your alternative work schedule is treated differently than for other holidays.

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