Paid and Unpaid Holidays
This page provides an overview of paid and unpaid holidays for local governments in Washington State, including the state and federal holiday schedules, floating holidays, religious holidays, and other considerations.
RCW 1.16.050 establishes the Washington State legal holidays when state offices are closed. Many local governments follow the state holiday schedule and are also closed on those days, but they are not required to follow the state schedule. Also see RCW 2.28.100 and RCW 2.28.110 for court business on legal holidays and RCW 28A.150.050 for school holidays.
Under RCW 1.16.050(6), the legislative body of each local government may choose to adopt more or fewer paid holidays through their ordinances, resolutions, personnel policies, or collective bargaining agreements. Also see the "Floating Holidays" section further down on this page.
RCW 1.16.050(5) provides that when a legal holiday, other than Sunday, falls upon a Sunday, the following Monday shall be the legal holiday. When a legal holiday falls upon a Saturday, the preceding Friday shall be the legal holiday.
Upcoming State Holidays: For a list of upcoming state legal holidays, see the Department of Revenue's State Holiday Schedule. MRSC follows the state holiday schedule, and our office will be closed these days.
Practice Tip: When scheduling public meetings and events, it can be helpful to be aware of dates that are significant to people of various faiths or ethnicities even if the days are not celebrated as state legal holidays. The Washington State Council of Presidents has developed a Holiday & Observance Calendar that might be of assistance.
For a local policy example, see:
- Issaquah Resolution No. 2022-11 (2022) – Adopts a list of cultural and religious holidays for remainder of 2022 and 2023 and states that city should make every effort to avoid scheduling public meetings on those holidays.
The list of federal legal holidays is similar to the list of state legal holidays, but not identical. Local governments are not required to follow the federal holiday schedule. RCW 1.16.050(4) addresses the overlap between state and federal holidays.
For a list of upcoming federal holidays, see the U.S. Office of Personnel Management page on Pay & Leave: Federal Holidays.
Beginning in 2022, Juneteenth (June 19) is now a state legal holiday commemorating the abolishment of slavery and the day that the knowledge of freedom reached the last remaining enslaved people in 1865. Juneteenth also became a federal legal holiday in 2021.
For local governments considering adding Juneteenth as a paid holiday, below are a few examples:
- Asotin County Resolution No. 22-13 (2022) – Grants authorization for Monday, June 20, 2022 to be recognized as Juneteenth. Applies to calendar year 2022 only; existing collective bargaining agreements are up for renewal in 2022-2023.
- Bellingham Resolution No. 2021-30 (2021) – Adding Juneteenth as paid holiday, enacted after SHB 1016.
- Bremerton Ordinance No. 5425 (2021) – Adding Juneteenth as a paid holiday
- King County Ordinance No. 19209 (2020) – Adding Juneteenth as a paid holiday for all county employees eligible for comprehensive leave benefits; enacted prior to SHB 1016.
- Seattle Ordinance No. 126505 (2021) – Adding Juneteenth as paid holiday and establishing a free parking holiday
- Tukwila Ordinance No. 2670 (2022) – Adding Juneteenth as a paid holiday and increasing the number of personal floating holidays from one to two. Includes earlier ceremonial resolution commemorating Juneteenth as an annual celebration and occasion to honor African Americans in the community.
- Walla Walla Ordinance No. 2021-36 (2021) – Adding Juneteenth as paid holiday
- Yakima Ordinance No. 2021-028 (2021) – Adding Juneteenth as paid holiday
As noted earlier, under RCW 1.16.050(6) local governments may establish additional holidays beyond those established in state law. Below are some examples.
- King County:
- Ordinance No. 19208 (2020) – Establishing Indigenous Peoples' Day (October 12) as paid holiday; directs staff to consult with tribes and county employees who identify as Native American on the appropriate date. Following consultation, includes second ordinance and supporting staff report changing date from October 12 to second Monday in October.
- Ordinance No. 19209 (2020) – Establishing Juneteenth as a paid holiday for county employees; this ordinance was adopted about a year before Juneteenth became recognized as a state legal holiday.
- Sammamish Resolution No. R2021-926 (2021) – Providing one-time Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve paid holidays for non-represented employees, to create consistency/equity with represented employees. Resolution states that city will update employee handbook the following year to provide those holidays permanently.
- Seattle Ordinance No. 126559 (2022) – Establishing Indigenous Peoples' Day (second Monday in October) as a paid holiday; also authorizes memoranda of understanding between the city and certain labor unions to add Indigenous Peoples' Day and Juneteenth as paid holidays
RCW 1.16.050(2) also gives state employees one additional paid holiday per calendar year. This additional holiday, often referred to as a “floating” holiday, is taken on a date determined by the employee after consultation with his or her employer pursuant to an adopted policy.
However, the floating holiday is not required for local governments. While the text of RCW 1.16.050(2) also applies to most of the state's "political subdivisions" and seemingly makes the floating holiday a requirement for local governments, the Attorney General’s Office has interpreted RCW 1.16.050(6) as authorizing local governments to not provide the floating holiday to its employees (AGO 1978 No. 7).
RCW 1.16.050(3) entitles employees of the state and its political subdivision to take two unpaid holidays per calendar year "for a reason of faith or conscience or an organized activity conducted under the auspices of a religious denomination, church, or religious organization."
The employee may select the specific days to take as unpaid holidays after consulting with the employer under guidelines adopted by local ordinance or resolution. The employer must allow the employee to take these specific days as unpaid leave unless it would impose an undue hardship on the employer or the employee is necessary to maintain public safety.
The state Office of Financial Management has adopted administrative rules defining "undue hardship" and providing guidance on how to determine whether an undue hardship exists (see chapter 82-56 WAC, as authorized by RCW 43.41.109).
Model Policy. MRSC developed a model policy addressing the two unpaid religious holidays. It is intended as a comprehensive policy that local governments can adopt wholesale into their existing personnel policies, or use as a foundation for crafting a more individualized policy.