Double-Pay Holiday Bill Set for Committee Hearing
A California Chamber of Commerce-opposed bill requiring double pay for work on certain days is scheduled to be considered by the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee on March 18.
The CalChamber opposes AB 67 (Gonzalez; D-Sherman Heights) because it increases costs, creates a competitive disadvantage, and potentially violates employers’ constitutional rights by forcing employers to recognize certain days as “family holidays” and to compensate all employees with double pay for work performed on those days.
AB 67 significantly increases costs and interferes with employers’ religious beliefs by forcing all employers to recognize Christmas and Thanksgiving as family holidays by paying employees double compensation for hours worked on those days, which will place brick-and-mortar stores at a competitive disadvantage to online retailers.
Violates Constitutional Right to Religious Freedom
AB 67 provides that employers must compensate an employee at no less than twice the employee’s regular rate of pay on a “family holiday,” defined as “December 25 of each year” and “the fourth Thursday of November of each year,” commonly referred to as Christmas and Thanksgiving. Although the recognition of these holidays may seem benign to some persons, employers who have non-Christian-based beliefs or are immigrants to America might not see the recognition the same way.
Forcing a non-Christian employer to recognize Christmas as a unique workday by paying all employees double their regular rate of pay is likely a violation of that employer’s constitutional free exercise of religion. As Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was quoted in the Sands v. Morongo Unified School District case, 53 Cal.3d 863, 879 (1991): “‘If government is to be neutral in matters of religion, rather than showing either favoritism or disapproval …, government cannot endorse the religious practices and beliefs of some citizens without sending a clear message to nonadherents that they are outsiders or less than full members of the political community.’”
Again quoting Justice O’Connor on the subject in the case of Catholic Charities of Sacramento, Inc. v. Superior Ct., 32 Cal.4th 527, 547-548 (2004): “The government may not regulate beliefs as such by compelling or punishing their affirmation. Nor may it target conduct for regulation only because it is undertaken for religious reasons.”
AB 67 is not neutral on its face, but rather, affirmatively recognizes Christmas as a “family holiday” on which employers must provide double compensation to all employees. This is a government endorsement of a Christian holiday, to the detriment of all other non-Christian religious denominations and beliefs.
Similarly, forcing an employer, especially those who are immigrants and do not embrace American culture, to recognize Thanksgiving as a special “family holiday” fails to embrace other cultures and beliefs. The Legislature should not mandate certain days as more significant based upon religious or cultural beliefs that are not maintained by all.
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