parents in my office are sticking non-parents with all the holiday coverage

A reader writes:

With the holidays coming up, things are getting tense in my office. There’s a divide between my coworkers who are parents and my coworkers who don’t have kids.

I’m an associate director of a small public service office, and we are open on the holidays. Full stop, no exceptions, we are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. We’re a small office so when we hire staff, they are credentialed professionals in the field who know that we don’t turn our lights off. We do a lottery to fairly pick holiday coverage with the caveat that if you work Thanksgiving, you’re not in the lottery for Christmas, and if you work Christmas one year, you’re exempt the next year.

It used to work. But the last several years, the staff with kids started getting vocal about having plans and calling the lottery unfair as early as September.

Last year I worked Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve and Day since the staff picked in the lottery all called out, leaving a huge coverage gap. Several of the staff also have just started refusing to come in on holidays, period, showing our administration hotels and flights they already booked. This is wearing down the morale of those of us staff without kids or spouses. We’re usually run ragged after working low-staffed weekend shifts, which are also shifts the parent staffers are starting to grumble about. About 90% of the time, as the associate director, what I say goes. But there are two more managers above my head who the parent staffers frequently use to override me on this issue. I get the same joking tones from my bosses — “Oh, don’t be heartless, they have kids!”

I may not have kids, but I do have a wife and parents and friends who I would love to see, and so do my childless staffers, I’m sure. I don’t know where to go from here to keep morale up, but also inject a little more professionalism and fairness into the mix while maybe getting to eat some turkey myself this year.

Yeah, that’s not okay. You can’t make decisions about who gets prized time off based on who has children and who doesn’t. That’s incredibly unfair, and it’s guaranteed to drive off your employees without kids.

The system you have in place to handle this is a reasonable one — except you have some staff members who are flagrantly choosing not to abide by it.

Refusing to come in during scheduled shifts is a huge problem. I don’t throw around the word “insubordination” lightly (and I generally think it’s a pretty silly word), but this is that. You can’t run a business if people are going to decide they won’t follow your fair and transparent system for time off and instead will unilaterally decide to stick their colleagues with their share of the work.

How willing are you to enforce this system? When people come to you and say they’ve already booked travel reservations for those days, are you willing to hold firm and say no, since they knew the system and took that risk with full knowledge that they might be scheduled to work then? Are you willing to require them to come in anyway? I don’t think there’s any way to make this system work if you’re not willing to do that — since you’ll essentially be saying “we hope you’ll do this but we won’t require it.” And then it’s likely to quickly spread to others, and you’re going to have even more of a problem than you have now. So if this is your system, you need to hold people to it.

And that sucks! No one wants to tell someone that they need to cancel holiday plans with their family. But realize that if you don’t tell them that, then you’re by default saying it to someone else — because someone else is going to get pulled in to cover for them. So I think you’ve got to commit to it.

But of course to do that, you need to ensure that the two managers above you aren’t undermining the system. So talk to them and point out that making work assignments based on who does and doesn’t have kids is really gross and unfair and is going to drive away good employees. You might also point out that if they really want to award time based on family connections, they’ll also need to also consider things like who has dying relatives … and then they’re getting even further into inappropriate territory. You should also point out that if they keep letting people opt out of the system, more and more people are likely to take advantage of that. Ask them, “Are you really proposing that we just assign holiday coverage to people without kids? If you keep doing this, that’s where we’ll end up and that’s really unethical and unfair. Are you willing to tell our employees without kids that that’s the policy here?”

You can also choose to put your foot down and refuse to do the coverage yourself, and refuse to assign it to staffers who already took their turn. Some battles are worth fighting, and this would be a fine one to take a stand on if you’re willing to push it.

That said, there might be other things you can do to make this go more smoothly. Are you able to offer better incentives to people who work on holidays? For example, can you pay them a premium for those days or reward them with extra time off that other people don’t get? If you make the incentives attractive enough, you might even get people volunteering for some of those days.

It also might be worth sitting down with your team and asking for people’s input on how to make this work (making it clear from the start that “someone other than parents does it” isn’t going to be entertained). It’s possible that by involving people in trying to figure out how to solve the problem, they’ll be more bought into whatever solution you land on (even if it’s just “enforce the current system”) or at least will feel less able to openly flout it.

{ 929 comments… read them below }

  1. Liet-Kinda*

    I have been vocally in favor of giving childcare more weight in leave decisions in the past, but categorically allowing parents and only parents the pick of holiday days is SOME bullshit, OP. This would, I think, be a hill worth charging, if maybe not a hill worth dying on if you think the defenses are impenetrable.

    1. Liet-Kinda*

      And, as someone who’s going to be on call in case someone spills gas or whatever tomorrow, I really have no sympathy. They knew this was a coverage-based position in an office where some portion of the people have to cover holidays and weekends, kids or not. They can f*ck right off to the moon with the “don’t be heartless” noise.

      1. earl grey aficionado*

        Yeah, I think the fact that it sounds like all of these people knew up front what they were in for is what’s really making me seethe over this. It would be one thing if this policy had recently changed. It still wouldn’t be okay for the parents to throw a tantrum, but it might explain the extreme reaction. But these employees seem to have simply decided that the conditions they were hired under don’t apply to them, and they’re making childless/free employees pay the price. Not. Okay.
        OP, I think that even if you solve this problem, you need to watch carefully for signs that parents and non-parents aren’t being treated equally at other times of the year. Are parents given more leniency with calling out sick? Do they lean on their non-parent coworkers to swap shifts suddenly? This is incredibly unfair to disabled or chronically ill people and caretakers, and it’s unfair generally, because everyone deserves time off to relax and recharge. All of this stuff adds up and builds resentment. I know I would chafe under it. I would be professional (no screaming, cutting remarks, or biting, ha!), but it would significantly impact my happiness at work, and if it was embedded enough in the culture, might be enough to make me leave.
        It sounds like you already know how serious this is, but I hope Alison’s spot-on response and the responses from all the commenters are giving you even firmer ground to stand on. You need to shut this down. It’s the right thing to do ethically and it’s critically important to keeping your team running smoothly.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Can I just say, I didn’t read “childless/free” as expanding to “childless/childfree” in my head – I had a very confused moment of “Free employees? As opposed to what?” before I realized what was intended. Clearly my brain is already taking off for the holiday.

          1. ElspethGC*

            As someone midway through a medievalist dissertation, my brain immediately went “Ah yes, the free employees, as opposed to the unfree employees who owe their employers labour duties and inheritance heriot- No. Wait.”

            1. OlympiasEpiriot*

              I guess my field equipment that I bought myself is heriot to my employer under that system, no?

              (I recently thought that it seemed that we might end up going back to feudalism in the not too distance future, or at least indentured servitude.)

              1. ElspethGC*

                Well, *you* don’t pay heriot, your inheritors/executors do. But if you count leaving your job as dying, then you leave your equipment behind and your successor surrenders it to the company in return for being given the job. Or your fattest ox, either will do.

                1. ElspethGC*

                  Also, you would have to pay childwyte to your employer if you got pregnant out of wedlock, so there’s that.

            2. earl grey aficionado*

              LOL, oh no! Sorry for the confusion! (It wasn’t supposed to send as a big block of text, either. Sigh.)

              1. ElspethGC*

                Thank you! I’m probably doing chantry endowments and pious bequests in the age of the Black Death, which is apparently *incredibly* boring to everyone but medieval historians… But studying the Black Death is fun. Less fun is the essay on public health edicts in London that I’m currently procrastinating. I should probably leave AAM for a while and get back to that.

                1. Elizabeth Frantes*

                  If you ever have a link to stuff you’ve written, send me a message! I like your style and always love to learn more stuff. I need to know more about that era!

                2. AnonEMoose*

                  I want to read more about it, too. Oh, and for those who are into it and haven’t heard this yet, check out the “The History of England” podcast.

                3. curly sue*

                  (It’s also fascinating to this early modernist! I second the request for dissertation chat in the open thread.)

                4. Autumn Anon*

                  As someone who has just finished a medieval thesis (medieval representations of lions, 1150-1250 – bestiaries are wild, let me tell you), that sounds FASCINATING.

                5. Lady Alys*

                  +N to the request to please post links or share your work in some way – it sounds really fascinating!

        2. Flash Bristow*

          Exactly. I used to work in a 24/7 shift system, and I worked Christmas, and it was fine and understood. I was more upset to be working while the Christmas pissup was going on, and what really seemed unfair was working overnight when the clocks went back – so 12 hours became 13!

          As you say, it has to be fair to all. I’m child free. Nowadays I’m disabled and unable to work. It took a while to get my [otherwise wonderful] husband to say to his work “actually no, I can’t stay late again – I’m a carer for my wife”. Because there’s this inherent feeling of “X needs to be home for his kid’s bathtime routine, so I can finish this up” and, well, you might not want to tell the office that you need to be home to bathe your spouse.

          Apart from the bad feeling, you can’t know what’s going on in people’s lives and there HAS to be a fair and equitable system which is enforced.

          To OP: I’d actually show Alison’s fantastic advice to your higher ups when discussing this – and hopefully they’ll see from the outpouring of agreement in the comments, including from parents, that staff really do need to comply unless there are *extremely* extenuating, one-off circumstances – immediate family on deathbed, etc.

          I hope sense and fairness prevails. Good luck!

          1. Tiny Soprano*

            Exactly! Perhaps the inherent ableism of the situation is something that the letter writer can use as a pushback.

        3. designbot*

          It sounds like it might be worthwhile to examine how the schedule is addressed in the interview. Like, being really explicit that “this means YOU will absolutely be required to work weekends, and holidays. That is something par for the course with this job, and it’s not something that will go away once you’ve put in your time, it’s a responsibility that rotates amongst staff and all are expected to bear an equal burden. So if that’s not going to work for you it’s best for all of us if we’re honest about that now.”

          1. JulieCanCan*

            I’d want to be so crystal clear that I’d want employees to sign some kind of document stating that they understand and agree that their position 100% entails working either the holiday of Thanksgiving or Christmas, and this a part of the job just as processing payroll is for the person in charge of payroll and as on-boarding is for the person who handles on-boarding.

            Basically, it’s part of the job they’ve agreed to take on for $X dollars per year at a rate of $X per hour. This is not up for discussion or debate, they may not make holiday plans for the specific time they’re scheduled to work. If they are scheduled to work on “Holiday T” and they don’t show up that will be grouds for termination. Do they understand the deal points this document contains? If so, sign here please and thank you.

      2. Jadelyn*

        I can understand prioritizing time with your family over work – but in that case, DON’T TAKE A COVERAGE-BASED 24/7 JOB! It’s not like they were hired for a traditional 9-5 M-F job and suddenly bam, we need you to work over major holidays. They knew what they were getting into from the start. If that’s not okay, I understand that, but in that case you need to change fields to something that doesn’t require that kind of schedule.

        I wanted to be a pilot when I was a kid, because my dad was one and I loved everything about it. Then I grew up and realized as much as I loved flying, and airports, and all that stuff, I didn’t want to live that always-gone holidays-what-holidays? lifestyle. Which is a valid choice, but what certain members of OP’s team are pulling is more akin to me saying, I want to be a pilot, and I expect the nature of the job to suddenly rearrange itself to give me the kind of schedule I want, and I’m going to refuse to work scheduled flights during the holidays because I dowanna.

        1. TheBeetsMotel*

          Very true. Plus, consider this, OP; if no one addresses this, the outcome will be far worse than putting your foot down could ever be. Here’s how I see things playing out: those childless employees will, sooner or later (probably sooner, if this nonsense has been going on for years) decide that this is BS they are no longer willing to put up with, and they’ll leave… leaving you ONLY with the parents, who as you mentioned, have little to no regard to the realities of the job and will just call out/make travel plans and stick everyone else with the fallout. Except there won’t be an “everyone else any more”. What then?

          This system is only “working” because an ever-more-resentful handful of childfree folks are shouldering burdens they shouldn’t have to shoulder. You should worry about pissing off your only support net, or it may well not be there next year.

          1. Augusta Sugarbean*

            That’s a really great point to use Beets. It’s tangible and drives the point home that it’s going g to drive people away.

          2. TootsNYC*

            even if it doesn’t drive people away it’s going to create stuff like this:

            -people getting stuck w/ the holidays won’t be helpful to the offending parents; they won’t be pleasant; they won’t bother to point out those offenders’ errors as soon as they spot it, while it’s easy to fix; they won’t do a little extra to make someone’s job a little easier (which benefits your clients/customers).

            -the offending parents will start to view lots MORE policies and rules as optional, and you could end up in big trouble (regulatory, or just more disorder)

            -the folks consistently getting screwed will start using the same tactics, simply calling in as sick on those days, or waltzing in with plane tickets and announcing that they can’t work the holiday. and THEN where will you be?

            1. miss_chevious*

              As someone without children, this is absolutely a hill that I would die on. If I took a job where holidays/weekends were required, I would have absolutely investigated the fairness of the allocation of those days, and if I discovered that the policy was being violated without consequences, I would definitely start re-thinking both my adherence to the policy and my place of employment.

          3. Lilian*

            Absolutely. I would walk out of a job that screws me over like this pretty early. OP, please fight for this.

        2. Chinookwind*

          This was the argument I had to bite back for the sake of family harmony when my SIL complained about working the following Christmas day every 2 years as a nurse around a family dinner table while two us were spouseless for the entire 48 hour period of Christmas and Boxing day because our spouses were working. If you don’t want to work holidays, then don’t be a critical care nurse!

          1. Trust Your Instincts*

            That’s another reason I decided not to go into medicine or nursing and stuck with massage therapy. I know if I did those careers, I wouldn’t be satisfied with anything less than specializing/critical types of practice, but the trade off was always needing to be available. I couldn’t do it.

            However, as a parent, I can firmly say that what is happening here is BS. I get the holidays are important to people, but that said, they’re important to more than just parents. The lottery system sounds like a fair and thought out system, and I think they should respect that, especially if they’re getting notice as early as September!

            1. TootsNYC*

              I get the holidays are important to people, but that said, they’re important to more than just parents.

              Heck, some people who aren’t parents are nonetheless someone’s CHILD. And so it’s for the faaamily!

              1. Quoth the Raven*

                Absolutely. I don’t have kids and my SO currently lives in another country –and sometimes, the holidays are the only time he can visit –, but I am someone’s daughter and someone’s sister. And while my parents are in very good health, they are not getting any younger.

                I am very willing to take one for the team, so to speak, but I expect to the offered the same in return.

              2. Been There, Done That*

                And even if you’re spouseless, childless, and have no other kin, that makes you’re still a family — of one. Maybe you’ve created a family with a network of friends. And hell, maybe you want a solitary holiday to meditate, have a quiet day, and reflect on your blessings. You’re just as deserving of holiday consideration as everyone else!

            2. Gloucesterina*

              Yes, and even for employees who don’t celebrate American holidays, this is an unfair system.

              1. Seeking Second Childhood*

                I would be interested to read discussion of coverage issues in other countries! Many Indian companies & divisions must suport US&Europe while not neglecting their country’s own holidays. And there are Asian holidays where traveling home is pretty much a given–how do companies arrange coverage at hospitals even?

                1. PG Biscuit*

                  Or Diwali. Or any holiday that comes up when you Google “Holidays celebrated in Asian Countries.”

          2. Elizabeth West*

            Same with me and law enforcement. I wanted to be a detective or a CSI person, but it was working overnight that killed the idea. I did third-shift factory work and that was enough to sour me on it for life. I could probably get a good job here as a police services representative (not dispatch), but nobody starts on days. There is no way I can sleep in my neighborhood in a poorly insulated house surrounded by dog-shaped car alarms.

            Christmas was fine, if it was during the day, but you can’t choose that because rotating shifts are a fact of life in police work.

        3. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Yes! When I was much younger I nearly bought a house with a Christmas tree farm on the property. Acreage with a reduced tax rate, a going business that I could have run mostly on my own with an existing roster of experienced seasonal staff, no more commute… and then I started thinking about the reality of not visiting family out of state for Thanksgiving or Christmas, let alone take a vacation during the lead up to Christmas. Even with staff, the final burden of busy season is on the owner–and I regretfully decided it was not for me. Some days at the office I still dream I’d done differently, but then I take off on a lark for my child’s school assembly and remember.

          Given that everyone took the job knowing the rules, I’m appalled that management isn’t sticking to the rules. It’s PIP territory to me.

          I would however let employees swap the holiday they’re assigned to. And maybe specify that anyone who works both this year does not work either next year.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        A big grouchy “hell yes” to this. I can’t tell you the number of times my coworker and I (both childfree) were stuck with coverage when coworkers did shady things to get out of having to come in, and then justified it by saying we didn’t have families. (Newsflash: we have families, and we like to spend time with them. They’re just not structured like your family.) Once you pull this shit, you have no moral high ground, as far as I’m concerned.

        1. LadyCop*

          Oh very much this. I don’t need a reminder during the holidays that I have not yet found a spouse or had children…and maybe the family I do have is still super important to me because they barely see me as it is.

          1. Crotchety*

            Ah yes, I once replaced an employee who had been there twenty years, and was Jewish, so worked every single Christmas. I was told that I would as well, because everyone else was used to having the time off. Then “Haha, good thing you don’t have kids!”. Except I did, I had a stepdaughter–“that doesn’t count as much as the rest of us!” Fun times.

            1. Cathy Gale*

              That’s horrific. However, I also seem to remember a discussion prior, where someone mentioned that their boss prioritized the family rights of those with biological children over those with adopted ones…

              1. Artemesia*

                It would make more sense to do the reverse if ‘sense’ is a concept that can even be brought to bear here.

            2. Whaow*

              Good Lord. How did this end? Please tell me you refused and/or left the job and those awful people had to come into work.

        2. Elizabeth Frantes*

          Excellent point. Not to mention how thoughtlessly cruel this is to people who CAN’T have kids! Go ahead, remind that nice lady she’s a failure as a human being because she can’t have a child, as if she hasn’t had that drummed into her head already.

          For those of us who choose not to have children, we already pay more in taxes and get next to nothing in benefits even if we need them. Like when AIDS hit SF and due to California policies (set by Reagan btw) adults without children got NOTHING. So groups like Act Up! and Project Open Hand created help for those who needed it.

          There is still a huge gap on the safety net for those who are not parents, which is DISCRIMINATION BASED ON FAMILY STATUS.

          Parental entitlement is NOT equitable and it’s got to stop.

          1. CdnAcct*

            I think I’m not understanding the context here, AIDS in your comment doesn’t mean the virus, right? Google only shows me results for HIV/AIDS but I don’t *think* the sentence means that.

            1. Artemesia*

              Sounds like what it means to me. What else would it mean — Reagan was in charge during the early days of the epidemic. And policies for medical care and welfare discriminated against those without traditional family.

              1. JessaB*

                Yes, even now in Ohio, because we have no children and are under 65 there is no safety net for people like Mr B and me. It was so in California during the epidemic, the requirements for getting medical or housing or any other kind of aid, even if you had contracted AIDS and/or it progressed to HIV, meant that if you were single or had no children you did not qualify.

