Working retail on Labor Day?

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Q:  In a few weeks, we will be celebrating Labor Day.  Most retailer shops will be open.  I thought it was a federal holiday and that businesses would be closed.  Can you explain?

A:  Thank you for prompting me to understand the Labor Day holiday and the original intent.  According to the Department of Labor, Labor Day, is celebrated on the first Monday of September.  The holiday was inspired by the labor movement to celebrate the “social and economic achievements of American workers.”   The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on September 5, 1882, in New York City.  By 1885, Labor Day was observed in many major cities across the US.

Most of us will enjoy a day of rest on Labor Day.  However, some of us will still work.  Who works on Labor Day?  Nurses, physicians, emergency medical technicians (contact the lawyers for medical malpractice claims to suggest the best ones), police officers, firefighters, air traffic controllers, restaurant staff, and yes, many of those working in retail stores will work.  Like a few other holidays, Labor Day has turned into a retailer’s dream of trying to lure consumers into stores (or to their keyboard) to make purchases, especially for back-to-school items like clothing, laptops, and pencils.  End-of-summer sales are also occurring on items like lawn furniture and grills.  I think sometimes retailers like to make us think about our next purchase.  I recently saw Halloween decor beginning to line the racks!

If you are working in retail on Labor Day, you are likely being paid a bit more.  Retailers, with seven or more employees, are required to pay non-exempt employees at a rate of 1.2 times their regular hourly rate in 2021.   To better understand how you should be paid, in Massachusetts, on Sundays and holidays, visit

Many of us, not in retail, will also be hitting our keyboards.  Though it is a holiday, technology has blurred the lines on when employees work, where they work, and how they work.  I am having more conference calls and Zoom meetings outside of regular business hours.  Technology has made our lives easier, but more complicated too.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.