McDonald’s to Open on Christmas Day: Holiday Pay, Overtime, and Unions

McDonald’s is pushing its franchise owners to open their stores on Christmas, and the fast-food chain won’t be paying workers holiday overtime at company-owned stores. Traditionally, many employers that require employees to work on major holidays extend some bonuses or an increased pay rate for the day; does that mean McDonald’s and other stores have any requirement to pay holiday overtime?

Holiday Pay Not Required and Overtime Rules Still Apply

A common myth among many business owners is that they are required to provide days off for holiday to their employees and if they do require them to work, they have to be prepared to pay them extra. Even in the employee-friendly state of California there is no requirement to provide employees with paid holidays nor a “holiday pay.” The law allows employers to set their own holidays, if any. They must follow their policy, but there are some employers that do not provide for any holidays at all.

As a clarification, overtime rules still apply, i.e. if the non-exempt employee who works more than eight hours in one day or more than forty in one work week is entitled to overtime pay.

Employees May Face Repercussions for Noncompliance

santa mcdonalds

At-will employees may be terminated or demoted for any legal reason. Employees generally have no given right not to work on a holiday unless it’s for religious reasons–even so, this issue gets complicated depending on the number of employees and whether the employer may make reasonable accommodation.

Opening on Christmas, A New Trend?

Last Thanksgiving, Walmart received a lot of press for opening early on Thanksgiving day, even though it was late in the day. There is probably not much difference between opening at 8 PM and 12 A.M. that same evening as did many other retailers. McDonald’s is also not the only fast food restaurant to stay open with some franchises like Jack In-the-Box doing it for years.

Some argue that these moves to open on holidays stems from the struggling economy and recession. It is not clear whether it is just the economy that is contributing to these types of decisions, but rather the change in culture or stigma of remaining open on such a holiday. There was a time when selling gas on Sunday was taboo.

A Fight for Unions

These kinds of moves among big box stores and fast food conglomerates has further drawn the attention of various trade unions. McDonald’s and Walmart obviously do not have union employees, but there is definitely a push to change that.  A business model which relies upon minimum wage workers may help convince employees who desire unionization to be scared off with the argument that the company would be unable to afford it and downsize accordingly.

Federal and state law guarantee the right to form unions. Nothing is automatic and there is a process, but from an employer perspective, unions due pose a significant threat to its bottom line. There are many legal ways that businesses can do to prevent unionization. Walmart is said to even have a hotline for its managers for tips on remaining union free in the event they hear of union organization among its workers.


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