              2. Elizabeth Frantes*

                Actually, here in SF, the biggest problem was Mayor Diane Feinstein. She put a gag order on Public Health and shut down the bathhouses which made contact tracing and basic epidemiology procedures useless. She didn’t want to scare the tourists, you see. Reagan was governor when all adults without children were made ineligible for all benefits, and it took decades to begin to change that, even with huge majorities in State government by the Democrats.

                Same with mental health. Reagan shut down the state hospitals, the dems insisted that we’d get ‘community care’ but in fact community care has been cut back over and over by democrats in charge.

                It’s not very nice to point fingers at Reagan, when those pointing the fingers are doing just what he is.

    2. Elle*

      Agreed. When I was reading this story I was getting angrier and angrier. And then Alison just had the most beautiful response and I wanted to stand up and start cheering her.
      I would die on this hill as well. That said, when I worked somewhere that required coverage and was single, I was more than happy to volunteer for the holiday shifts because they paid TRIPLE time and also let us take the holiday as a floating day some other time instead. It was relatively easy for me to work around that exact day because I didn’t have kids waiting on Santa. One other thing that made it a bit easier- we did 12 hour shifts on holidays so only 2 sets of people had their days ruined instead of 3. Actually, the incentive was so good that people started fighting over who got to take the holiday shifts.
      So, I think I’d phrase the hill as “we need to do a better job of appreciating our employees who work this terrible shift” instead of “you can’t just discriminate against people who are unwilling or unable to produce offspring.”
      You can also move the lottery earlier in the year, like literally February, so that people know WELL in advance of plane ticket purchasing time whether or not they’ll be free.

      1. [insert witty username here]*

        SO WELL SAID! Great mentality and I think that would go over well with OP’s managers.

      2. MCL*

        Agreed with having the lottery as early as possible so that people can plan their holidays way, way in advance. My mom starts bugging me about what’s happening for Thanksgiving in August. I’m certainly not saying that my mom is reasonable about doing this, but some families are a little goofy about holiday planning.

        1. Jules K*

          I agree that having the lottery early is a great idea. I have siblings and nieces in two states, I live with my husband and daughter in a third state, and my parents live in a fourth. Three of us also have in-laws in still other states. We plan holidays very far in advance in my family.

        2. J.*

          I moved this spring, and my mother and my aunt are in my new town visiting for Thanksgiving this week. They’ve been pestering me about the plans since April. I didn’t move until MAY.

        3. Alexander*

          August for November?

          We have to book almost the entire Vacation (25 of 30 days, Germany) for my spouse in NOVEMBER the year before… Hospital work is brutal.

          1. Mirror*

            Husband is a critical federal employee. We have to plan our vacations in September for the next year! Drives our families crazy that they have to plan Christmas so far in advance if they want us to show up. Been 7 years and they still ask us “hey you coming for Christmas? We booked a cabin…” in November. Uhh, sorry folks please ask us 14 months in advance ☹️

            1. Mushroom*

              Hah, that is me too! Only I have been a critical Fed for 27 years and my FIL still doesn’t understand the 14 month lead time. He also thinks *everyone* gets holidays as vacation and is always surprised I don’t automatically get holidays off.

        4. As Close As Breakfast*

          Having the lottery as early as possible is a great thing to do. I would make sure to have a carefully thought out and documented plan for what to do if employees change. What do you do if someone that was scheduled to work quits or dies or is out on medical leave or any other number of things? What do you do with new employees that start between the lottery and the holidays? I strongly believe this is one of those situations where you cannot be over prepared.

          1. Mongrel*

            We have a rota for Christmas on our team, if someone leaves the replacement person get’s their slot so it’s more like the holiday gets pinned to the job not the person

      3. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        I agree that you need to decide who will work those shifts super ahead of time. Because some people do want to travel around the holidays and it is often cheaper to book things ahead of time. So maybe do a beginning of the year drawing for all Holidays – put all the names in and then draw for 4th of July, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving and Xmas eve and Xmas. Tell people that they are responsible for that shift and if they call in that day the consequences are X. Then you have to stick to it.
        I also support giving an extra paid day off to whoever works the big holidays – Thanksgiving and Xmas, incentives are key here.

        1. Guacamole Bob*

          Just be sure you have a fair and up-front system for handling it when someone leaves or a new person joins the team.

          1. Emily S*

            Yeah, this is what gave me pause. The best time to purchase airline tickets for December is in September so Labor Day for the Christmas lottery seems like you maximize folks’ ability to plan and budget while minimizing the chances that someone is going to spend February-May thinking they don’t have to work Christmas and making plans around it, and then having that rescinded in June or July when somebody leaves.

        2. Tysons in Boston*

          When my brother worked as a fireman, he didn’t get holidays off. But the schedules of who worked what holiday was scheduled YEARS in advance. Shift based. They were assigned shift A B or C. They could switch shifts. Some years, for those without kids would be willing to stay a little longer so those with young kids could at least have Christmas morning with the family.

          1. I"m not posting my name. Last time I said this I got screamed at.*

            Yeah, this is what we did in the two places were coverage on holidays was essential. We paid double time for holidays plus extra time off. When that didn’t work on the “but I have chiiiillldreeen” crowd, we simply instituted the “everybody is scheduled on holidays no exceptions, but you’re allowed to switch as long as the person you switch with has the skills to actually do your job” protocal. If you call off without setting up coverage, you are no longer in line for bonuses or raises. I’ve fired people for just not showing up.
            Absolutely, the holiday schedule should be set up in July, and people who’ve traded should write their names on the part of it they are covering. People don’t get to write anybody else’s name in, guess why.
            I know a lot of people think this is a terrible idea, but there comes a point where you have to address the just plain meanness some people have about holiday coverage. Nobody is entitled to have the holiday off, not in the US, and other people should not be discriminated against.

            1. Hills to Die on*

              I think not allowing bonuses or raises to people who voilate the rules is great. I don’t know why anyone would have an issue with that. Too many people get hysterical over parents / not parents topic on this blog.

              1. Anonchivist*

                People will stop being “hysterical” when people with children stop acting like people without children (for whatever reason) have empty commitment-free no loved one lives.

                1. Hills to Die on*

                  I have children and I have always agreed that it is unfair to behave like this; so do many other commenters here. There is no need to scream at people regardless, especially when the poster above is agreeing that it’s wrong and is proposing a very reasonable solution.

                2. AnonEMoose*

                  This. You do not get to tell me that it is less important for me to spend holidays with my aging parents and aunt, the sister I don’t get to see often enough, etc., than it is for you so spend them with your children. It is no more important, but it is no less important, either.

                  Fortunately for me, my current job doesn’t require holiday coverage, and I’m very happy with that.

                3. serenity*

                  Too many people get hysterical over parents / not parents topic on this blog.

                  This comment is uncalled for and kind of rude.

                4. New & Enthusiastic Alison Green Fan*

                  I agree, Anonchivist. I have 2 kids, but I have seen so much unfairness throughout my career (both while child-free and child-full) based on those with kids getting special treatment. I particularly hate this because I worry that people like me, a full-time working mom, will be increasingly viewed by employers as prone to asking for special favors, even though I have never done anything of the kind. I worry about being lumped in with the parents who take advantage. I also could do without the “hysterical” comment from Hills to Die on. Hyperbole like this rarely facilitates thoughtful discussion.

                5. NotAnotherManager!*

                  I’m not sure if this comment is intended to be ironic, but responding to someone pointing out emotional reactions to the parent/not parents divide by pointing the finger entirely at one side (and, of course all of it, because surely no parents are reasonable people that get what they signed up for with their job) and insinuating they’re the hysterical ones is pretty rich.

                6. DKMA*

                  I’ve depended the “parent” side of the debate, because a lot of time the “not parent” side is fundamentally whining that work shouldn’t accomodate employees who have responsibilities outside of work, which is a good way to lose good employees. But, kids aren’t the ONLY responsibility people have. If there’s a work emergency it actually does make sense to burden the employee with no conflicting responsibilities. If you have emergencies all the time, or predictably, they are not emergencies. They are a regular part of your business. Then you need to plan for them and set clear expectations for what employees are required to do so they can either find ways to meet all their duties personal or professional or find a new job.

                  This, however,is bonkers, being a parent isn’t a license to ignore basic responsibilities of your job like coming in when you are scheduled.

                7. Hills to Die on*

                  @serenity, it is far less rude than the fact that people have to post completely reasonable comments anonymously because they others are…behaving hysterically. It is entirely appropriate to call that out. Be angry, be frustrated, have an opinion, but to berate someone for no reason–yes, it is rude and hysterical.

                8. Hills to Die on*

                  Hi, New & Enthuisiastic, and welcome. I encourage you to go read previous posts related to similar topics and judge for yourself. I can’t imagine anyone seeing what ‘I”m not posting my name. Last time I said this I got screamed at.’ as being offensive, but if you feel it warrants screaming at someone, then I suppose that is your opinion. *shrugs*

                9. Another Sarah*

                  @DKMA – I just had to respond to this – “I’ve depended the “parent” side of the debate, because a lot of time the “not parent” side is fundamentally whining that work shouldn’t accomodate employees who have responsibilities outside of work, which is a good way to lose good employees. But, kids aren’t the ONLY responsibility people have. If there’s a work emergency it actually does make sense to burden the employee with no conflicting responsibilities.”
                  With respect – the problem with your first line is right there in your second line. No childless person is “whining” that people with responsibilities are being accommodated. They are annoyed that their non-child related responsibilities are being ignored because they’re less obvious. I don’t need to have children to have responsibilities outside of work. I don’t even need my responsibilities to be family-related to be important, and somebody else doesn’t get to decide for me how important my priorities are based on their personal scale. If my priority is my mental health because I’m the one childless person in the office and that makes me the one who is always called to cover shifts and I really need some dedicated time off – that’s not more important than anybody else’s priority, but it’s not less either. Both have to be accommodated as much as possible and sometimes that means that either one would have to give up that day off. The expectation is the problem because it becomes an obligation, then a burden.

                10. poolgirl*

                  You sounds like you may have had experiences similar to mine – at work, I had to stay over when required, as my coworker had to pick up his daughter from school. With family- I was always expected to drive to their house, since I didn’t have kids.

              2. Kat in VA*


                I’ve got four kids and childless/free people getting shanked because they don’t have kids makes me furious. They have every right to be pissed off about the inequity.

                1. Hills to Die on*

                  Again, it is far less rude than the fact that people have to post completely reasonable comments anonymously because they others are…behaving hysterically. It is entirely appropriate to call that out. Be angry, be frustrated, have an opinion, but to berate someone for no reason–yes, it is rude and hysterical. The commenter did not create this dynamic.

            2. Flash Bristow*

              I’m sorry to see your username. This is usually a pretty reasonable forum and certainly rarely unkind. I hope if it happens again (to you or anyone) that you will flag it to Alison to handle.

            3. Not on my watch.*

              Part that upset me was the showing up with plane tickets to exempt themselves from the lottery. This would only happen once. Then they’d better cheerfully volunteer for the next several Holidays like their job depended on it.

              I am saying this as some one who just got word last night that the two hours leave I requested for Saturday morning (so I didn’t have to return Friday afternoon) was approved.

              Was already scheduled to have the weekend off (from last year) when the manager suddenly noticed two weeks ago the previously available slots had been overbooked – the people who’d been scheduled to work, had left the company!

              I barely booked tickets half an hour ago to leave tomorrow morning – and almost missed getting reservations for the hotel and banquet yesterday (would’ve just stayed home then).

              So someone who’d have the gall to cry “but I have tickets!” to exempt themselves from the lottery…

              They would only do it once.

            4. Lawgurl06*

              My step-father works in maintenance at our local hospital and their system is that each year you work the next holiday on the holiday list. So last year he worked Thanksgiving so he knew this year he would have to work Christmas. Then he won’t have to again for several years unless something crazy happens. There are also allowed to trade days with other people in their department irregardless of what shift that person normally works as long as they work whatever shift the other person works. He knew taking the job he would have to work holidays and we’ve always worked around it. With this system, he knows way ahead of time what holiday he will have based on the holiday he had the year before. Sometimes he switches with someone if they need it or if he needs it.

          2. Janey*

            My husband is an RN and they have gone to a similar tier system so that if you are in group A you work schedule 1 holidays, group B works schedule 2 holidays and group C works schedule 3 holidays. The days listed are all holidays during the year, not just the winter ones. They have the list for 2018, 2019 and 2020 so far so no one can say they didn’t know. This just rotates every year and so far has worked pretty well.

            1. AnonNurse*

              I am an RN and work in an acute care facility that mandates having coverage 24/7. We absolutely have a holiday schedule that makes it clear what holidays are mine each year. It’s not a surprise and no one can suddenly say they already have plans. People are welcome to switch if they want to but that’s up to the individuals. Holiday coverage is a part of the job and people acting as if it was not, would not be appreciated by fellow staff and would have an unhappy wake up call by administration.

              1. Anne Elliot*

                I work in field where staffing is absolutely critical (facilities that require staffing 24/7/365) and if you’re on the schedule for a holiday and you do not show up and you cannot produce a doctor’s note for a serious personal illness (preferably from the ER), they will fire your ass, period. What’s important is that everybody knows that and: (1) the process of staffing is transparent, fair, and unbiased (a lottery as others have indicated); (2) the schedule is finalized early and any “trades” must be confirmed in writing and approved by a manager several weeks in advance; and (3) holiday pay is provided. People still bitch about it but nobody thinks they’re being treated less fairly than anybody else. IMO it’s a circumstance where having very hard and inflexible rules are the only way to go.

            2. Vega*

              Yeah, my Mom used to work in an ER and this is basically how they did it. Additionally, she was never scheduled to work on two major, closely timed holidays. So one year she would work Thanksgiving Friday and Christmas Day, then Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve the next year. If someone wanted to travel, they had to swap shifts (but holiday bonuses helped incentivize that).

              That type of scheduling might be something for the LW to consider – a pure lottery might put the same person on Thanksgiving, Christmas, AND New Year’s Day, which is definitely unfair.

              1. Lance*

                To that last point, OP states that someone’s removed from the lottery if they’ve been picked for a holiday (or at least, Thanksgiving or Christmas; not sure about New Year’s Day, since they don’t specify) otherwise that year, so I don’t think that would be a likely issue.

                1. Kyrielle*

                  This. Also, I’d suggest letting people *ask* to work specific holidays first, if there’s any chance that will work. When I was on a required-coverage team, we had enough people that someone got Thanksgiving or Christmas at *most* every other year (and never both). And every year that I could be in the list for either, I volunteered for Christmas in advance, because Thanksgiving is the big get-together for our extended family.

                  This meant I worked more holidays than I would have by pure lottery, but it guaranteed that I never worked Thanksgiving, and as far as I know, no one begrudged me or tried to volunteer to take Christmas before I could.

              2. a1*

                But it’s not a pure lottery, though.

                We do a lottery to fairly pick holiday coverage with the caveat that if you work Thanksgiving, you’re not in the lottery for Christmas, and if you work Christmas one year, you’re exempt the next year.

                1. Clisby Williams*

                  But there might be people who would be happy to work on Christmas and Thanksgiving, especially if they get extra pay/extra days off. Give them a chance to volunteer first. I think a lottery should be the last step, used only if necessary. That is, you see if you get volunteers. To fill any remaining spots, first you look at whoever worked Thanksgiving last year – they get it off this year. Same for Christmas. Nobody who works Thanksgiving works Christmas, and vice-versa (unless they volunteer). If that doesn’t fill all the needed spots, go to a lottery.

          3. Anonymousaurus Rex*

            Yep, this is how we did it at my fire department as well. It works really well. But I feel like firefighters are really a pretty dedicated bunch.

        3. I only pass instruments*

          We have a schedule made in September or October for the next year for Stat days. I find this helps with holiday planing a lot as you know well in advance and can make plans. We have a sign up for the Christmas season. You either pick to work Christmas or the New Year.

        4. Elizabeth Frantes*

          The problem I have with this is that the parents KNEW of the lottery and reasonably KNEW they might not be able to use the tickets. Now, you can get insurance if you have to cancel your plans, so if they CHOOSE to risk taking a loss, that’s on them. Waltzing in and saying, well, yeah, I drew the short straw, BUT I HAVE PLANS AND BOUGHT TICKETS AND I HAVE CHILDREN SO YOU MUST BREAK THE RULES TO ACCOMMODATE ME!

          Well, seems to me that Carcinoma Sapiens have been having children for millions of years, and there are billions of us on the planet, so do tell, how does that make anyone special for choosing to have children?

          ‘Holy Tragedy of the Commons, Batman, it’s the Marching Morons’ (there are two literary references, can you tell me the sources?)

          Perhaps a written policy that if you get chosen by the lottery to work, and demand the time off because you’ve already booked your tickets, etc, you have to pay the person who has to take your place your salary for the day, plus a nice bonus? Or let the employees have a bidding war? I could see that.

          What bothers me about parental entitlement is that they never even bother to say ‘thank you’ to those who are subsidizing their choice to have children by paying higher taxes, covering their jobs due to ‘family emergencies’ (like driving kids to soccer practice) and then have the temerity to insult and patronize those of us who chose differently?

          Wait your turn. Tired of the idea that having a kid means you should be able to cut to the head of all the lines, and yes, there are parents who insist that should be policy everywhere. Why should I care about your child when you don’t care about my mother’s child?

      4. Kathleen_A*

        I think this is one very important hill as well. Because this is *ridiculous*.

        I mean, come on – I know it’s Christmas and I know it’s important. It’s very important to me. But it’s important to nurses and doctors, too (both of my parents worked in OR), and to people who fix power and telephone lines, and to ambulance drivers and firefighters and police officers, and on and on and on. And yet all of the people in these professions realize that their world doesn’t stop just because its Christmas, and they realize this even if they have kids.

        I can tell you from personal experience that no child will be scarred if Mom and Dad are called in for an emergency surgery or have to serve their shift in the firehouse and they end up eating Thanksgiving dinner on the Saturday after Christmas or celebrating Christmas on Dec. 26. They might be scarred if they have whiny, unprofessional parents, though.

        1. Fluffer Nutter*

          “They might be scarred if they have whiny, unprofessional parents, though.” Oh man, so true in so many areas of life….

          1. Elle*

            haha yes I love this.
            My dad was a volunteer firefighter and I can’t tell you how many Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas mornings were interrupted by him responding to a call. Us kids never cared, from a young age we were taught about his sacrifice and honestly we were kind of in aw of his important pager tone. But what I DO remember is my moms anger at my dad for leaving in the middle of those activities.

            1. TootsNYC*

              and think how much MORE enjoyable it would have been if Mom had been, “Oh, we’re helping save people’s homes and lives too, by sending Dad off to be the hero. We’ll be waiting for you when you come back, hero of ours–be safe!”

