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With the holidays around the corner, vacations are being planned and time off work is being considered. When reconciling your personal schedule with the demands of restaurant work that, unlike most other industries, often doesn’t close for major holidays, it’s important to understand your rights and restaurant employment laws when it comes to holiday, overtime, and vacation pay for restaurant workers.

While these three categories are closely related, there are different rules, regulations, and traditions that govern each one of them. Plus they tend to work out a little differently for salaried employees than tipped, hourly employees.

As you start to work out your holiday and vacation plans, here’s what you need to know about holiday, overtime, vacation pay for restaurant employees.

restaurant food service staff

Overtime Pay

As an OLR Research Report explains, restaurants must pay their employees overtime pay for working more than 40 hours a week.

Unless classified as an exempt (aka salaried) employee, you’re entitled to receive overtime pay “at a rate not less than time and one-half” your normal rate of pay, according to the Department of Labor. The period of time that defines the 40-hour threshold is a standard week—”seven consecutive 24-hour periods” that don’t have to align with the calendar week, meaning that a work week period can begin on any day and any hour of the week. An important thing to note is that overtime pay cannot be averaged out over the course of two weeks, a pay period, or any other timeline.

Restaurants must pay their employees overtime pay for working more than 40 hours a week.

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Holiday Pay

As The Balance reports, there is no federal law that requires employers to provide time off on nationally recognized holidays (think Memorial Day or Labor Day), paid or not.

Exempt employees, though, are still entitled to their full weekly salary even during weeks that include days when the establishment is closed. That said, holiday pay is one perk that pits employers against each other in the hiring realm. Often the prospective employer offering the best holiday package will win out when it comes to competing for talent, so just because it isn’t required doesn’t mean that you won’t get it or shouldn’t bargain for it.

Things get a little more complicated when it comes to religious holidays. While employers don’t have to provide pay, they are required to provide “reasonable accommodation for the religious practices of its employees,” unless they can demonstrate that doing so “would result in undue hardship” for the business.

While less common in the restaurant industry, floating holidays are a practice that many businesses deploy to handle issues like this, so it’s worth it to find out if your restaurant has a policy on this buried in its handbook.

Vacation Pay

Like holiday pay, there is no law that requires employers to offer paid vacation days. However, again, there’s a bit of a disparity between the hourly, often tipped, employees and the salaried ones within restaurants. While each establishment is different, most salaried positions come with a set number of vacation days each year, typically referred to as paid time off or PTO for short. Although it’s not required by law, PTO is a traditional offering and averages about 14 days per year for employees in their first year of employment at a given establishment, according to

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Cinnamon is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and journalist who paid a large part of her way through college and graduate school by serving. Her work has been published with outlets like National Geographic, the Washington Post, Pacific Standard, and more. You can read more about her at