A Short(ish) HR Holiday Survival Guide! You’re Welcome. [HorroR Stories]

Ho! Ho! Ho my friends! Merry/Happy whatever-the-heck you like to celebrate this time of year. I’m in HR so I don’t care what you celebrate, I just have to accommodate it. Personally, in December I like to celebrate the joy I feel at how freaking cold the rest of the country is and how I can sit on my veranda (yes, veranda) and sip some sort of jovial celebratory beverage and laugh and laugh and laugh. Karmically I realize I’m probably setting myself up for some sort of epic natural disaster and yes, I realize that Super Storm Sandy has made weather no longer funny, but give me something. I’m in HR and year end sucks for us. We have Open Enrollment for the ingrates (or as some call them “employees”), payroll year end, holiday parties, holiday staffing issues. The fuzzy-holiday sweater/sock/earring expectations are staggering, just staggering, I tell you.

My gift to you, my favorite readers—you guys are the best!—is twofold:

  1. A short(ish) post! Yay! <Sound of champagne corks popping>
  2. An HR holiday survival guide! Yay! <No champagne corks popping>

So a quick Q&A:

Everyone that I’ve ever met or been related to that knows I’m in HR (We’ll call them ETIEMOBRTTKIIHR for short): Does my company have to give me paid holidays off?

Me: No.

ETIEMOBRTTKIIHR: Really?

Me: Yes.

ETIEMOBRTTKIIHR: Not even federal holidays?

Me: No.

ETIEMOBRTTKIIHR: What if my company is closed for a holiday, do they have to pay me?

Me: No. (Unless you are exempt, then it might).

ETIEMOBRTTKIIHR: Is that legal?

Is that legal? Ah, my favorite question. I’m going to get it tattooed on my ass. On the right cheek. On the left, I’m going to tattoo “So?” I was going to tattoo “It Depends,” but thank God my ass isn’t that big. Anyways, yes, Virginia, it depends. So what does it depend on? Well, your company policy. Your company can decide whether or not their employees receive paid holiday days off and it can define what and when those days are. The only sticky part is that once they define it they have to stick with it. So read your employee handbook for criminey sakes (or, if your company provides an electronic version, search for the word “holiday” and just read that section).

Here are the salient things you want to know:

  1. Does your company have paid holidays?
  2. If your company closes for holidays, does it pay you?
  3. What are those days?
  4. Who is eligible for paid holidays? (Many companies only give them to Full-time employees).
  5. How does your company handle a situation when you have to work on a holiday? (Some companies will pay you time and a half, some will give you a “float” day you can take at another time, some just pay it as if it were a regular day that you are scheduled to work).

The important thing to note is that in general there are no federal or state requirements regarding holidays, how/if you are paid for holidays, or how/if you are paid if you work on a holiday, they just expect your company to follow the policy they’ve established.

OK, sounds generally simple, so what’s the thing I’m not telling you?

Title VII bitchez! Woo-hoo Civil Rights Act of 1964! It provides all sorts of things that you are “civilly” entitled to, like, you know—fair treatment, freedom from harassment, equal employment opportunity, etc., etc. Why am I bringing it up? Because if your employer has more than 15 employees then it also requires them to accommodate any time off you need for religious observances (aka Holidays! aka some Holidays! Religious holidays—not Arbor Day, just saying). (Side note—can Christmas even still be considered a religious holiday? Discuss). Hooray loophole! However, they don’t have to pay you for that day off. Boo loophole! But you can probably use vacation time or personal time or some other sort of paid time off that you have accrued, unless you are part-time.

The good news is that most executives like taking holidays off too, so most companies provide and pay for holidays. Plus, that must be a tough recruiting job: “We’d like to offer you the job.” “Great, what holidays do I get off?” “None.” “Hmm…”

So this is a great example of why your company has all those policies, because a lot of times what’s legal and what isn’t has to do with whether or not the company is following their policy. And I suppose too, whether or not the policy is legal to begin with, but we’ll just assume it is. <Sound of me riding away on a horse…>

Something else to think about: holiday “hours” do not count toward overtime. Some companies will pay the OT anyway, to encourage their employee to work every day until they DIE, but they don’t legally have to.

And something else: How your company pays you for holidays if you are on leave of absence again depends on their policy. Most don’t, but it’s worth asking your HR department.

And one more thing: People always ask me about how companies/managers decide how to schedule for holidays. I think this falls under the category or common complaint where people with families tend to get preferential treatment when it comes to time off during the holidays. I can’t really help you here either. I would hope that your company and your manager would be consistent and fair. But you know what they say about hope.

And one (Last) thing, I promise…

As we approach the end of the year, even Madame HR gets a little introspective. This year I’ve been thinking a lot about how companies are treating their employees this holiday season. There has been a lot of stuff in the news and on my Facebook page lately about retail companies and their treatment of employees which seems to manifest itself around the holiday frenzy of shopping that some people like to call Thanksgiving. One of the worst offenders is a company that employs 1% of the population of the United States. 1%—and I know not all of those employees are working in the trenches, but just think of the scale that even a little bit of mistreatment touches.

I’m in HR and a lot of times my job involves a delicate balancing act between what the employee inside me is screaming is right and what the manager inside me is screaming is right for the business. So, because I can’t always reconcile that in my professional life, and trust me I try my goddamn darndest, in my personal life I like to make note, patronize and associate with companies that treat their employees well. Because I know I’m a sarcastic bitch most of the time, but I honestly feel that sometimes the only time I’m really successful at my job is when I’m compassionate toward my employees. And because I’m not always successful at that, I’m going to try harder next year.

Good Luck Out There,

Mme HR

Don’t forget to send your questions! You can leave them in the comments, or email them to askHorroR@gmail.com