                1. Chinookwind*

                  Exactly. DH would was on call for many holidays in the military (to pull the records of anyone killed so people could be contacted) , which meant no alcohol, always near work, etc. Others would ask if we were bummed that we could never plan anything yet were never called in and we explained that a) this was part of the job and b) we would be sad if his pager went off because it meant someone was going to have their worst nightmare come true.

                  As a cop, DH worked holidays hoping for a quiet day because no one should need to call 911 on a day like that but, sadly, they do.

              1. As Close As Breakfast*

                This! Growing up, my dad was a manager at UPS (not life-saving critical coverage, but crazy busy during the holiday season.) More than once during my childhood, he would get up way before the crack of dawn on Christmas and go deliver last minute packages with a couple of drivers, ones that had been lost for one reason or another or that had come in on trucks that night/morning. They did this by choice. To be kind and hopefully make some people’s holiday a little brighter. It makes me smile thinking about it and every time I tell someone.

                So, my point is… I’m sure that we sometimes started our Christmas mornings later than we would have otherwise. And I’m sure my dad was tired for the rest of the day. And I’m sure my mom was a bit annoyed. But none of that is what I remember. What I remember is that my dad went out of his way to help people on Christmas. Because they absolutely weren’t whiny and unprofessional about it.

        2. sharon g*

          I totally agree. My dad is a retired airline pilot. He worked many holidays/birthdays/anniversaries. I am not mad or upset. It is just the way the things were.

          1. Jadelyn*

            My dad was a corporate pilot, not commercial, but same. I actually value the flexibility that trained into me re holidays – I don’t care if my bday doesn’t get celebrated on the day, as long as it’s sometime that month. Christmas was frequently a week before or a week after “official Christmas”. My mom is in the hospital (recovering from planned surgery) right now and will likely be there tomorrow too – but we’re not really fussed about it being over the holiday. We’ll do a big Thanksmas dinner sometime in December when she’s feeling better. People with kids have coverage-based jobs all the time, and those kids cope just fine.

            1. Nellie*

              Honestly, anytime an adult seems whiny over not observing their birthday ON the specific day (even, if, say, a weekend would be better for a certain activity/celebration) or other celebrations like this, I wonder.

              1. Ellex*

                I’ve been taken out on 4 birthday dinners this month. None of them was on the actual day of my birthday.

                No complaints from me!

            2. TootsNYC*

              I’m with you–we had some traditions, but we never had Christmas the same way every single year. And so I can enjoy whatever comes my way.

        3. Labradoodle Daddy*

          But in those kind of jobs it would be unreasonable to NOT expect that. I don’t think there are people who get all the way to being doctors and then say “HUHHH??? I MAY HAVE TO WORK ON CHRISTMAS???” There are some jobs that frankly don’t need you in the office around that time of year, and that’s something to consider w/r/t employee morale.

          1. Not a Blossom*

            The OP explicitly states that people know what they are signing up for when they join this company.

          2. Kathleen_A*

            The OP seems to be indicating that this is an office that absolutely needs to be open on Christmas – it’s a “small public service office, and we are open on the holidays. Full stop, no exceptions, we are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.” I’m not sure exactly what that means, but it sounds to me as if it needs to be open, and therefore it *needs* to be *open*. That’s just all there is to so. So long as people are clear on this possibility when they’re hired – and OP says this is made clear – well, there’s just no excuse for this sort of behavior, and that includes having children.

        4. Dev*

          This! I grew up in the military and my dad often worked holidays or special occasions because that’s just how it is. As we got older and he was stationed away from us, he often volunteered to work Christmas to allow parents with younger kids to have the day off and he would come home in January and we would celebrate then. I haven’t celebrated Christmas on December 25 in years, but for me its more important to be able to spend time with the people I love, whenever that may be, than to have my holiday on a specific day.

          Luckily my job doesn’t require holiday coverage (for the most part) but I would 100% offer to work certain holidays to allow my coworkers with families to take the day off. I’m single, childless, don’t have family in the area, I don’t mind. But if I was getting scheduled for holidays because I am single, childless, and don’t have family in the area, I would be putting up a huge fight because that it bogus and absolutely unfair.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            That’s the key though. You don’t mind doing it. Being required to do it simply because you have no children is wrong, so, so wrong.

          2. TootsNYC*

            Or, I might, as a parent, volunteer to work a holiday so my single colleague could get home for a visit because they can tack it onto vacation days.

        5. Kaybee*

          Add me to the chorus of agreement! Back when my mom worked in a hospital, her work made very clear that everyone was going to work two of the three major winter holidays and you could put in a request for the one you wanted off. In the event that too many people requested the same holiday off, there was a formula to determine who got it off based on factors like who worked it the previous year, seniority, non-holiday winter events (e.g. if your kid had a winter graduation across the country – they always accommodated major life events), etc.

          So my mom worked a lot of holidays. When I was little I didn’t notice if the day we celebrated a holiday was on the “correct” date or not. As I got older, I appreciated the holiday being extended a little longer. For example, my mom made it special by letting me bake and decorate cookies and such (normally she rationed sugary treats) through the actual day we celebrated, which was really fun. Or when I was old enough to buy gifts with my own money, I’d go Christmas shopping during the “day after Christmas” sales, which helped my budget enormously. There ended up being a lot to appreciate about it.

          But at the time, I don’t remember thinking through what I appreciated about sometimes celebrating the holiday on a different date. It just seemed normal to me, and because it was normal, it never occurred to me to be upset that we weren’t opening presents on December 25th or eating pumpkin pie on the 4th Thursday in November. I don’t think celebrating on a different date is as traumatizing for children as parents who get stressed out making sure they have the holiday off think it will be.

          1. Flash Bristow*

            I was about to make that comment about sales. Christmas food (and decorations, and gifts) are so much cheaper from the 26th! There is a risk that they will sell out if you’re after one particular type of fancy pudding or whatever, but in general there will be a plethora of good stuff at knocked down prices.

            Also, there won’t be quite so much rubbish on the TV on another day

            1. TootsNYC*

              yeah, in a lot of stores lately, they take the wrapping paper, etc., OFF THE SHELVES early the next morning, or overnight, and it’s GONE.

        6. East Coast Girl*

          Came here to say everything you said. My Dad is an ER doc. There were plenty of years (and still are) where we have Christmas on the 27th or New Year’s on the 29th. I lived.

          I realize it can get more complicated if travel is involved or it’s a large family but…if you sign up for a career where you KNOW 24/7 coverage is the norm, it’s an asshat move to try to put all the crap shifts on single or kid free coworkers once you, yourself, have kids.

          I agree with all the comments that having the lottery as early as possible so people have time to plan is key.

        7. Jayn*

          Worst case, hopefully they grow up to be more understanding about it. I was kind of a jerk to my father when I was a kid—while he never missed holidays I pretty much didn’t see him during his busy season (which is right before Christmas). As an adult it’s easier for me to understand that it’s simply the nature of his job to be super busy that time of year.

        8. Silence Will Fall*

          I’ve worked as a church musician for the last 2+ decades which involves being very busy on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. So, for the last 2+ decades, we’ve celebrated our family Christmas the Saturday after Christmas.

          An entire generation of children has managed to grow up into productive members of society despite having to wait up to a week to receive their gifts.

          No one has died.

          1. KayEss*

            This reminds me of the year the church organist slipped on a patch of ice on her way into the church for the big Christmas Eve service–she fell and smacked her face on the curb, which is the kind of head injury that you really do want to have checked out ASAP because there could be concussion or other effects that don’t manifest immediately but result in serious long-term damage. She adamantly REFUSED to go to the ER because iT’S ChRIStmAS and if there is no organ music for the fancy service it would be the WORst poSSIBLe thINg!!!11

            So my mom sat with her through the service to hold an ice pack to her swelling face while she played, and then took her to the hospital after. I think it turned out she had fractured or broken her eye socket. (Sadly, the church also had the kind of congregation that admittedly would probably have produced some disgruntled murmuring if there hadn’t been organ music on Christmas Eve. Churches, man.)

            1. TootsNYC*

              For a moment–until you mentioned the ice pack–I thought you were a member of my church! I had a Razor scooter accident on my way to play organ for Christmas Eve, and I really should have gone to the ER.

              The pastor’s wife watched me very closely, but Natasha Richardson seemed normal after her fall, and …

              My church would have been fine with it, if I’d gone to the ER. But I didn’t think about the idea that it could be serious, so I stayed.

              1. KayEss*

                I think the only reason Mom didn’t strong-arm her to the ER right away was that she didn’t black out from the impact. I do recall that her eye pretty well swelled shut by the end of the service, which made reading the music interesting…

        9. Ellex*

          The kids won’t be upset if the parents don’t establish a precedent by basically throwing a tantrum in front of the kids, or setting up unreasonable/unachievable expectations. But if the parents establish a “we celebrate the holiday when we can/when it’s convenient to do so”, then the kids end up with the same attitude.

          Kids appreciate stress-free, tantrum-free holidays just as much as adults. As someone who grew up with a parent who made the Christmas holiday extremely stressful by their inability to control their moods or their reaction to any unexpected setbacks, I set great store by making my holidays as stress-free as possible – which has occasioned celebrating that holiday on a different date on more than one occasion.

          A few years ago my family didn’t celebrate Christmas until halfway through January, just because we couldn’t all get together and there was too much stuff going on at the actual holiday. That turned into one of the best Christmases I’ve ever had.

          1. TootsNYC*

            right–you teach your kids what “normal” is.

            I would say it’s actually sort of unhealthy to establish the expectation that your holidays will be picture-perfect, stereotype-compliant all the time.

      5. Gabriela*

        The thing is- I would offer to work some of those holidays out of the kindness of my heart for parents as well (not ALL of them, but at least some of them). The idea that I *should* work them because I’m not a parent is infuriating.

        1. J.*

          Right? There’s a world of difference between volunteering to switch shifts and being demanded it because you don’t have kids.

          I also shudder to think if any of the people without kids are struggling with infertility. I’m kidless by choice, but I can only imagine how horrible it would be to be forced to work on holidays “because you don’t have kids” when you’re really sad about that fact.

          1. Nonya*

            This actually amounts to familial discrimination & OP’s place of employment would likely lose a lawsuit if one was filed.

            I really hope someone brings this to the SCotUS to protect childfree as familial status.

            1. OfOtherWorlds*

              My understanding is that familial status is a protected class in terms of housing discrimination but not employment discrimination. Employment discrimination against parents or non-parents is immoral, but it is legal, as long as it doesn’t have a disporportionate impact on one gender or sex. I’m not a lawyer and this is not legal advice, take my two ¢ for what they’re worth.

              1. Wintermute*

                Nope, Family Status is absolutely an EEOC protected class. Plus it also touches on things like gender conformity (women ought to be mothers, men ought to be working providers, etc) which is also an EEOC protected class (I.e. you cannot discriminate on the basis of conformity to gender norms).

                It would take a court case to decide for sure, but that doesn’t mean HR isn’t going to get awfully nervous if you start throwing the word “EEOA violation” around.

        2. kittymommy*

          Where I currently work , I deliberately don’t take off around the holidays so my co-workers with kids can have it and I also don’t have any close family near me, but if I was told (essentially) “oh too bad your uterus doesn’t work. Mine does, so I get holidays.” that’s going to be a hard no. That’s a hill I would gladly and profanely die on.

          1. Anne Elliot*

            +1. You are not entitled to my generosity, it’s a gift that I may or may not choose to extend. I’m also bugged by the way these assumptions prioritize kids over other types of family relations. My dad is 80 years old now, and I’m not sure how many more Christmases we’ll have with him. The idea that wanting to spend holidays with my old man is automatically less important than a kid-centered holiday, is pretty offensive to me.

            1. TootsNYC*

              I keep running into things lately that make me think of the 10th Commandment; Thou shalt not covet.

              It does all sorts of damage, coveting does. (and it’s not just about thinking in your head; it’s about what you do, as all commandments are)

            2. TootsNYC*

              The idea that wanting to spend holidays with my old man is automatically less important than a kid-centered holiday, is pretty offensive to me.

              My mom used to get pissed off that all the church festivals, etc., were kid centered; she was like, “Jesus came for us grownups too!”

              She eventually was able to persuade people to do the kids’ Christmas program on the Sunday before, and make Christmas Eve be “not centered on kids.”

              1. boop the first*

                Hmmm yeah… So much is centered on kids. But only on kids with parents who want to enrich their lives somehow, and take them out of the house. I have a brief period of time where I have weekends and holidays off for the first time since grade school, but every local festival I look into has a kid’s activity section and… nothing else? No wonder my parents never left the house! XD

          2. Bostonian*

            Yup. I tend to not do a lot around the holidays, so I don’t take that time off. I’m glad to be there so others can have the time, but I would be absolutely FURIOUS if it were mandated for an arbitrary reason. I would also be pretty pissed if I heard people who were scheduled just decided not to show up.

          3. Wendy Darling*

            For a couple years I worked in a job where coverage was non-optional and hours could be a bit odd. We had JUST enough staff to cover all the shifts if no one had to take a day off. I routinely volunteered to pick up extra shifts when someone couldn’t work, because I lived alone and my only pets were tropical fish so they didn’t care if I did 12-hour days, and I mostly just saw my boyfriend on weekends.

            Unfortunately rather than being appreciative, my two coworkers with kids got used to this and began to take it for granted and threw giant fits on the rare occasion I could not accommodate them. This is more to do with them both being self-centered jerks than with having children, they just happened to be self-centered jerks with a socially sanctioned excuse.

        3. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Exactly this.

          I knew a Jewish nurse who used to volunteer to work doubles on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (for time and a half). My mom used to volunteer for Christmas morning once her kids were adults so that people with small children could be home.

          But hell to the no if that’s expected.

          1. OyHiOh*

            My spouse routinely volunteers to cover someone’s shifts for Christmas/Eve, and also at Easter. We’re Jewish and what are we going to do otherwise? Kids and I binge on movies, order in Chinese, have Chinese delivered to spouse. The time and a half is a nice incentive but it’s really about being a good person and helping someone else.

            1. Not on my watch.*

              My husband routinely asks to be scheduled on Holidays, as they are often important to others, and not so much to us.

              He is routinely turned down because Boss’s pet company policy is: “equal distribution of Holiday pay takes precedence over time off.” (You may not like it now, but he promises you’ll thank him later.)

              Supposedly, it’s to keep everyone’s pay within their budgeted annual salary. Therefore, if you are on the schedule, you are on the schedule. If not, not.

              Holiday trading can be done sometimes… But Everyone Shall Work an Equal Number of Holidays, and Have Off the Same! It has been decreed!

              Unscheduled Holidays you find us sitting at home, wistfully dreaming of that Sweet, Sweet Holiday Dough… while the others at work wish they could be home.


          2. Kathleen_A*

            My nephew’s wife is from Canada, and the Canadian Thanksgiving is in October. So she routinely offers to work over the U.S. Thanksgiving, which is very nice of her. Very nice.

            But she shouldn’t *have* to.

          3. TootsNYC*

            there’s a long history of this sort of thing in places where both religions mingled. Since Jews were unable to do work on Shabbot, the Christians would cook meals for them; and Jews would return the favor on Christian feast days, or the Christian Sabbath.

        4. This Daydreamer*

          I actually work in a place where every one of the people in my job (we’re the ones who have to provide 24/7 coverage) is happy to work any holiday. The overtime pay may be part of it but I’m sure appreciating them right now.

        5. TootsNYC*

          yeah, this is a good way for those offending parents to destroy any cooperative goodwill the non-parents might ever have for them.

      6. Adele*

        Frankly, I don’t think a lottery is the best way to do it. As a one-off it is fair and impartial but over time it could work out that it is not, if someone wins (or loses) the lottery often, just out of sheer luck.

        I work for a patient support area of a large hospital, so we need front-line staff here on holidays, 24/7. There is a holiday premium and overtime pay (if warranted) as well as holiday alternative days for those who work the holiday. We have lots of non-Christian immigrant employees, so getting coverage from our union staff is usually not a problem. Months in advance we ask for volunteers and then after that it goes by the union contract.

        Our managers are on a carefully worked out rotating schedule during that time so they know YEARS in advance when/if they will be working a holiday and they have the days around that holiday off, too. No one works both Thanksgiving and Christmas and, I think, New Year’s Eve/Day is in the mix, too. They are free to trade with or volunteer to work instead of their co-workers, but it doesn’t alter the schedule for the future. We did have a new manager complain when her slot in the schedule didn’t come up as she wanted it the first year (“But this is my first Christmas with my new husband!”), but she was (nicely) told, sorry, that’s how it is.

        1. Louise*

          I think it is really hard to miss out regardless of kids or not, for those that want the break. I’m really lucky to work in a public office where we shut down for at least a week over the Christmas period. Some years we didn’t and I worked through and then the following year was given preference to have a holiday. It came down to higher management being very direct and clear about who they will and won’t consider for holidays and that if you worked through one year, you got the next year holiday period off. It’s hard when the other two bosses are not supporting OP and this is why it’s not working. OP – I would do my best to help everyone but if the final decision rests on the other two then start referring complaints to them. I’d just tell staff give them a call or email them. It seems as though you really care about your staff and giving everyone a fair go.

        2. a1*

          But it’s not a pure lottery, though.

          We do a lottery to fairly pick holiday coverage with the caveat that if you work Thanksgiving, you’re not in the lottery for Christmas, and if you work Christmas one year, you’re exempt the next year.

          I wonder why so many people are missing this part of the letter?

          1. designbot*

            yeah I actually thought that these rules to it made their lottery exceptionally fair. Unless Thanksgiving is more important than Christmas to you, in which case that’s worth discussing.

            1. Lynn*

              More fair than a rotation? One person might be unlucky enough to be chosen every time and another might be lucky enough to never be chosen.

              1. a1*

                You can’t be chosen every time though. Reread the above. If you work this Christmas you get next Christmas off.

                1. As Close As Breakfast*

                  Yes, but over time it could still be unequal. Employee A is drawn to work Christmas 1. Employee B is not. Employee A is exempt year 2 and employee B is not drawn. Employee A is drawn again in year 3 and employee B is not drawn. And so on and so on. After 10 years of this, employee A has worked 5 Christmas days and employee B has worked none. Is it likely to work out this way? Maybe not. But it’s possible.

                2. boop the first*

                  True, and maybe not a lot of people would stick around for 10 years to find out.

                  But then my employers always solved this problem by making EVERYONE work every holiday at once. It’s totally fair and EVERYONE is miserable!

              2. designbot*

                A rotation will only be perfectly fair if you have employees in some multiplier of the number of holidays you do this for, AND those employees all start at the same date, or in the range between two of the holidays. Even if you try to be perfectly fair, the changing pool of employees including different start/end dates will always be resulting in randomly messed up circumstances.

                1. sb51*

                  Eh, if an employee quits and is replaced, the replacement gets their slot in the rotation. Might mean someone gets Christmas off when they started mid-November, but them’s the breaks. New positions get set up according to the need for that position and rotate immediately.

                  Only issue comes if a position is empty coming onto a holiday that that slot works (i.e. someone quit a week before the holiday and you haven’t filled it), but then you figure out an incentive that will get someone to cover.

