Economy

Companies That Make People Work On Christmas Should Pay Double, Lawmaker Proposes

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A bill that was recently introduced in California would require employers to pay double if they make employees work on holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving.

The Double Pay on the Holiday Act of 2015 (AB 67), introduced by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D), would work like overtime rules that require time-and-a-half for extra hours, but would require that workers get two times their regular hourly rate on holidays. She says she was inspired to introduce the bill after watching her mother work on holidays as a nurse and realizing that there are no requirements around holiday pay. The bill is meant to “honor every worker when they have to be away from their family and friends,” she told KCET.

The issue gained prominence during the Thanksgiving season, when at least 12 national brands required millions of their employees to report to work on the holiday itself. About one in four Americans will have to work on a holiday this year, be it Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s Day, or some combination of the three. And while retailers claimed that their stores were staffed with volunteers and seasonal workers during Thanksgiving, workers themselves said the reality was very different: they weren’t given the chance to volunteer, weren’t allowed to request the holiday off, and risked being fired if they didn’t show up.

Gonzalez’s legislation follows similar efforts to alleviate this problem. A bill introduced in Ohio’s House would ban stores from retaliating against workers who refuse to show up on a holiday and would require triple their regular pay rate if they did come in. A state lawmaker in Connecticut has said he’ll put forward a similar bill next year.

Some states already have restrictions around the holidays. Massachusetts, Maine, and Rhode Island ban most stores from opening on Thanksgiving and Christmas. The rules trace back to “blue laws” from colonial times that restricted commercial activity on Sundays. Some have called for a federal “blue law” banning stores from opening on holidays.

Retailers might balk, but opening on Thanksgiving didn’t appear to do them any favors. Rather than giving their holiday sales a healthy boost, consumers who showed up on the day of simply shifted purchases that they would have made on Black Friday the next day. Sales increased 27.3 percent on Thanksgiving Day this year but fell 5.6 percent on Black Friday, leading to a 0.5 percent decline in overall sales compared to the year before. And stores that stayed closed may have done just fine: Costco, which didn’t open because it “believe[s] that [employees] deserve the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with their families,” saw November sales rise 7 percent compared to last year.