With Christmas falling on a Sunday this year, employers should be mindful of state blue laws, which sometimes require premium pay to hourly employees working on Sundays or holidays. Although most state laws, as well as federal law, do not require premium pay for work performed on holidays (unless, of course, the employee has worked more than 40 hours that week), there are a few exceptions, such as Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Massachusetts generally restricts businesses from operating on Sundays and holidays, but the state has codified 55 exceptions, several of which apply directly to retailers. For example, stores may remain open on Sundays, but if the store employs more than seven people, including the proprietor, on Sunday or any other day, the employer must compensate all non-exempt employees working on Sunday at one and a half times the employee’s regular rate. Moreover, employees must not be required to work on Sundays, and refusal to work for any retail establishment on Sunday may not be grounds for discrimination, dismissal, discharge, reduction in hours or any other penalty. This year, however, many retailers may not face the premium pay requirement because they will simply not be permitted to operate. When Christmas falls on a Sunday, as it does this year, many Massachusetts stores are not permitted to open. Those that may still operate should be careful to provide any required premium pay and refrain from any retaliatory actions towards employees who are unwilling to work that day.
Like Massachusetts, Rhode Island restricts retail establishments that may open on holidays and imposes special obligations for some retail employees who do work on Sundays or holidays. Employers may be required to pay retail employees working on Sundays or holidays no less than time and a half and may have to guarantee at least four hours of work. Refusal to work for a retail establishment on a Sunday or holiday is not a ground for discrimination, dismissal or discharge or any other penalty upon the employee.
Even where there are no state-wide requirements for premium holiday (or Sunday) pay, municipalities may have their own restrictions. At this busy time of year, retailers should be mindful of any premium pay or other obligations they may have to their employees.