              3. t.i.a.s.p.*

                You can set it up that someone doesn`t go back into the lottery until everyone has worked a holiday.

                e.g. My husband hunts. Every year you apply for licences. There are almost always more applications than licences. So there is a priority system. First year you apply, your priority is 0. Next year you apply, your priority is 1. Etc etc until you get a licence. After that, your priority goes back down to zero. When the draws for licences are made, they go first to the pool of people with the highest priority (say people with priority 6 – that would mean they applied 6 times and hadn`t gotten a licence). If there are any licences left, they go to the pool of people with priority 5. If there are more people with a priority than licences, they are given out by lottery. Sure, some people with priority 3 might get a licence and some will not, but then next year, most likely those people who did not get a licence will get one because they are now a higher priority and the other guys went back down to zero.

              4. Wendy Darling*

                I have terrible luck with lotteries — the last time I won something in a drawing was kindergarten (I won an ice cream sundae).

                I wonder if I would still never get drawn in this lottery and thereby become lucky via a weird back door, or if I’d be the person who got pulled every time I was eligible.

      7. Sara M*

        I worked somewhere that paid double on holidays. I _wanted_ to work but couldn’t get shifts. Please do this! Pay plenty extra. Hazard pay for insufficient turkey consumption. :)

        1. Civilian Linetti*

          Where I work there is a system where you get paid double time for working a holiday *and* you get an extra day’s paid holiday to take at a later time.

          Having worked there for a decade before I had kids, I did not realise how much I was pressured to do the holidays as a childfree person. Sure I got paid well and I could celebrate the holiday I missed with an extra day of PTO, but it would have been nice to spend time with my family. Since becoming a parent I have been offered zero shifts over the holidays! Everyone assumed I want the holidays off now I have a kid. (My child is too young to know what Christmas is anyway so me being missing Christmas morning isn’t going to be a big deal.)

      8. Observer*

        My jaw was just dropping as I read this – and I *do* have kids, so I know what this can mean to parents.

        Some fields are NOT family friendly at all.

        1. TootsNYC*

          I don’t think having to work on a holiday every now and then is “not family friendly.”

          The holiday is a fun thing; being able to get out of work on time, reliably; having flexibility to deal with school pickups and sicknesses–those are family friendly.

          1. Observer*

            This is a job that requires 24×7, 365 coverage. The inability to ever have a non-covered day is most definitely NOT family friendly.

            But, that’s true whatever your definition of “family”. And it’s something that people need to know going in.

        2. kay*

          I mean think about it. If you’re at Christmas and while cooking dinner you sliced off your finger, how would you feel if you called an ambulance and they said “we don’t work Christmas. We try to be flexible to parents who care about holidays.” most places that require coverage 24/7 365 days a year are that way for a reason.

          Also, my Dad is an ICU doctor and actually it was family friendly because he was home all day half of he week because he works 24 hour shifts. I had a somewhat rare experience of my dad looking after us after school three days a week while my mum worked. Yeah, sometimes he worked Christmas. Wasn’t that big of a deal.

          1. Observer*

            I get it. I really do. But it’s still not family friendly.

            Some fields are not family friendly largely because they are full of dysfunction (eg BigLaw) and other are not family friendly because they have not choice (eg emergency medicine.)

      9. Works in IT*

        This is the first Thanksgiving in years that I’ve not done everything in my power to make sure I’m definitely committed to working. I like using work as an excuse to not attend the family dinner with extended family I don’t like, but we are not having it this year.

        1. Arabella Flynn*

          I used to do the exact same thing. My relatives are a load of dysfunctional barking baboons who are unable or unwilling to behave like reasonable adults. (I’ve heard from more than one of them *specifically* that “family are the people you don’t have to behave for”. That’s… not how that works.) I used to volunteer to work all the family holidays in exchange for getting Halloween and NYE — that is, the two drunkest occasions for a 20-something single — off instead.

          I still volunteer to work, because I don’t travel at all during the holiday season. But the point is that I proactively offer to cover shifts for people and I don’t care why they’d rather not work. If I didn’t want to work the holiday, I wouldn’t offer.

          I once flat out quit a job that promised me a minimum of one of the T-day/Xmas/NYE triad off and then scheduled me for all three. I piece my life together out of a variety of freelance gigs. I am *very* intolerant of people donking around with the schedule we agreed on, regardless of reason.

      10. nym*

        If you move the lottery back as early as Jan or Feb – and I think this is a great idea – you may also want to consider “backup draws” — eg, Jane, Fergus, and Wakeen will be working T-day but if one of them leaves the organization between now and the holiday Lynette will be working the holiday in place of whoever.

        It still leaves a little ambiguity for the person who is backup, but might help with not having a gap because you planned too far in advance and life happened.

      11. Jason Funderberker*

        I totally agree with moving it to earlier in the year. But make sure it’s posted somewhere prominent so no one can conveniently “forget” their day. However, I do really like some of the shift assignment ideas others are proposing. It seems like a good way to deal with people leaving, or even if someone is legitimately sick on their scheduled holiday (I say this as a person who rarely ever gets sick on a workday. It’s a curse- I even took PTO last Friday and woke up severely sick that day.). This way when someone from shift B is sick on Christmas and someone from shift C has to cover that you can say that shift B person will swap New Year’s Eve (within reason).

      12. JulieCanCan*

        OMg your reaction to both the letter and Alison’s response were EXACTLY like mine – but you made it sound much better when written out. I was saying “YES! EXACTLY!” as I read what Alison suggested.

        This letter has made me so angry. How dare these people??!!

    3. Lil Fidget*

      I also am sure based on what OP said that they let people know about this when they are hired (they may need to really emphasize this, as it should be a factor in your decision to take the job). There are some fields, like emergency workers or doctors, where part of the deal is that you’re going to have to be out in that storm or on that holiday, and people should know that’s what they’re signing up for.

      1. TootsNYC*

        and these are “credentialed professionals,” so it may be that there’s an expectation in the FIELD that working on the holiday is possible.

        We’re a small office so when we hire staff, they are credentialed professionals in the field who know that we don’t turn our lights off.

    4. t.i.a.s.p.*

      I believe the comment was “given more weight” – not that NOTHING ELSE CAN BE GIVEN ANY WEIGHT AT ALL.

    5. Marthooh*

      Giving “more weight” to child care in making leave decisions is not the same as saying that nothing else matters.

      You have little standing to be outraged here. Much.

    6. Kay*

      Removed. Please don’t criticize people for their comments on different posts than this one; it’s derailing.

        1. Sylvan*

          Snark/L-K. He previously said that the needs of employees with children are more important than those of employees without (examples given: sports practice, school plays).

          1. Liet-Kinda*

            There was a whole lot of other context around that, which you’re ignoring, but plenty of posters in that very thread were too, so.

            In a situation where the work schedule was inflexible and coverage was required – i.e. where my basic inclination towards flexibility for anyone and everyone as long as the work gets done wasn’t possible – and I had to decide between someone who needed to leave for something related to their childrens’ education and someone who wanted to leave for recreation (examples given: training for a marathon), the parent would probably get it.

            Harder to tar and feather me with that, though. Too many shades of gray, and this commentariat is fairly allergic to those these days.

            1. Childfree n Angry*

              Oh don’t you worry, I remember you from that other thread and I very much remember you not taking pretty much anything on board from the other commentators and you said you had kids yourself using rather biased sounding rebuttals to all teh very good points raised by others.

              You discriminate against childfree when it suits you so yeah, I stand by what I said. I would quite in a heartbeat if I had to work for someone who discriminates based on LIFE CHOICES which have no place being used as a stick to manipulate people with.

    7. sfigato*

      Yeah. I’m a parent, I am totally down with (when it makes sense) offering some flexibility to staff so they can pick kids up from aftercare by 6/work from home when their kid is sick/etc but this is some bullllshhh. How does having kids make thanksgiving more important for you than someone without kids? how does spending time with family and friends on christmas (if you celebrate it) become less important if there aren’t kids? That is so irritating. If it is your year to work christmas, for example, just open presents in the evening. Or have santa come christmas eve, like he has done at my house forever because I came from an extended family.

    8. Cobol*

      Was getting ready to say the same thing. Kids are more important than a concert, but this is bullshit. The system sucks, but it’s fair. It’s the parents not coming in that need to be fixed.

    9. Bunny*

      I don’t have kids. I work in a 24/7 business. I don’t mind working some holidays, but I expect a balance. I do this, you do that.

      That said, don’t abuse it. I don’t have kids because I take medication to control a condition that is not visible to people, but can cause severe birth defects.

      These awful people at this awful company have no idea if they’re discriminating against people like me.

      To all of you, Happy Thanksgiving.

    10. Bunda*

      Everyone is forgetting that schools close the week of Thanksgiving and for two weeks between Christmas and New Years. Some people are single parents and have no family nearby and simply can not leave their kids alone because they are too young, and it is a crime to leave kids without adult supervision until they are what, 12? Where I live there is no childcare option that costs less than a day of my work, so you bet I will fight to be the one taking time off, and it’s not because I think I deserve it more than you, but because I need to be home taking care of people that can’t take care of themselves, and you bet I will be wishing I could actually be at work.

      1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        But would you take a job that you knew required 24/7/365 day coverage and then just not show up for your shift?

      2. CmdrShepard4ever*

        There is a difference between asking for time off on the holidays, and saying people with kids should should get first priority on time off, just because they have kids. If your kids are off the whole week of thanksgiving and two weeks for Christmas, it isn’t fair if only you get to take time off every single year and no one else can take it then. If you rotate

      3. Anono-Mice*

        That’s a different story then the parents above who either aren’t in that situation or are not communicating they are in that situation, so I think it’s fair to assume that at least some of the parents in the letter are being butt’s about it not valid reasons.

        Plus, would you have taken a rotating shift work job knowing that you have to work nights, weekends, holidays etc as a single parent? If the expectation is communicated (as LW said) and you agreed – you don’t get to back out later because you ‘don’t like it’ (of course this is excluding if a major life change happens, that would make sense to re-evaluate the deal)

      4. De-Archivist*

        I don’t think anyone is forgetting that schools are closed. As someone currently sitting at home because schools are closed, I get it. :D

        The thing is that in a field that required holiday coverage no matter what, it wouldn’t be fair to expect that parents would be able to have all three winter holidays off for 11-12 straight years because “kids.” Or vice versa, that non-parents would always be expected to cover those required shifts because “no kids.”

        I’m truly hoping that my tone doesn’t come off snide, but Alison addressed that the best way to deal with this would be to make sure that employees that work those holidays are well-compensated so that (perhaps in your case) paying for childcare would be less of a problem.

        A lot of people don’t want to work holidays because of “reasons”, but the solution to OP’s problem isn’t that non-parents (or coworkers whose live situations are considered less important) suck it up and deal with it. As Alison mentioned, this is going to make all the non-parents self-select working elsewhere or, as retailers and service industries do, require all employees to work no exceptions.

      5. TootsNYC*

        but kids are off for TWO WEEKS? How does refusing to work on a holiday (one day) change the problem?

      6. MJ*

        It’s not like those vacation days the kids have sneak up on you every year. You know when they’re coming.

    11. Rocky*

      I really suggest not being in favour, vocally or otherwise, or giving childcare more weight in leave decisions. There are many people who don’t have kids and based on various chats with colleagues over the years in different jobs, there can be a pretty sizable amount of resentment about the way, in some workplaces, people with kids can get very different and preferential treatment.

      Holiday leave should be allocated in a neutral way, irrelevant of whether people have kids or not. The people who don’t have kids very likely have other people in their lives they want to spend time with and TBH how they want to spend their holiday leave is not relevant. They shouldn’t be playing second fiddle to people who happen to have kids.

    12. Susana*

      Why more weight? Seriously, why? We ALL have people in our lives important to us. Being a parent is great and almost always a choice. It is not my choice, and I don’t need to enable other people’s lifestyles, great as thy may be.
      I had a colleague who chafed at being asked to work on a weekend because he wanted to go to his kid’s soccer game. He said, “should I be punished because I have children?” To which I said, Should *I* be punished because you have children? Because that’s the solution he was proposing… that I or anther single person work in his place.

      1. Yet Another Analyst*

        I can see giving it more weight on the grounds that there may be a legal responsibility involved – kids under a certain age legally must be supervised by a responsible adult, and there can certainly be situations where an employee is also the only available caregiver (particularly during the holidays, when most paid childcare options are not available). That same responsibility doesn’t exist for most holiday commitments.

        Of course, if folks are going to use that argument to justify giving childcare responsibilities more weight, they need to apply the same to other guardianship or carer situations, at the very least.

        1. Susana*

          The fact that parents have a legal responsibility to their kids still doesn’t make it the problem of single/childless people. The point is – if the people with kids are relived from some duties, those duties are done by people without kids. And that is basically making the rest of us do the work of people with kids so they can have kids. No. Just no.

          1. Liet-Kinda*

            It’s not about you. Nobody had kids at you. The actual burden placed on you by occasionally covering for a coworker who is a parent will eventually be evened out when they cover you while you’re sick or having an off day or whatever. This bullshit scorekeeping is insane.

            1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

              I disagree. The single, childless worker will put more in than the parent–because the parent needs care for the child and themselves. If you choose to have a kid, your responsibility. No co worker should be covering for your kid. You, yes–because you cover me and i you when sick–but not your child.

            2. Whaow*

              Uh what you’re describing is exactly ‘having kids at you’. You’re expecting others to pick up the slack and be responsible because children exist – that they had no hand in.

    13. PhyllisB*

      Amen!! I used to be a long distance telephone operator, and before I married and had kids, I had parents trying to guilt me out of my holidays all the time. Especially Christmas. Sometimes I would give in, but when I didn’t, some of them would refuse to speak to me for a while. (until they needed another favor.) Of course, when I had my own kids, these same people developed amnesia. Or I got, “but now I have grand-children!!” So I feel your pain.

    14. Liet-Kinda*

      You have no standing to tell me what I have standing to feel, at all, and that goes double when you disingenously misrepresent what I said to score cheap points.

      Yes, I think parents require and should be given more flexibility to accomodate parenting responsibilities than someone without kids (or dependents) can generally justify, in situations where coverage is required or the work schedule is otherwise inflexible. No, I do not think that parents automatically and forever get priority for holidays and time off.

    15. JulieCanCan*

      Totally unequivocally agree.

      I’m so pissed off on OP’s behalf. If these employees know PRIOR to being hired at this organization that the holiday shift set-up is what it is, then these people have no solid ground to be complaining about it when the time comes. I don’t understand how someone can get away with just skipping their shift because they don’t feel like working – why are they still employed there? Skipping holiday shifts, and/or making travel plans for the holidays before knowing if you’re needed at work and refusing to show up if it’s your time to work, would be reason enough to be let go I would imagine.

      This would infuriate me (I’m a childless person) if I worked there – I don’t think I’d be able to stick around for more than one annual frustrating holiday season.

      The bottom line is EVERYONE knew going into this job that the holiday work schedule was as described. There should be no pissing and moaning (ESPECIALLY with the excuse of “but I have kids!”) when your shift is set.

      I’m so angry that people are getting away with this behavior!

  2. Où est la bibliothèque?*

    “Oh, don’t be heartless, they have kids!”

    But because they have kids, they get to be heartless? And disrespectful? And unbelievably selfish? This makes me cringe so much.

    1. LKW*

      Exactly – those abdicating their responsibilities and leaving it to their co-workers are being heartless to families of their co-workers.

    2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      It would be great to reply “Well I have had to work the last six holidays to cover for these people, so I’m feeling a little heartless right now. Are you willing to come in and cover for them when they call out? Because if you aren’t there need to be consequences.”

    3. Liane*

      Not to mention setting a terrible example for their kids–who ARE listening. I can guarantee that the ONE time all week your kids will have their earbuds out is when you and spouse start talking about the holiday schedule:
      “Hon, I thought you had the Christmas shift since you were off Thanksgiving.”
      “Haha, yeah that’s what the #$% schedule says. But I’m calling out bright & early that morning. That’ll teach that silly goose LW how to tell me No.”
      “You’re gonna end up on a PIP!”
      “Sh-yeah, right. LW *might* have the guts to write me up, but it has to be signed off by Ms. Let-Themoff and Mr. Doormat and they won’t hear of it. So joke’s on her.”

      1. Engineer Girl*

        Yes. Instead of teaching the child to do the right thing you are teaching them to not get caught. You are also teaching them to put your own needs above others. How to make a narcissist 101.

      2. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

        Yeah, those kids might become the one who deliberately does nothing in the group projects and takes all the credit.

      3. Julie K*

        I hope they won’t be surprised when the kids don’t do their homework, or chores, and come up with creative excuses.

  3. Bend & Snap*

    Ughhhhh. This is crappy behavior on the part of the parents and an even crappier message being sent by the higher-up managers.

    As a parent, I would never take a job with these requirements–but these people did and they need to pull their weight. I agree with the idea of incentives for holiday work, because let’s face it, working holidays sucks for pretty much everyone regardless of whether they have kids.

    1. Assistant (to the) regional manager*

      I’m not sure how it works where OP is, but in my country it is by law that people working on holidays​ get triple pay including overtime, plus an extra day off of their choosing. It’s worth researching if this is the law when OP lives, maybe it is and is not being followed.

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        If the OP is in the US then it’s really unlikely there will be such legal requirements to provide any additional compensation for working the holiday.

            1. Jessie the First (or second)*

              Massachusetts has a “premium pay” requirements for Sundays and some holidays – or rather, it did, but it is being phased out over the next five years (and minimum wage increased over the same period).

              1. Natalie*

                Interesting, although that one only seems to have ever applied to some industries? It’s not a general overtime requirement.

        1. President Porpoise*

          New Mexico does, I believe. Granted, it’s been a decade since I lived there, but the incentives are pretty good I think.

        2. PhyllisB*

          Phone company paid double time and a half for holidays. Plus, if the call traffic eased up, they would let some people leave early if they wanted to. AND you still got straight pay for the excused time. The exception to this was if a holiday fell on a Sunday because Sunday was already time and a half pay. So the Monday following was considered the paid holiday. Sometimes when that happened I would give away my Monday holiday and really clean up pay-wise.

          1. Anon from the Bronx*

            That pay schedule was a union-negotiated rule, not a legal requirement though. Doesn’t sound like that applies in OP’s case.

      2. Antilles*

        It’s generally assumed writers and commenters are in the US unless stated otherwise. And in the US, the laws regarding holidays can be generally summed up as “Your company can do whatever they want; if you don’t like it, there’s the door.”
        There are specific edge cases where this might not be entirely true, but it’s close enough for most purposes.
        With regards to compensation, as far as I can tell with a quick Google search, there’s no requirements for overtime except insofar as it runs into the normal “beyond 40 hours per week is overtime if you’re non-exempt” requirement.

        1. Antilles*

          Also, there are apparently a few states which do require holiday pay for non-exempt employees (as blink14 and President mentioned above), but those are specific state (or municipal?) laws; not federal.

