Working on Labor Day

Q: In honor of Labor Day, I am posing a question. Do you think retailers should be closed on Labor Day or not? If they are open, does it not defeat the purpose of this holiday? Isn’t the holiday supposed to give workers a day of rest? Those of us who work in retail are expected to work because it has turned into a big shopping day. What gives?

A: You forced me to better 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 today. However, some of us will still work. Who works on Labor Day? Nurses, physicians, emergency medical technicians, police officers, fire fighters, air traffic controllers, toll takers, cab drivers and yes, many of those working in retail 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 mowers and picnic tables. I think sometimes retailers like to make us think about our next purchase. In late August, I even saw Halloween costumes beginning to line the racks!


If you are working today in retail, you are likely being paid a bit more than you usually would. Retailers, with seven or more employees, are required to pay nonexempt employees at a rate of time and one-half of their regular hourly rate. To better understand how you should be paid, in Massachusetts, on Sundays and holidays, visit

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