The Fourth of July is a holiday that celebrates adopting the American Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. A federal holiday is observed on July 4th; however, this was not always a paid holiday for federal employees. Here is some of the history surrounding this holiday.
History of July 4th as a Paid Holiday for Federal Employees
Congress established the Fourth of July as a holiday, without pay, for federal employees and the District of Columbia in 1870.
Senator Hannibal Hamlin (D-ME) introduced a bill entitled “Legal Holidays in the District.” His rationale for the bill was: “There are no legal holidays here, and this bill merely provides for what I think are the legal holidays in every state of the Union.”
It wasn’t until June 29, 1938 that the 4th of July became a paid holiday for federal employees. A joint resolution of Congress (HJ resolution No. 551; pub. res. no. 127) designated the holiday with pay:
Resolved by the Senate and House of representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that hereafter whenever regular employees of the Federal Government whose compensation is fixed at a rate per day, per hour, or on a piece-work basis are relieved or prevented from working solely because of the occurrence of a holiday such as New Year’s Day, Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, or any other day declared a holiday by Federal statute or Executive order, or any day on which the departments and establishments of the Government are closed by Executive order, they shall receive the same pay for such days as for other days on which an ordinary day’s work is performed.
In 1941, a “Holiday Leave for Per Diem Employees of the District of Columbia” amendment was enacted by Congress to provide the July 4th holiday with pay for employees of the Government of the District of Columbia as the 1938 holiday declaration did not specify that these employees also get it as a paid holiday.
On September 22, 1959, Congress passed Public Law 86-362. It held that if the Fourth of July and any other established holiday occurs on a Saturday, “the day immediately preceding such Saturday shall be held and considered to be a legal public holiday, in lieu of such day which so occurs on such Saturday.” The act also provided for a day of release for employees “whose basic workweek is other than Monday through Friday.”
July 4th Holiday in 2021
This year, the July 4th holiday is observed on July 5, 2021 since July 4 falls on a Sunday. In the event the holiday falls on a Saturday, then the Friday before is observed as the holiday.
Pay for Federal Employees on a Holiday
The Office of Personnel Management outlines how pay works for federal employees on holidays. These are some of the highlights of OPM’s guidance:
- Employees who are excused from duty on a designated holiday (i.e., paid holiday time off) receive their rate of basic pay for the applicable number of holiday hours that are part of a holiday tour of duty.
- Full-time employees who are not required to work on a holiday receive their rate of basic pay for the holiday hours.
- A part-time employee is entitled to a holiday when the employee’s daily tour of duty commences on a calendar holiday. This does not include overtime work. Part-time employees are not entitled to an “in lieu of” holiday. Part-time employees who are excused from work on a holiday receive their rate of basic pay for the applicable number of holiday hours.
- All full-time employees, including those on flexible or compressed work schedules, are entitled to an “in lieu of” holiday when a holiday falls on the employee’s nonworkday. Part-time employees are not entitled to an “in lieu of” holiday.