        2. Not Today*

          There are collective bargaining agreements that require premium pay not only for holidays, but Sundays and nights. My ex was a LEO and my sister worked for a major airline and they both worked every holiday that they could, for the money.

          And I really hate the parent bashing going on here.

          1. Been There, Done That*

            I don’t think it’s parent bashing. I have no children at home now and I work in an office where everyone else has dependent kids, from kindergartners thru high school. There’s a subtle but definite “us” and “you” attitude, esp. from the moms. When the dept. started an early shift, I offered to take it so The Moms wouldn’t have to turn their lives topsy-turvy getting kids to school, etc. (where the hell were the dads?) But when I had to arrange coverage so I could take a vacation or have a dr. appt, it would get down to the wire before someone else would step up for the early hours. And god forbid I should need to call out because of illness. One Mom groused in a staff meeting about not getting notified sooner that she’d have to take the early hours. Well, duh, I called as soon as I knew I couldn’t make it, what did she want, 24-hour notice that I was going to get sick? *I* didn’t know 24 hours ahead of time! It was always such a pain getting them to step up that sometimes I went in ill. Now I say screw it, if you can call out because you were up all night with little Johnny’s upset tummy, I can call out when I’m dizzy and throwing up.

          2. poolgirl*

            There’s been no parent bashing. Only bashing of people acting entitled because they are parents, for that reason only.

          3. Antilles*

            True, but “collective bargaining agreements” are specific cases and not the law – as a general thing, most workers in the US are not covered by a CBA or union and fall under the “your company can do whatever they want” rule.

      3. Riley*

        @ Assistant (to the) regional manager
        My workplace gives holidays off in general but if your position requires you to work, then you get a different day off instead (but it has to be within 30 days after the holiday you worked). If you don’t want the day off, you can get 1.5X your regular pay rate for the holiday you worked. I thought this was the law where I work, but apparently it’s just my employer’s decision. In my opinion, you should get 1.5 times your pay rate AND a different day off. (I’m in the US where the laws on these things are by state and sometimes by city or county.)

    2. Dragoning*

      My department has been suffering through a product launch this week, witch razor-tight timelines, and working Thanksgiving was a possibility we scheduled for nearly a month ago.

      One of my coworkers actually volunteered himself because he didn’t want to spend time with his extended family and admitted it. All right, you’re on the schedule, then.

      (I think we finally got word this morning that launch is over and we won’t work tomorrow. But anything can still happen)

        1. Autumnheart*

          I have definitely used “Aw, shucks, I have to work!” to get out of uncomfortable holiday gatherings.

    3. Juli G.*

      I agree. I’ve changed jobs to avoid working holidays now that I have kids but if I end up there again, I’ll suck it up and do my part instead of screwing over my child free coworkers.

  4. Trout 'Waver*

    I’m kinda of the opinion that if your bosses override you on the lottery picks, they can be the ones to come in on the holidays when those people don’t show up.

    That being said, when are the lotteries held? The cost to fly anywhere for the holidays gets really expensive as early as September. It’s unclear to me from the letter, but if you’re waiting until Thanksgiving to have the Christmas lottery, that’s way too late for most people.

      1. ReaderXYZ*

        I would find January/February to be way too early for the lottery. Workloads change, staff changes, etc during that time. We usually do our holidays at 6 month stretches so there is plenty of notice but we also have appropriate coverage

        1. Où est la bibliothèque?*

          But something could be done in January, even if it’s not the full lottery.

          People who worked all the holidays in 2018 are promised they will get their first choice in 2019. In writing.

          People who had Christmas off in 2018n are told, in no uncertain terms, that they will be working Christmas in 2019 and they need to plan accordingly. In writing.

        2. Liane*

          Re: Hold the lottery early:
          probably a bad idea. Alison had at lest one letter about people hogging not just the Big Holidays, but all other popular days off, like Fridays before Monday holidays, when the request calendar goes up early in the year.

          Plus, I wouldn’t put it past this group, to STILL find a way to make trouble about it in the fall.

          1. Antilles*

            That wasn’t an issue about the system though, that was management allowing someone to go hog-wild and sign up for every holiday. That entire letter could have been fixed with a simple management sit-down with the employee “this isn’t really being fair to others; we both know the system wasn’t intended to let a single employee take Memorial Day and Independence Day and Labor Day and Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years. So here’s what we’re proposing: We will let you keep X of these holidays, but the remainder will be put back up for others.”

          2. Natalie*

            I don’t see how that’s going to happen with a lottery though? You’re not letting people pick, you’re drawing their names to decide who’s working what. They can’t hog all the time off because they will be assigned to a certain amount of holidays.

          3. Hills to Die on*

            I am so grateful to have worked at a place where we could say ‘We need at least Chris or James here, with at least Alice or Mike.’ Then, Alice and Mike would work it out and Chris and James would do the same. Steve was important but it wasn’t critical that he was there on specific days, so he just got to come and go as he pleased and nobody complained about it. It just was what it was. Everyone was fair, accomodating, and split the time evenly and it *always* worked out as a result. It was such a grreat team. I miss that.

            1. TootsNYC*

              I bet you that Steve was helpful and generous to his colleagues at other times. (and that his abilities, function, and authority were clearly extraneous or even inappropriate for that coverage)

              1. Hills to Die on*

                Exactly. Steve is smart, hardworking, great to get along with, and pulled far more than his weight on many occasion. There was no need for him to hang around on a holiday, so why shouldn’t he enjoy it?

      2. Gen*

        When I worked in this environment (I’m in UK so no thanksgiving) we assigned Christmas/New Year in June. People would still book vacations/family stuff and just quit in the middle of December rather than work it so then they started over assigning coverage assuming a percentage of staff wouldn’t show up. If they’d just paid triple they’d have had a queue of volunteers but it was only time and half plus there was no public transport that day so taxis cost almost as much as the extra pay

      3. Autumnheart*

        Have the lottery in May. That’s well into the year, but still 6 full months before the actual holiday. If people can’t plan 6 months ahead, then they get what they get.

      4. Goya de la Mancha*

        This. My immediate family has two fire/paramedics who’s schedules (because they can’t be on the same shift) we have to work around. Our ENTIRE family calendar for the upcoming year is planned out at our Christmas celebration. Things happen and eventually a few tweaks have to be made, but for the most part everyone knows – this is how it has to work if we want everyone to be able to attend our events.

    1. LKW*

      But I would put in writing at the beginning of the year that time off requests from any employee that makes flight/hotel reservations prior to the lottery will not be considered. You can push up the lottery but I expect that many of these people would simply purchase tickets earlier and then whine that they’ll be out their non-refundable flights and it’s not faaaaaiiiiirrrrr!!!

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      Good point on the timing of the lottery.

      Someone below mentioned a policy of doing assignments more than a year in advance, and having new hires assume the assignments of departing employees. This seems like a good balance between giving employees as much advance notice as possible while allowing for inevitable hiccups when employees quit.

      1. Dragoning*

        If I got hired, and then got told I would automatically have to work Christmas Day because someone else had drawn Christmas Day in the lottery before I even started working there, I think I might quit on the spot.

        Especially if it was close enough to the holiday.

        1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

          “New hires assume the assignments of departing employees” is pretty much how employment works anyway — you assume the job title, you assume the desk, you assume the job description; why would assuming a predetermined slot on the vacation schedule be different?

          If the prime vacation days were allotted by seniority, like some places are, then you’d still be expected to work the holiday.

          1. Dragoning*

            Sure, but they’re not allotted by seniority here. If I was told in the interview process all of this, that would be one thing–but if I was told, after starting, after presumably being told about the holiday lottery system, that the person I was replacing lost their own lottery and now I had to suffer their consequences, I would be wondering why I was being punished for someone else.

            1. CmdrShepard4ever*

              I don’t think of it as being punished. If you are interviewing in a job that needs holiday coverage you know that you will have to work a holiday at some point. Assuming the lottery spot of the departing employee makes the most sense. If you start in August, and end up having to work xmas you know for sure you won’t have to work thanksgiving, and you won’t have to work xmas next year. I don’t of a better way to handle it. It does not make sense to have a new lottery especially if people already made plans for the days that they got off.

            2. Walter White Walker*

              But no one is “being punished” by being asked to perform what they understood was part of the job: occasionally working holidays and weekends.

              The idea that someone is being punished because they’re being treated exactly like everyone else in the office is at the heart of the problem in OP’s letter.

            3. Riley*

              What? You know how lotteries work, right? They’re going to be randomly selecting X many people to work the holiday. It’s not like every person flips a coin and heads you work, tails you don’t. The lottery is done to the group as a whole so there isn’t a way you could go through it on your own. If that bugs you, then pretend that it was you who had bad luck in the first place. You’re not being punished for someone else, no one else did anything wrong, the point of a lottery is that it’s random with no way for an individual to control the outcome.

              But I do agree that information should be disclosed during the interview.

          2. Emily S*

            Depending on what exactly the business needs are, it might not be appropriate/workable to put a new hire on the holiday shift – maybe normally there would be 2 other people on the shift who the new hire could go to with questions, but during the holidays it’s a skeleton crew so they need someone who can run the department solo.

        2. Trout 'Waver*

          Well, presumably the company would tell you in the interviews before giving you an offer. Or even writing it into the offer.

          1. Dragoning*

            See, that would be fine, because I would know that before accepting. But if I got hired, and then was told that I was screwed because someone else was unlucky? That seems pretty callous.

            1. Scion*

              There’s no difference between someone else being unlucky and you being unlucky. (i.e. if the lottery were held the day after you started and you drew the bad lot)

            2. ChachkisGalore*

              But you’re not getting screwed. You have the exact same odds of having off as everyone else or if your name was in the lottery rather than the departing worker’s name. The only scenario I’d understand is if the new employee starts close to the holidays and they already purchased tickets/made plans. In that case I’d hope there could be some one-off flexibility and/or that it is very explicitly brought up in the interview process.

          2. Hills to Die on*

            They would have to be diligent about this. Communicating that up front is the fair thing to do anyway.

            1. Goya de la Mancha*

              Yeah, this would definitely have to be mentioned during the negotiation, if not even in the interview.

        3. Psyche*

          Most people will not quit a job because they have to work a holiday soon after being hired, especially since working holidays is a requirement of the job. Someone who will quit over it won’t last in that position anyway.

        4. Blarg*

          You’d prefer being assigned to work every holiday cause you’re the new person? Cause that seems more common.

          1. Phrunicus*

            Yep. I work at an office job, so we’re closed for Christmas and New Year’s in general, but when I started, it was in a contract-to-hire situation, and they hired me about a week into December, and I made sure through the contracting agency that they understood that I was already planning to take ~2 weeks over Christmas and New Year’s for the trip 1000 miles home to the rest of my family. (I still do the same now, but at least I have vacation days to use for it…)

        5. TootsNYC*

          plenty of places would say, “You’re the newbie; you have to work the holidays because you don’t have seniority. Sorry about that, but it comes with the territory.”

          New employees often aren’t entitled to vacation until they accrue it, or to invest in the savings plan, etc.

          Personally, I would expect that I might have to work the holiday at a new job.

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*


            I got hired with my current employer in mid-November a couple years ago; I built in time to go see my family before my start date, on the assumption (correct) that I would not be getting any vacation time around Christmas. As it turned out, I was so busy working my securities licenses that I wouldn’t have wanted to travel for the holidays anyway — all that study time lost!

    3. bookends*

      Yes, I was thinking the same thing. I know a lot of people who work in 24/7 healthcare facilities. Everyone works every other holiday, and the group working the “A” group holidays one year do the “B” group holiday the next. They seem to like having advance notice for making family plans, booking travel, etc.

      1. TeacherTurnedNurse*

        This is pretty much how the hospitals I’ve worked for do it. We have a list of “major holidays (Christmas, Thanksgiving, NYE, etc) and “minor holidays” (I think things like Labor Day) and each year you’re required to work 1 major and 2 minor at least. Typically if you worked Christmas one year, you’re more likely to get it off the next, though it’s not a 100% guarantee.

        It’s worth noting that in one place I worked, management was less great about sticking to the plan and one Christmas I ended up working with an entire staff of people I didn’t recognize. They’d been so lenient that they’d had to call in PRN employees who rarely worked at our facility – meaning the day was mostly a disaster. The facility where I work now is much more strict about adhering to the policy. Everyone complains still, but they show up to work when they’re supposed to, and things run smoothly.

    4. Antilles*

      Agreed. I also think that would really help soften the complaints by the whiners – if you know in June that you and your kids won’t be going home for Christmas, you have the opportunity to plan a trip home in August before school starts or around one of the long weekends for teacher work days or whatever.

    5. I Work on a Hellmouth*

      YES, THIS.
      It’s pretty easy to be the office equivalent of the “fun parent” when it doesn’t affect you personally in any way. If the managers above the OP are so ready to override the system to be nice, then they can ACTUALLY be nice and cover the work so no one gets screwed over.

      But yeah, the holiday lottery really does need to be pretty early (if it isn’t already). That way people who aren’t going to be working can book cheap flights in advance–and if it’s early enough, the people who ARE working know about it and know that they SHOULD NOT be shelling out money for travel plans. If Jane has known since the beginning of August that she is going to be working on a holiday, flashing a plane ticket that she bought post-lottery when she knew she was going to be working should be a lot easier for upper management to see as crappy, not okay behavior.

    6. Kali*

      I agree completely. I work in public service. In my office, we’re all on call for 4 weeks a year. Inevitably, this covers major holidays. The list goes around in September/October for the following year (so I just picked my dates for 2019). That way, there are very few surprises. We also have very little turnover, so that does affect things.

      Our method is pretty fair. We pick our weeks according to seniority, but we cycle through holidays. I was on call for Christmas my first year. The second year, I was on call for New Year’s, and so on and so forth. Because there are more than a dozen of us and only 9 federal holidays, there are a few years that we don’t have to get any holidays, but then we start back at the top with Christmas on call.

      We can negotiate between ourselves (although granted, no one wants to trade to be on call for Christmas), but we are 100% responsible for coverage that we’re signed up for. Not responding to a call is a MAJOR issue – like, you need to be on your death bed to excuse it, and even then, you should have called and notified a supervisor first. If someone gets absolutely slammed all week, we will work together to make sure coverage continues if that person needs a break.

      I will add that most of us – and all of our supervisors (who are on call more often) – have children.

      It’s a good system, but it requires us to be adults and responsible, and it doesn’t sound like OP has that kind of staff, unfortunately. OP needs to engage in some serious foot-putting-down.

  5. KHB*

    It’s gross and unfair to make work assignments based on who has kids, and it’s even more gross and unfair to make work assignments based on who’s least likely to whine and complain and blatantly disregard their manager’s directions, which seems to be what’s really happening here.

    Your workplace sounds like a nightmare, OP. I’m so sorry.

    1. LeahS*

      Yes, this! It is essentially punishing your employees who are willing to do what they are told while positively reinforcing very bad behavior on the part of the other employees.

      1. Sally*

        It is essentially punishing your employees who are willing to do what they are told while positively reinforcing very bad behavior on the part of the other employees.

        Be sure to tell your managers this is what they are accomplishing! And people with optionswill leave over this sort of crap.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      Yeah, that was the thing that really stuck out to me – I would be livid if my boss (1) did not defer to my authority and tell the complaining employees to take it up with me, not them and (2) overrode my decisions (because I would also imagine that when coverage isn’t there, I would also be blamed for that as well). I am not a fan of the whole “all of the responsibility, none of the authority” workplace and would not work for people that undermined me to my staff.

      I would be having a very direct conversation with the overlords about my concerns with their handling and see what alternative they would propose that would not be discriminatory and unfair.

      Frankly, I’d also want them to be aware that the reviews of the employees who called out would reflect their no-shows and demonstrated a lack of respect for their team and that I would object to bonusing them for the year. And that I expected their support when the complaints came in.

      1. JulieCanCan*

        “Frankly, I’d also want them to be aware that the reviews of the employees who called out would reflect their no-shows and demonstrated a lack of respect for their team and that I would object to bonusing them for the year. And that I expected their support when the complaints came in.”

        Regarding the above statement:
        For me, the this wouldn’t even need to come into play because the people who called out or pulled any of this presumably wouldn’t have a job to need a review or bonus for.

        I’m not sure of the industry or type of work OP is involved in, but in many organizations the behavior described wouldn’t be tolerated. Especially – PARTICULARLY – if these people were 100% aware of the fact that working a holiday was part of their job. Best case scenario they’d be on a PIP but anyone willing to simply skip a shift with no call or consideration isn’t likely to be a stellar employee anyway.

  6. 1234567891011112 do do do*

    This makes me so sad. Your system sounds perfectly fair, and these staff running roughshod are ruining the holidays for everyone. Enforce your system. If someone says, “Don’t be heartless!” then ask them why they’re being so heartless to you, a human being with family.

    1. Bunny Girl*

      I think this system sounds perfectly fair too. As the Letter Writer says, people without children have loved ones they want to see too and it’s super gross that people with children are forgetting that and raising such a fuss.

      Personally, and I think a lot of people would agree on this, I would be looking for another job if there was this amount of discrimination towards people without children, and if my fellow coworkers had this attitude that my time and family isn’t as valuable because I chose not to have children.

    2. sfigato*

      There is no way I’d stick a colleague without kids with my thanksgiving shift. The idea that my time with friends and family was more important that theirs because I have reproduced is just wrong. And if you know in advance, and it isn’t a yearly thing, it sucks but you’ll live. Not going to thanksgiving one year isn’t going to kill you. or you could do it a day later. or a week earlier. or whatever.

  7. Colette*

    Some questions.

    How far in advance are you doing the lottery? (If it’s November, that’s too late for people who travel – moving it earlier may help.)

    Is it possible to ask the employees to rank the dates (For example, you need to choose one of Thanksgiving or Christmas, and one of New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day) – does that help accommodate people? Maybe someone is fine with working Christmas, but really wants Thanksgiving off or vice versa.

    But ultimately, there need to be consequences for calling out if you’re scheduled (assuming it’s not because of severe illness).

    1. DreamingInPurple*

      Yeah… I’m not sure how folks “calling in” for a scheduled holiday shift aren’t ending up in serious trouble here. Anywhere that I’ve worked where coverage is essential enough to have a holiday lottery has also been very strict about attendance on those holidays.

        1. Liet-Kinda*

          Oh yes. “It’s really too bad you chose to buy plane tickets. Unfortunately, you’ve committed to working those shifts, and if you’re unable to cover them, we would need to-” *slight narrowing of the eyes* “-reevaluate whether it makes sense for you to continue in this role, given its realities.”

        1. Psyche*

          It definitely should be. Refusing to work holidays when it is a clear job requirement means that you cannot do the job.

        2. Juli G.*

          Especially because it’s apparently not that hard to get a head honcho to approve it after you’ve been told no.

        3. Liet-Kinda*

          Absolutely. On the spot, even. “You bought plane tickets? Well, the good news is you’ll have the time off! The bad news is, here’s a banker’s box.”

