You can be legally fired in most states for refusing to work Thanksgiving Day

Big-box retailers like Target, Best Buy, and Walmart closed their brick-and-mortar doors for Thanksgiving Day, giving their employees a day off before the Black Friday rush. However, in most parts of the U.S. it would be legal for these retailers to mandate employees clock in during this holiday, experts say.

Thanksgiving, along with 11 other days each year, is an official federal holiday in the U.S., but the designation does little to guarantee time off or extra pay for private sector workers.

In most cases, employers dictate recognized holidays, Timothy Ford, an employment and commercial litigation partner in the law firm Einhorn, Barbarito, Frost & Botwinick, tells Yahoo Finance.

“Employers are free to select the holidays it seeks to recognize, if any at all,” Ford says of private firms.

Exceptions to the rule

Two states deviate from that general rule: Massachusetts and Rhode Island require private companies to give workers paid time off for national holidays, according to Erin McLaughlin, a labor & employment attorney with Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooneys.

Local ordinances can also impact holiday work and pay rules, McLaughlin adds, as can collective bargaining agreements that govern rules for union workers.

However, regardless of whether an employer recognizes a holiday, Fisher Phillips partner Emily Litzinger explains that under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act they still must consider requests for time off from workers who want the day off for a religious holiday.

Employers must engage in what’s called an “interactive process” to decide if they can accommodate a holiday request, without causing the business an undue hardship, Litzinger says. She adds that state laws often require similar accommodations. For holidays without any religious significance, such as Thanksgiving or July Fourth, Litzinger explains,...

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