Today is Veterans Day, our yearly reminder that so many honorable men and women have selflessly served in our armed forces so we can feel safe at home. Some states recognize this sacrifice though employment-related laws. For example, the Oregon Legislature recently passed a law requiring employers to give veterans the option to take Veterans Day off. Iowa has had a similar law in place since 2010. Federal law also provides veterans with employment protections. The reemployment rights of military service members are protected by the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (“USERRA”). As we discussed a few weeks ago, those returning from military service may be entitled to a better position than they left under USERRA.
Unlike Iowa and Oregon, Massachusetts does not require employers to give veterans the day off on November 11. However, state law recognizes Veterans Day as a “legal holiday” throughout the Commonwealth. This means the Massachusetts Blue Laws are implicated. The Puritan-inspired Blue Laws place restrictions on business openings on Sundays and legal holidays. They also include some absurdly outdated prohibitions on social conduct, including a ban against unlicensed for-profit dancing on Sundays, “except folk or square dancing” (you cannot make this stuff up).
The rules for Veterans Day are relatively straightforward. Many businesses, including retail stores, factories and warehouses, cannot open before 1:00 p.m. without a permit, which can be obtained by petitioning the local police chief. In addition, non-exempt retail employees must be paid time-and-a-half if they work on Veterans Day, and they cannot be required to come in to work. Manufacturing employees also have to be given the opportunity to take the day off, but they do not have to be paid overtime if they come in to work. Several exceptions to the Veterans Day rules do apply so check with labor and employment counsel if you are concerned about applicability of these rules to your business.
Happy Veterans Day from everyone at Skoler Abbott (and particularly those who helped raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project in August).