        4. Kelly*

          It was when I worked retail. If you called in on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, you were fired. I didn’t mind working then. I got paid double pay for some of the time and holiday pay, plus I didn’t have to eat my aunt’s awful cooking.

          1. MJ*

            I always thought that was kind of weird. “We’re so short staffed we can’t spare you for one day, so don’t even bother coming in!”

        5. PhyllisB*

          Yep. Even though phone company employees were in a union if someone pulled this stunt they would have been let go. One year my youngest child got extremely ill on Christmas one year. When I called in, I was terrified that I was going to be in serious trouble. Luckily the supervisor in charge that day was a reasonable person and just told me to not worry and that she hoped Little One got better soon.

      1. kittymommy*

        So this. I’ve worked places and have had friends who have worked places, where calling in on a scheduled holiday shift was fireable. And enforced. Unless it was a very good reason, people were let go over it.

      2. Washi*

        I’m wondering if everyone called in “sick” and it’s hard to tell if any one person is faking (but when everyone calls in sick on Christmas, it’s pretty clear that there is at least some faking going on.)

        As a manager, I’m not quite sure what I would do if 3-4 of my employees all insisted they were sick – maybe just make them all work Christmas or Thanksgiving the next year?

          1. CmdrShepard4ever*

            Yes while I usually don’t think getting a Dr’s note for calling out more than 3 days should be required. I think calling out “sick” during a holiday when you were supposed to work it, is an exception to the rule. Even if it is the kind of sick flu/fever that goes away on its own without a Dr’s visit, holiday time is when you need to get yourself to a Dr. to prove you were actually sick.

        1. Viva*

          This is what my job does. I work in a restaurant so shift coverage is important. Everyone can request days off months in advance so if you don’t do this and then call off for 4th of July without a drs note or similar, you’re probably getting suspended and you’re definitely working Halloween. Last NYE two managers had basically what was a clash of the drama llamas. Guess who is working the closing shift this NYE.

        2. whingedrinking*

          I remember one time I went from a tickle in my throat on Christmas Eve to a cough on Christmas Day to a raging fever on Boxing Day and it sucked (though luckily I didn’t have to work again until the new year and I was better by then). I’d be pissed as hell if I had been scheduled to work, had to call in for it, and got punished because a bunch of my coworkers had decided to goof off while I was wheezing under the blankets.

      3. I"m not posting my name. Last time I said this I got screamed at.*

        Usually one good firing takes care of the problem for a good long while. People talk about it for years.

    2. KR*

      I think this is such a good idea. Assign coverage in September at the earliest. Gives them plenty of time to plan to do holidays the day before or plan trips.

    3. Doug Judy*

      At OldJob we did something like this. I never wanted New Years Eve/Day, and there was one lady who didn’t like Thanksgiving, and some people were meh about Christmas, so we would send our list to our boss in September with our preferences and he would do what he could to make it work, with the understanding that you might not get what you asked for. I can’t even recall there ever being a major issue with the system in the 8 years I was there.

      1. Colette*

        That’s just it – many people aren’t going to want to travel for both holidays, but one or the other might be really important to them. If you first try to accommodate people so they have their first choice off, you might get more buy in (but you will still need consequences). Maybe that’s not possible, but it might be a good place to start.

      2. Liane*

        This method works very well, IF you have reasonable employees who want to pull their weight, which seems to be lacking in some of LW’s employees.

      3. OBMS*

        I agree. Some people will want different holidays. I am a doctor, so being on call on holidays is expected. I am Jewish, so I have been on call for every Christmas Eve and every Christmas Day for the past 25 years. But don’t touch my Thanksgiving. That is my family’s big holiday.

    4. gmg22*

      This is how we did holiday coverage at my last newspaper gig. My boss had it down cold. She asked for the requests around Labor Day, and would sit down, hash it all out and get back to everyone within a week. You ranked your top three holidays on a list of five (Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day) and were likely to get at at least one, usually two. I would note, though, that seniority was also a factor, which I think is fair — when you put in the years, this is a sensible benefit to give. A lottery feels more random, and people may be pushing back against that.

      The OP’s office may have staff-size challenges that make this harder, or something else going on. But something like this can be done. And the bosses need to nip things in the bud NOW and not push the consequences of their management failure onto the employees who don’t have kids.

      1. The curator*

        yes, although a lottery seems fair, seniority may be fairer. After working Christmas Eve in public service for 20 years, I might not feel a lottery is fair, kids or no kids.

        1. gmg22*

          Yep. The seniority plus ranked-order guarantee (ie, even the newest employee got SOMETHING) was what made this system work. At a previous newsroom job I had, it was based ONLY on seniority, and that had the predictable effect on morale among anyone who hadn’t been there at least 20 years, because the folks with seniority requested and got every single holiday off — so the 20-year mark was the first chance you would have to get any one holiday off, let alone more than one.

        2. Mystery Bookworm*

          I have to admit, I’m wary of seniority based systems, especially if it’s a smaller office where the newer employees have no chance of catching up!

          I think you have to be careful or you can wind up with a lot of turnover in the ‘new’ roles and moral problems, particularly if some of the senior staff aren’t really pulling their full weight. I do think, with some jobs, holiday work is part of the package.

          1. Colette*

            You could do something like granting first-choice days off based on seniority until you’ve made it through all the staff, then moving to second choice days off, etc. So if your staff in order of seniority is:
            Jen – Christmas Day, Christmas Eve, New Year’s Day
            Karen – Christmas Eve, Thanksgiving, Christmas Day
            Adam – Christmas Day, Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve

            You would end up with Jen being off Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, Karen being off Christmas Eve and Thanksgiving, and Adam being off Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

      2. Phoenix Programmer*

        I dislike seniority as it drives turnover of newer staff. New staff already get less PTO, no pension, less pay, and smaller raises then our staff of 20-35 years of service staff. They don’t need to be stuck working all the grunt shifts too.

        This was popular at our hospital – now with the nursing shortage we have a huge recruiting problem as our 25-30 years of service staff retire we do not have that many staff in the 5-15 years of service range to bolster their numbers. Turnover in the first 5 years is insane.

        1. gmg22*

          Yes, I think the key is you have to reserve something for newer people, which is what the system I described would do. You can’t give the senior staff ALL the holidays off and no one else gets any.

          I still think a lottery alone, with no other factor considered, feels unfairly random — which is probably one of the roots of the discontent. (Not that the response by the parent-employees to said discontent is appropriate in any way!)

          1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

            It doesn’t sound to me as if it’s truly random though- it sounds like it exempts the people who worked recent holidays, so you won’t end up working multiple holidays in a row by chance.

            1. gmg22*

              Well, I think seniority is worth some consideration (not by any means sole consideration, but some), so I’d say no. I can understand why it would put noses out of joint to see a 22-year-old employee with a couple of months of service roll right up and get their first career Christmas off solely because of a lottery drawing, while someone with 15 years at the organization has to work it. Not that it’s not an unexpected outcome of what is, as you say, a random and therefore “fair” on its face system, but the optics of it simply don’t lend themselves well to people being able to feel like paying their dues over time means something. Plus, never forget the “every flip of the coin resets” rule — truly random COULD end up meaning “you work five Christmases in a row and I never work any, oh well, luck of the draw!” Are the senior employees handling this properly by simply refusing to work their assigned shifts? Hell no. Is everyone here right to say hey, this system isn’t working, can we reassess? I think yes.

              1. gmg22*

                ETA: I need to retract that probability statement — just noted the OP’s comment that no one has to work two Christmases in a row. I’m having a rethink, as the colleagues are seeming even more unreasonable given that. But I’d still argue that adding seniority into the mix in some (again, LIMITED) way might help solve this problem.

              2. Scion*

                I guess it depends on your definition of fair. Whether you mean “free from bias” or “done the right way.” (obviously the “right way” is nebulous and subjective).

                Adding in seniority clearly makes the system biased.

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          Yeah, unless you work at a really peak-functioning organization, all seniority indicates is doing a good enough job not to get fired and aging another year. I’m not a fan of this as a basis for anything except maybe a nice anniversary gift or bonus from the organization. It is morale-killing for less experienced workers, particularly the high-performing ones.

        3. mr. brightside*

          Sounds like they have a lot of other problems and just not seniority. Maybe they can’t do much about the pension, but the PTO, pay, and raises are in their control.

      3. Clisby Williams*

        Yep, that’s pretty much how it worked when I was a newspaper employee. Parental status had nothing to do with it. Sometimes jobs made a difference – for example, a news reporter was more likely to have to work on a holiday than a feature writer, because news coverage is more essential – but it wasn’t because feature writers were more likely to have children.

      4. Elaine*

        Back when people spent most or all of their working life at one place, seniority was not unreasonable. Younger employees could expect to receive their turn after a while. But now that jobs turn over so rapidly, newer employees are likely to never get a turn based on seniority.

        Whatever system is selected, OP absolutely needs to shut down the idea that employees with children are more important than those without, and that employees scheduled to work a holiday can just call out that day. I’d fire them.

        1. gmg22*

          I think it’s the other way around, actually. Faster turnover means you’re more likely to gain relative seniority sooner. At my job where all the senior employees took off all the holidays, the people in question had been there 20-plus years and none of them was going ANYWHERE to make room for the rest of us to move up (I found out later that that was in part because they were all in possession of guarantees that they could never be laid off, which is another story).

          1. Karyn*

            Well–you might end up with a two-tier system. You have one cadre with 15+ years, who intend on staying, and another group with a lot of turnover, and none of them ever get to five years.

        2. Childfree n Angry*

          Also sounds like just another way to screw over gen ys and younger who (in general) are already massively struggling, in favour of older workers.

    5. Phoenix Programmer*

      Came here to say the same thing.

      The last place I worked that was 24/7/365 asked all staff to submit their vacation plans for the year by January 25th and managent made decisions and lotteried any holidays missing coverage by Feb 5th.

      An advantage to this system is that folks will self select to work holidays they don’t care about. I care about Thanksgiving and the 4th of July . I would happily work each Christmas and New Years to have those holidays off.

      1. gmg22*

        Yep. We worked the evening shift at my newspaper gigs, and I was always happy to work New Year’s Eve (aka Amateur Night), get out by 11 pm and go to a friend’s house in time for a chill glass of champagne at midnight. Other folks had dinner/party host traditions that night and preferred not to work, so were happy to do Christmas night instead. And so on etc.

    6. TooTiredToThink*

      You do make a really good point about when the lottery is done. At my job they approved holiday vacations on Nov 1st. I am not travelling this year but I realized later that is entirely too late to get a decent plane ticket (although, my place is fair enough that I think they’d take that into consideration).

    7. Observer*

      That was the first thing that jumped into my mind – How are the people who just don’t show up still working there. And how does someone get to say “Tough. I’m not coming” and still have a job?

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        I would hazard a guess that it depends on the job and how hard it is to fill. It’s really easy to take a tough stance on this with some positions that are easy to replace, so firing for no-showing is no big deal. If it’s that the credentialed professional staff is harder to replace, some organizations are going to feel like they can’t fire (worked with someone whose specialized expertise bought them a ridiculous amount of leeway for a long time before they got canned for no-showing); however, that doesn’t mean there should be no consequences at all.

    8. Academic Addie*

      Absenting travel, even. If you’re a parent, your kids might be out of school for a lot of this time, and not having leave time means booking childcare. I live in a small town; I need to make arrangements for off-weeks well in advance. My kids (infant and elementary age) can’t be left home alone. If I’m getting notice in early November, I would definitely be grumbling because it would likely mean driving my kids to my parents over the weekend, rather than being able to use an in-town sitter.

  8. MommaCat*

    Is it possible to do the lottery early enough for people to be able to book flights if they aren’t picked? That could be an issue if people get hired/fired between the lottery and the holiday, but hopefully anything like that would happen with enough time to figure out a solution other than “OP will work it!”

  9. Mike C.*

    Time and a half or even double time goes a long way in ensuring coverage at these times. Not to excuse the terrible behavior of the parents.

    And stop accepting “don’t be heartless, they have kids” as a reasonable answer. It’s not.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      This is true. When I worked in a call center with 24/7 staffing, we got the holiday pay everyone got, PLUS we got the pay for our clocked-in hours, which then counted as overtime assuming we didn’t have any other time off that week. Staying the whole day on a holiday was really desirable for people who didn’t have plans, and I worked Thanksgiving every year, willingly and happily!

      1. JulieCanCan*

        Me too! I worked at an answering service (back in the 90’s) and I’d eagerly volunteer for a shift on every single holiday there was. My entire family was nearby and holidays were all-day affairs, so I’d just head over to the house of whoever was hosting after my 8-hour shift of doubletime pay or go over before my 8-hour shift of double time pay. I loved working holidays. But I was a kid-free 18-19 year old. I was always the person trying to get those hours – I loved it!

    2. Tuckerman*

      Yes, I worked a job that paid double on holidays. The extra money was much appreciated during the holiday season and we ended up with lots of coverage! Additionally, it often worked out that we could work slightly shorter shifts.

    3. Daphne*

      At my old job, we got time and a half and additional cash bonus for working holidays (double time for Xmas day). There was never any trouble finding people to work. In fact, I wasn’t able to get all the holiday shifts that I volunteered for.

    4. Elle*

      Agreed. We got double time (which is really triple counting the paid vacation day) and also got to take a floating holiday instead. Plus we did 12 hour shifts to reduce the number of people who had to work the day. So on Christmas Eve & Christmas I was easily clearing an extra 96 hours worth of pay and banking 2 vacation days. We had a lottery over who GOT to work.

    5. Lissa*

      Anytime someone tries to get me to do something that could be anywhere from inconvenient to terrible because otherwise I’m “heartless” it always makes me want to double down and just agree with them and say “yup, huge Grinch here! Now gimmee what was agreed on! Cause I’m obviously heartless…” I mean, I wouldn’t do it but emotional appeals like that are just so frustrating.

    6. Pineapple Incident*

      Absolutely! Fiance works at GiantCorp in a warehouse and is getting 2.5x pay on Thanksgiving as he does for every other holiday- unless we’re going out of town he works them all enthusiastically.

    7. Dr. Pepper*

      When I worked at a 24/7/365 operation, we always paid double time for holidays because we had to have coverage. Very often we had volunteers, and the price for failing to come in on your assigned holiday shift for ANY reason was instant dismissal. Unless you could arrange coverage, pulling any of the above shenanigans would get you fired on the spot. We ran on a skeleton crew on holidays so someone not showing up for their shift had serious consequences. The manager did not kid around and held an extremely firm line. And guess what? All holidays were always covered with minimal grumbling. It’s just the way things were and everyone was more or less okay with it.

      The combination of worthwhile incentives for holiday work and meaningful repercussions for failing to come in for assigned holiday work is the way to go. Otherwise you get the exact situation the OP is dealing with.

      1. Mois*

        Yeah when I read this letter my recurring thought was that anyone who “calls in” to blow off a scheduled holiday shift is immediately fired. It’s just so immensely unfair to the rest of the team and especially the person who does have the holiday off and now has to come in at the last minute and cover the shift. Talk about heartless.

        That might take care of the problem for a couple of years.

        1. Childfree n Angry*

          If you got called in I would just refuse. Nope, screwing up my holiday plans becsuse an entitled parent did not do their job and come in when scheduled. Hell no. I am no lemming and likely my plans were laid well in advance.

    8. Kiki*

      My family and I are really tight-knit and I would be mad if I were always forced to work the holidays because I didn’t have kids. BUT if someone offered me double or triple pay and 2 days of floating pto for next year to volunteer for holidays, I would take them up on it. Christmas in July!

    9. Another worker bee*

      Not to mention, kids get like….1.5 to 2 weeks off of school (at Christmas, anyway). Christmas on the exact day would be LESS essential for them than say, someone with a spouse and/or other adult relatives who ONLY get that day off.

    10. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      Or, if doing a higher pay isn’t possible, give the person who takes the holidays first dibs on time off. My family follows a different calendar than the US one, so our X-mas and New Years are different days. When I had a 24/7/365 coverage job that didn’t give extra pay for holiday shifts they let anyone who worked the “premium” days first dibs/no takebacks alternates where you didn’t have ot use PTO.

  10. Myrin*

    This is a very comprehensive answer. I hope that implementing it, you’ll be able to come to a satisfying solution, OP!

  11. [insert witty username here]*

    Outside-of-work lifestyle choices should not be a consideration in holiday leave requests, full stop. Coverage is coverage is coverage. I fully agree with Alison’s idea of offering incentives for holidays and if still no one volunteers, the existing lottery idea is fair. Your job/office is what it is – if people can’t live with that, they need to find a new job.

    1. Psyche*

      Yes. The fact that you have kids or decided to buy plane tickets does not change the business needs and you agreed to fulfill those business needs when you took the job. It sucks, but it sucks for everyone. And it sucks more when you have to cancel plans because your coworker decided to no-show.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Yeah, I’m shocked that having plane tickets bought someone the day off. Where I work, buying plane tickets before you had leave approved would be considered to be on you, not your boss.

  12. ExcelJedi*

    Yeah, as someone with no interest in children, no family plans on holiday and no religious ties to holidays, I wouldn’t be down for working just because the people with families don’t want to. More money probably wouldn’t motivate me to work both holidays, but it might get me to volunteer for one every year.

    What I WOULD be fine with would be working both Thanksgiving or Christmas in exchange for another floating holiday. I’m sure others in your department may have their own ideas of what would make it worthwhile for them (or maybe nothing would?). I’d definitely engage them in conversation and see what they come up with.

    1. Antilles*

      When my mom used to work as a nurse in a Jewish hospital, there were a lot of people with your same attitude towards Christmas – don’t actually care about Christmas the day but don’t want to work it just because. How the hospital handled it (which was really fair, IMO) is that they asked for volunteers who were willing to work on the holiday and those who volunteered got a floating holiday to be used at any time *except* the week of Thanksgiving/Christmas.
      It worked out pretty well overall. There basically formed a cadre of long-term staffers who always worked on Thanksgiving and Christmas because they weren’t important to them, but then it would equal out when they’d always be able to take an extended holiday for Rosh Hashanah or Hanukkah.

  13. Roscoe*

    Yeah, I’d say you may need to be willing to fire a couple of people who just don’t show up on their assigned days. When they show you those tickets tell them, well, thats fine, but if you are scheduled, I expect you to be here. And be willing to fire them. Not showing up is just not ok.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      We always run into this dilemma with sick days. People’s last ditch nuclear option is to take a sick day and get out of an unpopular shift that way. But also, people do sometimes get terribly sick at inconvenient times! And we’re not the kind of company that harasses people about doctor’s notes or interrogates them about how “really” sick they are. So that’s always tough for our org. Am I firing someone who calls in sick on a suspicious day? Not even sure that’s legal since they have the time and it’s a health thing.

      1. Natalie*

        Absent a specific sick time ordinance it’s certainly legal to fire someone for calling in sick. Unless it’s serious enough to meet the ADA coverage bar, there’s not even anything illegal about firing someone just for being sick. That would be mean, and stupid, but not illegal.

