Last Veteran’s Day, I posted about some of the laws that cover how employers must deal with veterans (and reserves) in the workplace.  (The Delaware Employment Law Blog has a nice post this morning about some of the other programs out there that relate to veterans in the workplace.)

But one of my colleagues raised the provocative question: Should more employers and all public schools be closed on this day?

Before I attempt to answer that question, here’s the applicable law.  There is a federal law, 5 U.S.C. Sec. 6103 that gives the day off to all federal employees (but does not apply to private employers). Its a state holiday too (meaning all state workers have the day off as well, but not private-sector employees). 

But most employers do not give the day off. The first question that might be asked is: why don’t employers have to close on a state or federal holiday?

The answer is pretty straightforward.  The U.S. (unlike some other countries) does not have any "national" holidays.  Indeed, just because the government recognizes a legal holiday doesn’t mean that private employers have to follow it. (Other examples include Columbus Day and, here in Connecticut, Good Friday).  The State Department has an interesting summary of each of the days on its website. 

Legal holidays merely dictate what the government is going to do; how the rest of the country chooses to follow the holiday is up to them.  And yes, that means that you could conceivably make your employees work on Memorial Day or 4th of July (of course, if the company is a service industry, they probably require employees to work that day).  But it probably isn’t good business practice as employees will flock to those employers who do give off those holidays.

But aside from the legal question, it also raises another issue:  With two wars occurring right now, SHOULD employers be closing as a sign of respect to our military and the sacrifices being made overseas? Of course, there answer to this question depends on your perspective and business.  Many employers would simply prefer the flexibility of setting their own vacation days.

And even if you believe that, there doesn’t seem to be a good rationale why employers often give time off for Memorial Day, but not for Veteran’s Day. (Of course, the timing of Memorial Day — signifying the start of the summer season — may have something to do with that.) Of course, you can always do something on your own, like sending a postcard to our troops through the innovative program of "Let’s Say Thanks". 

So I ask you, as blog readers, should employers be giving Veteran’s Day off? Or should employers simply honor veterans in their own way? 

Either way, take time to appreciate those who have served our country.  It’s the least we can do for the freedoms we take for granted.