Mid-Week Independence Day Causes Headaches for Employers

This Fourth of July, employees nationwide will be searching for a little independence of their own — and drawing the ire of their bosses in the process.

With America's birthday falling on a Wednesday this year, most business owners will be forced to deal with employees who plan to extend their day off to a five-day holiday weekend.

But despite the reality that many employees may ask for the extra time off or call in sick, some employers say they simply cannot afford to relax their time-off policies beyond the government-granted day.

"If the Fourth had fallen on a Tuesday or Thursday, we reserve the right to take a floating vacation day so that we can extend the holiday," said Rickey Wallace, human-resources Manager at Raypak, an Oxnard, Calif.-based company that manufactures commercial boilers. "But, this year, it's a Wednesday, so we didn't do anything differently. If employees want extra days off, they can use their vacation time."

Wallace said she has received several requests from employees to take off either the Monday and Tuesday before July 4, or the Thursday and Friday after. Wallace added that she has no problem granting those requests, as long as there is balance throughout the office departments. Some department managers coordinated days off among their staff before approving individual requests, she added.

Knowing that a government holiday in the middle of the week may pose a management challenge to business owners, the Employers Group, a Los Angeles-based employer association, surveyed 79 California employers to gauge their stance on extended time-off policies.

The survey found that 56 percent of employers will not alter their existing holiday schedule to accommodate requests from employees to take more time off that week. However, 71 percent of respondents said they plan to honor vacation requests if the employee has earned the time off, and if staffing needs are met. Overall, nine out of 10 employers said they are only granting Wednesday, July 4 as a day off with pay.

Juan Garcia, director of research services at Employers Group, said he was surprised to find that more than half of employers were not flexible to more time off during the holiday week. "When holidays are on an odd day of the week, some employers will relax their policies, but this was not the case this time," Garcia said.

Because most federal and state government facilities will be open the rest of the week, businesses tend to follow those guidelines, Garcia added.

At Harlan Lee & Associates, a Falls Church, Va.-based company that provides professional services to government agencies, president and CEO Harlan Lee said the Wednesday holiday is not an issue for his employees because paid days off are aligned with the government schedule.

Employees were asked to coordinate additional time off with their government project manager, and Lee said the time would be granted on a "case by case basis."

Despite the inconvenience that a Wednesday Fourth of July may cause to employers and employees alike this year, come next year, the business community will have much less to worry about. "Next year will be a different story," Garcia said. "I guarantee that 70 percent of employers are going to shut down on that Friday!"

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