        How to handle suspected faking seems pretty tricky to me. Ideally you’d be looking at a pattern of behavior, rather than making a decision on one absence since people can obviously get sick at horribly coincidental times.

        1. Maeve*

          I believe it is illegal in Oregon, perhaps other states as well?

          If I were in charge and was trying to follow Oregon law I would say that any employee who calls in sick on a holiday one year will be scheduled for all holidays the following year.

      2. Perse's Mom*

        If it’s not having any noticeable impact on your org, you don’t need to make a big deal out of it. And if you’re in the US, it’s probably entirely legal to fire someone for consistently calling out sick on vital coverage days (provided it’s not an established protected situation like ADA or FMLA) – if I somehow always get food poisoning on holidays when I accepted a job knowing I would have to work holidays, I’m failing to uphold my side of the bargain. That’s a fireable thing.

        If it IS having a significant impact (as it is for OP), you can acknowledge it’s a problem. And it’s SUCH a problem that holiday sick days will now be handled differently. If their coworkers can’t behave like adults, don’t treat them like adults.

        Holiday shift? Doctor’s note required – must be seen in-clinic or the absence will be considered a no-call/no-show and there will be appropriate consequences. No texts or emails to call out – you must speak to the on-site manager for that shift on the day or the absence will be considered a no-call/no-show and there will be appropriate consequences. The first time it happens, final warning. Second time, out the door.

      3. Dr. Pepper*

        That’s how the manager handled it if people called out on holidays when I worked at a 24/7/365 operation. If you were scheduled to work a holiday and you called in sick with no backup arranged? Fired. Too bad so sad. The only exceptions were made for long term employees who had proved themselves trustworthy and who nearly always found a way to arrange for backup. Fair? Not particularly. Effective? Absolutely. But we also offered double time pay for holidays so most of the time we had a queue of volunteers.

      4. Observer*

        Well, you do have the option of getting documentation. Yes, it’s terribly annoying for the person who is sick, but if faking a sick call is an issues, unfortunately everyone pays.

      5. RegBarclay*

        I mean it’s good not to normally harass people about doctor’s notes but it’s also perfectly fine to ask under some circumstances. My employer only usually asks after three days but in our handbook they reserve the right to ask for one for any absence – probably for situations like this.

        Also if I had to work a major holiday but had to call in sick, I’d probably want to provide some proof I was actually sick because I know how bad it looks.

    2. Katriona*

      This. Normally I’m in favor of trying to work with employees on leave issues, but I have no sympathy for people who are so blatantly screwing their colleagues like this. Make it clear that everyone will be held to the same system for holiday coverage and if anyone fails to show up to their scheduled shift, they needn’t bother coming back.

    3. Anon From Here*

      Seriously. Whatever the disciplinary process is already in place for dealing with unexcused absences? Enforce it.

      1. Roscoe*

        I think this needs to be taken more seriously than regular sick days or something. They are just flaunting the system at this point. So its not like it would be just a normal “sick day before long weekend” thing.

        1. Liane*

          Lots of places have a policy that you lose your holiday pay* if you no-show/call out for your last (scheduled) shift before the holiday, any shift on the holiday, and/or your first shift after the holiday, regardless of reason. Although IME decent managers/HR would waive that penalty if there was a real illness/injury and you had some proof, like an ER/urgent care note.
          This might be a start for LW’s company, if these people are non-exempt. I don’t know how, or if, that could be done legally for an exempt No-Show.

          *NOT any wages for time worked

          1. Perse's Mom*

            My company does this. We’re fortunate enough to be closed (and still paid!) for the major US holidays, but if someone calls out today (for example) or Monday next week, they will not get holiday pay for tomorrow or Friday.

          2. Chinookwind*

            In Alberta, where the new law is you get stat holiday pay even if you were hired a day or two before it, the law also states you lose said holiday pay if you take the day off before or after without prior permission. I have seen supervisors approve the holiday pay if they saw proof of real injury or illness or family emergency, but they are not required to.

            It is quite effective.

          3. DArcy*

            My company does this. Skip any scheduled shift during a holiday week and you forfeit your holiday bonus.

    4. Hailrobonia*

      “I’ve got some good news and bad news for you. The good news is that you will have a lot more time to spend with your kids….”

      1. Public Sector Manager*

        Homer, Mr. Burns called and said if you don’t come in today, don’t bother coming in Monday.

        Woo-hoo! Four day weekend!

  14. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    “But they have kids!” can go right the f**k to hell.

    I have family that live a thousand miles away, that I only get to see once a year. They may not have been popped out of my body, but they are no less a part of my family!

    With that said, OP, you may want to consider doing the lottery earlier in the year, if you’re saying that “as early as” September people are complaining. For people with travel plans to make, airline tickets are generally more reasonable the further out you are, and so I’m typically making my plans around June.

    1. Observer*

      With that said, OP, you may want to consider doing the lottery earlier in the year, if you’re saying that “as early as” September people are complaining. For people with travel plans to make, airline tickets are generally more reasonable the further out you are, and so I’m typically making my plans around June.

      This. So much, this!

      And this is one area where people with kids do have a legitimate beef. Adding 10-20% to tickets for one or two people is bad. When you have 4-5 people involved it can make the difference between doable and not doable even for people who are well paid and not dealing with unusual issues. And it’s not like you don’t know when the holidays are going to be, so there is no real reason to NOT do the calendar in advance.

      Start scheduling holiday coverage in advance. Let people know you are doing this so that people can’t claim “I had to buy tickets by x date, and I didn’t know what was going to happen”. Then enforce the schedule.

  15. Mystery Bookworm*

    I remember when my Dad had to work Christmas. We celebrated with my mother and grandmother and then got – get this – a SECOND Christmas on New Year’s Eve.

    And it was fine, everything was fine. Kids are pretty resilient about this stuff, provided they’re given love and comfort otherwise.

    1. Normally a Lurker*

      Us too. I remember my folks told me that Santa had too many people to see on one night, so he was coming to our house the night after. I was like 7. Who was I to judge. Worked for me.

      1. boo bot*

        My theory has always been that older kids can roll with it, while kids young enough to believe that Santa’s schedule is a factor are young enough to believe whatever you need to tell them.

        “Santa’s making a special trip just for you!”
        “The world’s population has doubled since 1970, so Santa’s sleigh ride now takes two nights!”
        “Today is X-mas, young one! Here, look, Santa brought you the comics from tomorrow’s paper!!!”

        1. Not Paul Hollywood*

          I believed in Santa until I was 11, and also believed every word my parents said about Santa, with the notable exception that I firmly believed Santa visited everyone’s house exactly at midnight. One year I woked up at 12:11 a.m. My parents had just finished getting everything under the tree and fell asleep. I banged on their bedroom door. “IT’S CHRISTMAS!” They told me Santa hadn’t come yet. I said, “Yes, he has, it’s after midnight, he was here!” and then ran down the stairs and plunged my hand into my stocking and, sure enough, there was stuff in it. Cemented my beliefs for the next couple years.

          1. JulieCanCan*

            Lucky! I was 6 when I realized Santa’s handwriting and my mom’s handwriting were identical. And my mom’s handwriting is crazy so I knew it wasn’t just a coincidence. : /

            But then it became fun for me to pretend Santa was real for my little sister – I was “in on it” with my parents. And I also insisted on being the one to write all of Santa’s notes on her presents so my sister wouldn’t have the same epiphany that I had at such a young age.

            1. Paul Hollywood*

              My mom used her non-dominant hand to write out the to and from tags. She worked very hard (probably too hard) to keep me believing.

        2. pleaset*

          “My theory has always been that older kids can roll with it, while kids young enough to believe that Santa’s schedule is a factor are young enough to believe whatever you need to tell them.”

          For sure.

        3. Slartibartfast*

          If your parent works on Christmas, Santa will come to your house first Christmas Eve. But he’s shy so we’ll have to go to Grandma’s house for dinner. ;)

      2. TheRedCoat*

        I distinctly remember being told during a move that Santa Clause couldn’t figure out which house to drop the presents off to, so he had to double check and that’s why the presents were a day late and at the new house. Kids are surprisingly logical sometimes. XD

    2. Zoe*

      I was going to suggest planning to celebrate holidays on a different day but I’ve never celebrated anything at all so I wasn’t sure that would fly (though it makes perfect sense to me!)

    3. BottleBlonde*

      Yep, my best friend is an ER nurse and has to work every other Christmas. I will admit that the thought of this used to make me really sad for her kids, until I saw how it works in practice. The kids love it! They get a huge Christmas celebration on Christmas eve, Santa comes a day early those years, etc. etc. and then on actual Christmas day Dad spends all day spoiling them (the big treat is building a giant blanket fort and eating Christmas leftovers in it, so I’m told :)) Her kids actually call them “One Christmas years” or “Two Christmas years”. So I agree that spending Christmas without your kids sounds like a really sad prospect, but for the kids’ sake, it doesn’t actually have to be. It’s all about the delivery!

      1. strawberries and raspberries*

        This is really lovely and healthy, and focuses on what’s really important, which is the quality time spent together as a family and not the hoopla about making it THE MOST PERFECT AND ‘GRAMMABLE CHRISTMAS EVER. That is just not reality, and it serves no one to pretend that it is. I meet so many people who have such a complex about making Thanksgiving and Christmas and Disneyland PERFECT and MAGICAL for their children, which usually means doing it the entirely “traditional” way, and I want to be like, “The kids only give a shit because YOU are putting so much importance on this. Why don’t you try talking to them about their actual feelings for a change?”

        (Signed, a childless, culturally identified but not religious, very anti-capitalist social worker who spent dozens of childhood Thanksgivings and Christmases volunteering at homeless shelters and is not here for these peoples’ nonsense)

      2. Armchair Analyst*

        This is great! Also, I’m Jewish, so I already don’t “get” those movies where everyone is sad because people don’t have Christmas – I’m not sad! I go to a movie! or I work the day before and the day after – or both!! When these kids get a little older, I’ll probably see them at the movie theater, too! And YES I am grateful to the movie theater employees!

      3. Working Mom Having It All*

        Obviously this is a super old comment, but my dad is a doctor and my mom is a nurse. They thankfully didn’t work in the same office and weren’t part of the same holiday schedule lottery, but both of them sometimes had to work on any of a dozen Big Important Holidays. Sometimes it did curtail what we could do (we never took big Christmas vacations or anything like that), but tbh between the two of them they worked it out and I don’t remember feeling different or left out or anything. We also had family nearby, which doubtless helped in terms of Santa visiting on time and the like.

        Also, despite growing up in an upper middle class household, I never went skiing a single time because ski season is cold/flu/sick kids/idiotic Mardi Gras behavior season, and between that and having to work holidays there was zero chance of either of my parents taking vacation days around that time of year. Meh. One less expensive hobby to maintain.

    4. Myrin*

      Yeah, seriously. I know that I’m more callous than others (and have always been, even as a child) so I might be unusually unsympathetic, but I think people who tell themselves and/or others that they’re spending holidays with their children for the kids’ sake are kidding themselves a wee bit (generally; I’m sure there are plenty of exceptions). Children are really good at rolling with whatever is thrown at them and if you don’t hype up [holiday] like crazy and impress upon them how supah speshul it’s going to be, they probably won’t care all that much.

      1. fposte*

        > I know that I’m more callous than others

        I love that about you :-).

        I’m by no means saying the parents are entitled to this, and I agree that the kids will probably roll with this. But I think the issue is bigger than either just the kids or the parents, in that holidays are another big cultural/familial pressure point and there’s a lot of comparison and parent-shaming that goes on around them.

        Mind you, the same is true for people, especially couples, without kids; once you start the swapping off of visits with different sides’ families the loss of a holiday can send a whole line of dominoes toppling. We find ways to make holidays tough on everybody.

        1. Myrin*

          I love that about you :-).
          Why thank you! I always fear that I come off too much like I’m an unfeeling ogre when I’m actually quite empathetic but I often… simply don’t experience The Emotions the way others seem to. (It’s an ongoing joke between my sister and me, who is overflowing with all kinds of feeling in any given moment. We balance each other out quite nicely.)

          And for sure! It’s just that I know that logically, but not really in my heart, if that makes sense? Because I simply never experienced any of it. I get my callousness from my mum, who raised me, and as such, I’ve been shielded from any kind of pressure in that direction for literally all my life, so this is all very foreign to me and I can’t really help but approach this from nothing but a “logic”/”reason” angle. But I’m definitely seeing the phenomena you describe with friends and coworkers, where somehow everyone often seems to be getting the short end of the stick no matter their circumstances.

    5. Alexa*

      When my mom had to work Christmas (she worked in a hospital lab) when I was young, we wrote a letter to Santa asking him if he could come the 26th instead, so that my mom could be there on Christmas morning!

    6. Mimi Me*

      Yes! Until recently my husband worked in a field that was 24/7/365. He had an arrangement with another manager that gave him Christmas day off, but he worked Thanksgiving and the 4th of July (apparently big holidays with the other manager). I think the last time my kids (ages 13 and 12) celebrated a traditional Thanksgiving meal they were 3 and 2; it wasn’t until three years ago that my son wondered why we went to a local diner for breakfast (before Daddy went to work) instead of eating turkey. My kids have always just rolled with it.

    7. Oranges*

      We have the big celebration on xmas eve because we did it once and it worked better for us as a family. It’s now a tradition. Children don’t care about the date. They just care about the fun.

      1. Clisby Williams*

        My family did this for years. The big dinner is on Christmas Eve, everybody gets to open one present. The presence of children guarantees the entire household will be up at dawn on Christmas, you have a big breakfast. Open the rest of the presents, and eat leftovers all day. (Or go to work, if you’re scheduled.)

      2. whingedrinking*

        This is the first year in my life that I have to work on Boxing Day, which means I have to leave my parents’ house and go home on Christmas Day. My folks were a bit disappointed, but we’ve decided to arrange to split Christmas up a bit and do our big dinner on the 24th and the nice breakfast and presents on the 25th before my partner and I leave. And you know what? I’m looking forward to doing it that way! Ever since adolescence I’ve realized that Christmas Day is fun but kind of stressful, especially for my mom, who is the anxious type. I’m hoping that it turns out to be more relaxing and less schedule-induced panicky (and if it does, maybe we can switch over to it on a more permanent basis).

    8. NotAnotherManager!*

      Yep, we have rescheduled Christmas (and Thanksgiving) on more than one occasion to accommodate all kinds of things, including work, weird school vacation times, extracurricular events, or illness/accident. Everyone survived! Had fun, even.

      The toughest thing is coordinating schedules, so if there is a day that the people you want to celebrate can make it work, who cares if it’s December 25th, December 20th, or January 5th?

    9. Goya de la Mancha*

      Yup! My nieces and nephews have dad’s that work in the rescue industry. Meaning Holidays for them are usually not on the actual calendar date. Crazy how it works out just fine that they get to open their Santa gifts the morning AFTER Santa brings them!

  16. Trout 'Waver*

    Also, on a separate topic, a lottery for a negative is really demoralizing. Is there a way to rework it into a reverse bid system? Give PTO or some other benefit, or budget a bonus for people who work holidays?

    My parents live across the country, but my in-laws (whom I adore) are local. I still would gladly trade one holiday with the in-laws for two PTO days to visit my parents when airfare isn’t crazy expensive.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      I actually agree with that, I don’t think it’d great for morale for everybody to be waiting to see who has to go serve in the Hunger Games this year. It’d be better to incentivize someone to volunteer. Worked out great for Katniss?

      1. ReaderXYZ*

        In fields well-known for requiring daily coverage, employees typically take it in stride knowing this was a requirement of employment. I have never found it demoralizing, it’s just part of work. The people in this case have learned they can take advantage of the system.

    2. curly sue*

      My brother and SIL worked for a place where they were able to trade holidays – neither of them celebrate Christmas, so they worked Christmas and Boxing Day in return for a guaranteed two days off at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It worked out well for everyone.

      1. Psyche*

        I think trading holidays is a good policy in general. I would be afraid to implement it right off the bat here because it seems like the parents will try to bully their coworkers into taking those shifts, and call out anyway if they can’t get a trade. It they weren’t already acting so entitled, it would be less of an issue.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          This is the issue with trading, it means that people confront their colleagues and beg / bribe / threaten (if they’re senior) to get the holidays off, and some of us *cough* are better at saying no than others. You don’t want a system where sweet Sonia is the one who agrees to work every single year because Pushy Petunia strong-arms her into it. That being said, probably still better than you forcing Sonia as a company.

    3. Lord Gouldian Finch*

      People above have discussed the A/B/C shift system used in fields like medicine. It might be worth either going to that or offering it as the alternative (ie, “We can keep the lottery or go to this alternative system that will give everyone certainty but limited flexibility).

    4. Governmint Condition*

      The OP said it is a public service office. Many government employees are unionized, and their rules may cover this sort of thing. They probably can’t offer any additional incentive that’s not in their collective bargaining agreement, whatsoever. The lottery system itself may even violate the contract, if the contract explicitly covers this situation, and some other system is supposed to be used.

  17. patricia*

    Man, I have kids- was a single parent for a time- and I think this is a steaming load of BS. What kind of terrible people are the parents in your office that they’re okay with this??? I don’t have any advice but I can validate your reality that your colleagues who are doing this suck. Everyone knew your office was 24/7/365 when hired (which has to mean everyone knows they might have to work holidays), your system sounded fair and impartial- I have zero patience for anyone bucking against that because “think of the children!” and “we already made plans.”

    It makes me so angry, and crap like this is why parents get bashed whenever we talk about workplace inequities. It boggles my mind how selfish some people can be.

    1. Project Manager*

      Yeah, I am also a parent, and I also think the parents in this story are abdicating their responsibilities. Working holidays is not fun but is part of some jobs.

      That being said, I like the incentivizing idea. If I got holiday pay and/or an extra floating holiday later in the year, I’d take that trade-off and volunteer to work one of the holidays. My kids would survive.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      Yeah, I have kids as do most of my coworkers, and I can only think of one or two of them that seem to think that their needs are more important than others’. My sense is that it’s less about them being parents and more about them feeling like everyone else should bend to their needs. The kids are just the latest excuse.

      I had a coworker that used to dump things on me because he coached his kids’ sports teams and was stunned to learn, when I finally pushed back on it, that I had children as well. Apparently, since I don’t use them as an excuse, I don’t love them as much as he loves his kids.

  18. Lil Fidget*

    That being said, I used to work at an office that was totally strict about being open – and the office didn’t really truly need to be open. The senior staff liked the *message* that it was open, they liked the *idea* that it was open to provide our services … although of course the senior staff always got out of it based on seniority. I worked the day after Christmas and I got – maybe one email? That was spam. I would have offered to be “on call” or something happily, but they were wasting my time. So if coverage is really a crisis for you, you should be able to see that you got 50 clients on Thanksgiving day that wouldn’t have anywhere else to go and use that as the launching point. And if you can’t … maybe an on-call system or half-day hours or something is more feasible than you thought.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      Although thinking more about it, that’s really for anybody else in comment land, we should probably take OP at their word that this office really is providing critical services, that they have the numbers to demonstrate the need, and that there really is no other option.

    2. Clisby Williams*

      Was this in the US? I wouldn’t think too many US employees would expect to get the day after Christmas as a holiday (as opposed to a paid vacation day, if you chose to use your vacation time that way.)

    3. cncx*

      that’s how my boss does, he wants someone to be reading emails and on call but they don’t have to come in unless something happens.

  19. Goldensummer*

    Having worked a weird sector of the retail industry that isn’t busy during the holidays but is still open here’s my advice.
    Volunteers first and they get the best incentives.
    Then enact your lottery to cover remaining shifts. Those people also get some type of bonus but not as nice. For us it’d be a lunch on the company instead if 8 hours of pto.
    Then if anyone doesn’t show you have to penalize them obviously with some exceptions such as illness or death of family.
    There’s no getting around needing the staff and it should be clear at hiring what the process is.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        I’d suggest something like, if you volunteer you get all the bennies that the volun-told people got, *and* something like another free day of paid leave, or first pick at the holidays, maybe.

        1. Assistant (to the) regional manager*

          That sounds great! Same benefits, but if you volunteer, you get to choose for which holiday. If you get chosen by raffle, you get the day you get.

      2. Psyche*

        Yeah, that would be very demoralizing. I see no problem with keeping the incentive the same so that they at least get the consolation prize. Why penalize people for not volunteering and then losing the lottery?

        1. TootsNYC*

          you’re not penalizing them! You’re incentivizing them to volunteer, so that you don’t HAVE to have a lottery.

          Giving one person an extra reward for exceptional service is not penalizing other people who get the standard enhanced compensation.

        2. TootsNYC*

          and, if the incentive is the same, why would anyone ever volunteer? They’d be better off taking their chances in the lottery.

      3. TooTiredToThink*

        I guess I’m looking at how airlines handle it when there is an overfilled flight – they call for volunteers first and they make it completely worth their while to volunteer. And then if they don’t volunteer, they have to start picking people. If you make the volunteer benefits very enticing you would hopefully not need to have a lottery. Therefore I don’t see it demoralizing.

        Everyone gets time and a half/double time/triple time (some places do triple time).
        Everyone gets a lunch

        But volunteers get an extra 8 hours PTO to be used in the following year.

        1. LizB*

          But when you get bumped off a flight, you get the full amount of credit they were offering the volunteers. Or at least I did last time I got bumped.

          1. TooTiredToThink*

            Hmm. Maybe that’s airline dependent? I know they get compensated but I was unaware they received the same compensation.

    1. WellRed*

      I get what you’re saying, but I think it would be better ti just have a really worthwhile incentive to ensure enough volunteers in the first place. A tiered system seems ripe for problems in a workplace where there is already so much whining and bitching and just general irresponsibility.

  20. RMNPgirl*

    I’m in a healthcare field so we’re also open 24/7/365 and we do a rotation. Everyone is required to work 1 summer and 1 winter holiday and it rotates so every third year you work Christmas or New Years etc etc. Since we do it on a rotation people know which holiday they’re working each year and can plan accordingly. We allow people to switch or trade with others if they find someone willing to do so.
    Our incentives are that holiday pay is 2.5x regular pay and anyone with the day off is required to use PTO so by working it people can save PTO. We also give priority to people working a holiday for requests off around it. So for example if someone is working Christmas Day and asks for Christmas Eve off they’ll have priority for approval over someone who is not working Christmas Day but has also requested Christmas Eve off.

      1. RMNPgirl*

        Yes, we haven’t had any issues. We make it really clear when we hire people that it’s a required part of the job. We even have holiday rotation in the job description.
        Usually the holidays are slower so people don’t mind working because it’s not as stressful as other days.

    1. hermit crab*

      Yeah, my dad is a (now-retired) OB-GYN and he implemented a rotation like that when he ran a private practice. Everyone knew which holidays they’d have to work way in advance, and it seemed very fair.

    2. wanderlust*

      I also work in healthcare and we do something similar. Basically everyone is expected to work a couple of holidays during the year and they handle requests based on seniority. Not everyone celebrates every holiday or cares as much about one or the other so it usually works out. We also usually get time and a half for working on a holiday.

      I do think that the lottery has the risk of someone being drawn every year for Christmas or something while someone else never gets picked, so the OP may want to weigh whether that’s impacting the employees’ willingness to comply. If the expectation is that EVERYONE works at least one holiday (depending on how many employees it is) and you can submit your preferences but you may not get them, that seems like it might be easier for people to plan for.

      1. Psyche*

        Yeah. They should not include people who worked a holiday the previous year until all other names have been drawn. Then put in people who worked a holiday the previous year.

        1. Liane*

          From the LW’s question, ” with the caveat that if you work Thanksgiving, you’re not in the lottery for Christmas, and if you work Christmas one year, you’re exempt the next year.”
          So, at LW’s organization, no one risks getting drawn for Christmas every year–unless they are somehow magically avoiding ever working on Thanksgiving.

          1. Psyche*

            But it sounds like it isn’t that you will work either Thanksgiving or Christmas every year. Some people luck out and don’t have to work either. So they should be guaranteed to be assigned one of the days the next year to keep everything equal.

      2. Oryx*

        I have a family member in health care who always worked Christmas but would then have Thanksgiving off, as that was more of a priority for him. His family and kids would just celebrate Christmas the night before or next day, etc.

    3. Signe*

      Yup, ER doc here and we do something very similar. I’m not Christian and I’ve never seen the point of New Years so I always volunteer to work both days (besides, New Years is when all the interesting stuff happens in the ER), and in exchange I get my religion’s holidays off AND I get double pay for working the official holidays. It’s a win-win for me.

      Because you don’t go into Emergency Medicine without knowing it’s a 24/7/365 job, people generally have worked something out with their families (with or without kids) to make celebrating the holidays work. Having the holiday on an off day is really common. This year my family is having Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday. It works.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        My brother works in the ER and his fiancee works in critical care. We’re celebrating Christmas on December 9th.

      2. Bagpuss*

        Yes, my BIL works in a hospital, the whole family knows that that means some years he we will be working on Christmas or New Year, and we work round it.
        A couple of years ago we had an awesome New Year party on 28th Dec.

    4. Middle School Teacher*

      Yes, my friend is a nurse and if she is working Christmas one year, the next year she has New Year’s Eve. It’s always one or the other, and always alternated, so she always knows and makes her plans. I believe it’s even in their collective agreement.

  21. Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves*

    Those employees with children are going to be stuck when the childless employees all leave due to the extremely poor treatment.
    I worked in an industry that required holiday coverage and we all rotated evenly. There was no getting out of of because of children and employers who do this (or leave their employees to cover holidays alone) end up with significant fewer employees.

  22. KR*

    100% you need to get with the two managers above you and make sure everyone is in agreement about the policies and how you’re implementing them. I would bring a list of instances where bending the rules has resulted in disgruntled employees or employees having to cover too many holiday shifts and how the issue has escalated. With situations like this a firm, no exception policy is the only way to go to keep it fair. You guys also need a course of action on when the employees call out – without consequences they will just keep doing it. Again, all of this is meaningless if they circumvent your decisions and doing so undermines your authority, so my advice would be to get with them and lay it out there as a problem you can’t solve without their buy-in and support (support being they don’t undermine your decisions and do their part to uphold the rule).

    1. Clisby Williams*

      At the top of the agenda should be that if shifts have to be covered, the managers are first in line to cover them. That should reorient their thinking.

  23. Temis*

    I’m pretty sure if this keeps on the problem will sort itself out: you won’t have anyone who is childless in your company and the parents will have to do their share of work either way.
    You should reward very well whoever cover holidays and punish people who don’t follow through. It is pretty bad if that doesn’t happen

  24. Edianter*

    My company has the same policy: open 24/7/365. Instead of a lottery, we have a planned rotation. We make the holiday schedule for the next calendar year in September and it’s posted for everyone to see, so for Thanksgiving/Christmas it’s known who will be working more than a full year in advance. (If someone leaves the company, the next new hire takes over their spot in the rotation.)

    Then, if someone REALLY wants a specific holiday off, but is scheduled to work, it’s on them to find someone who’s willing to swap holidays with them.

    I tend to think the planned rotation works better than a lottery, because leaving it to chance will not ever truly be fair—someone will inevitably get stuck working more or less than someone else. With our planned rotation, it is simply understood that in our office, everyone will work 4 holidays per year and have the rest off.

    1. Mockingjay*

      I think planned rotation is a great idea. Everyone is treated the same; it’s well known in advance – in fact new hires know from Day 1 that they will be working holidays.

      My daughter works for a municipal sewer facility (water and sewer plants NEVER, EVER close) and they do a planned rotation. She worked Christmas Day last year and works Thanksgiving this year. We plan our celebrations around her schedule. It’s not the end of the world.

    2. Bagpuss*

      Yes, this seems the fairest way to do it. It gives everyone plenty of notice, so they can plan, and by rotating it you ensure that everyone gets some holidays and work some. I’d allow switching but in this particular case, given how much pressure people are being subjected to, I would perhaps only allow them after the person taking on the shift has confirmed, in private, to the manager that they were happy with it!

  25. Rey*

    Do the lottery as early as possible, so that people can plan accordingly. It might sound ridiculous to be talking about Christmas in April, but it will give all employees enough of a time-frame to get their plans in order. And to be honest, I think many families could do a great day-before or day-after holiday celebration that wouldn’t take away from the holiday spirit.

    The other thing I would consider is, are the people who are pushing this policy really doing it because *kids*, or are they low performers in other ways, and this is just one of many problematic habits? (I’m thinking of friends who are always late and blowing things off, but once they had kids, they used their kids as an excuse). Individuals who aren’t invested in their job will probably make any excuse to get the days off that they want, whether it’s kids, dying parents, etc. and people who feel a responsibility to their job will understand that it all goes around, it won’t be their turn every year, and they’ll suck it up for one holiday. And if there is a division this way, excusing low performers who grumble is going to drive away high performers who want their manager to manage the situation.

    1. Rey*

      Oh, and if possible, whatever the new system is, or if it’s just a reminder to everyone that the system will be enforced, have the top manager distribute that information, make the announcement, etc. Maybe that will cut down on people going over your head to try and get their own exception.

  26. Normally a Lurker*

    Holy crap. 100%, as a childless adult who doesn’t want them, I would 150% leave over this.

    To be clear, when I worked in high coverage situations, I was generally fine, and even volunteered, to work Thanksgiving so I could have Christmas off to fly home to my ageing family who won’t be around forever for the holidays.

    Also, the fact they are going over your head for this? That’s even grosser.

    I’m sorry. I have no real advice. But yea, that stinks.

    1. Zoe*

      I was thinking of the people who are childless by choice as well. “Childless” doesn’t automatically mean someone is too young and will have them someday once they’re ready or finally succeed at conceiving or get married or whatever. It’s not like “oh, in a few years you’ll have kids too and you’ll understand/you can make the same excuse”. They may never have kids and shouldn’t be punished for that for the rest of their lives.

        1. Anony-turtle in a half shell!*

          It really just depends on the person. I prefer “non-parent by choice,” because nothing in my life revolves around children–even the choice to not have them! I am neither childless nor childfree.

          (I previously used “childfree” and then moved to “childless by choice” to describe myself. But for many, many reasons, I changed my preferred terminology to the above years ago.)

        2. Bunny Girl*

          That’s the term I use because I don’t want and can’t have children. But then I also remember Chelsea Handler saying that it reminded her of “gluten or dairy free” and she didn’t want kids in her food either or something along those lines.

      1. AJK*

        I am childless-not-by-choice, and it’s extremely frustrating to me to be treated differently because I don’t have children. I worked in one office where I was the only employee on our team who didn’t have children, and I ended up covering constantly for the other three. My team lead (who knew about the issues we were having) wanted me to come in early for an event, I agreed but said it would be hard for me, because I’m just not a morning person. She said “But come on, (AJK), you don’t even have kids.”
        My response was “Well, not for lack of trying.”
        Yeah, that was a fun place to work.

        1. ElspethGC*

          Yikes. Yeah, my parents had nine years of fertility treatments to end up with me, and my dad worked shifts for a huge chunk of that time. He probably got the same treatment at least a few times. I can’t imagine how painful that must be.

        2. Miss Wels*

          I am so sorry that you experienced this. I have had two miscarriages very close together and there was a period of time where I would burst into tears anytime someone made a comment about me not having kids. People can be so clueless and insensitive.

    2. Psyche*

      What is even grosser is that the senior manager allows it. She should be shutting it down hard, not rewarding it.

  27. HS Teacher*

    I got so tired of this happening in my last industry that I made up a kid. Well, he wasn’t made-up. He was my nephew. I told my employer he was my son. I had pictures of him in my office and everything. He didn’t need to be on my health insurance because my ex-husband covered him. My sister, his mother, thought it was hilarious. I never brought him into the office or made him participate in the lie, in case you’re wondering.

    Thankfully I now work in a place that doesn’t care and has generous PTO policies. We don’t even have to get PTO requests approved; the system automatically improves them.

    I’m enjoying being back to being child-free.

    1. LawBee*

      I have blamed many a thing on kids I don’t have – it’s truly amazing what parents can get away with.

    2. Bunny Girl*

      In my old neighborhood I had some neighbors who thought I had a child because they saw me pushing a stroller around the neighborhood.

      It was my rabbit so now they think I’m nuts.

    3. MissingArizona*

      I refer to my dog by his name, and people naturally assume he is a child, I just don’t correct them.

    4. Child-free and Loving It*

      I love your story! I have also cited “child care issues” at work (for things like leaving promptly on a certain day, leaving early on a rare occasion, etc.) because I noticed it was the only reason that never received any kind of side-eye from co-workers/managers. I didn’t go as far as you did – they were all clear I was not the legal guardian of a child. But it was enough to drive home the point: My personal life obligations should be no more up for debate than “child care issues” would be.

  28. Quickbeam*

    OMG, I’ve fought these wars forever. I’m an RN with 35 years of practice, husband but no kids. I worked 20 Christmases in a row as well as Mother’s Days. If I wanted a Christmas off I was always given the line “but you don’t have kids”. It got so bad with people not showing up and getting forced for double shifts on holidays and weekends that I left clinical nursing for a desk job.

    In any 24/7 field you need to hold people’s feet to the fire or they will walk all over you.

  29. Holly*

    People with families have to work on holidays all the time if that is the nature of the job – from nurses and doctors to retail. If fairly distributing holiday coverage is part of the job, that really needs to be enforced.

    Also, I want to point out that in my municipality, a major city in the U.S., it is illegal to discriminate based on marital status – I don’t know enough facts to know if there would be a good case for that (probably not) but it’s something to consider ask a risk of this “policy.”

    1. Où est la bibliothèque?*

      In addressing the possibility of discrimination issues, it might also be worth noting to the bosses that people in same-sex relationships are statistically less likely to have kids.

    2. Miss Wels*

      It’s also discrimination on the basis of medical conditions if someone doesn’t have children because they are infertile.

  30. AdAgencyChick*

    AW HELL NO. Not f!!!!ing cool, OP’s managers!

    OP, I wish you luck getting your managers on your side (because if you can’t, I frankly doubt this issue is resolvable) — to the point that they will back you up when you do any of the following:
    * Start having conversations with employees in August or September about how you do not close for the holidays, the lottery is how you assign coverage, everyone is expected to show up for work when the lottery determines they must, and that calling out sick on a holiday, if you determine that the employee was not actually sick, will result in disciplinary action
    * For employees who protest, reminding them that being open 365 days a year is essential to your mission, and therefore working some holidays is a requirement of the job regardless of whether or not you have children
    * Disciplinary action, up to and including termination, for employees who are assigned holiday work and don’t show up

  31. ENFP in Texas*

    “We do a lottery to fairly pick holiday coverage with the caveat that if you work Thanksgiving, you’re not in the lottery for Christmas, and if you work Christmas one year, you’re exempt the next year.”

    Personally, I think that is incredibly Fair. And if you do the lottery in, say, May, there should be no complaints from the staff of “Oh, but we already made plans.”

    As far as people who were assigned to work simply not showing up…? Tell them in advance that if it happens again, they are fired.

    If people understand the expectations when they are hired, then they need to be expected to abide by those rules. And your managers above you who are blowing it off should come in and do the holiday coverage themselves if folks don’t show. We’ll see how much of a heart they have then.

    1. Decima Dewey*

      I’d be mean enough to tell those who called out on Christmas or whatever holiday without a legitimate illness that they just volunteered to work that holiday next year.

      1. ExcelJedi*

        That’s not mean. That sounds like an appropriate consequence to their actions.

        To be fair, firing is also an appropriate consequence.

      2. The Gollux (Not a Mere Device)*

        That’s letting them off easy (since almost everyone values one day off next week higher than one day off a year from now). “Mean” would be telling them they’re now working the next two or three holidays that they weren’t already scheduled for. E.g., if they were supposed to work Thanksgiving and Christmas but have Christmas Eve off, they’re now working Christmas Eve, Christmas Day (as previously scheduled) and New Year’s Eve.

        The problem, of course, is that if LW’s bosses think it’s “heartless” to make someone with kids work Thanksgiving as scheduled, they’re not likely to back her on making them come in on Christmas Eve, which they thought they had off.

  32. Zoe*

    Ugh. I would hate to be in any part of this situation. I’m a big believer that it’s really easy to say you wouldn’t stand for something like this but it’s not so easy when it’s happening to you. Something like this that is just wrong by principle seems like an easy thing to refuse to tolerate but it can still get so, so complicated when it comes time to defend yourself or to be in the position when it’s your job to fix it.

    I don’t really have much in the way of advice for OP because I’ve got zero experience managing people or tough situations…but I just wanted to say I know it’s never as easy as it seems to stand up and refuse to tolerate something, no matter how wrong. But be strong and do your best to stand up to these people, even (and maybe especially) the bosses undermining you. Point out that some of you may not have children but most likely you still all have family of some kind that is just as important and you all have just as much right to spend time with them. Good luck and we all love updates so let us know how the holiday season goes :)

  33. Zillah*

    That’s such a terrible policy. I had my mother die of ALS a few months ago after battling it for three years; I’d have been outraged if my not having children had been used to deny me all major holidays with her when they could be her last and mattered a lot to her, and I’d also be outraged if my not having children was used to deny me all major holidays with my grieving father. Some people might say, “Well, of course we’d make an exception for that” – but to get through situations like the one I was in, people often need to compartmentalize, and making them disclose and perform their grief to people they work with is callous as best.

    OP, if you want to use that situation as a hypothetical or even as a “someone I know was actually in this position and this policy would have been incredibly cruel to them,” please feel free. Maybe it’ll get the point across.

    1. Lizzy May*

      This. I don’t have kids. I don’t plan on having kids. I’m not married. I don’t have siblings. But I have parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends that I want to see on the holidays if possible because they are my family. If I got picked in a fair lottery, I’d figure out my schedule and maybe miss an event or two and live with it. But if I didn’t get picked in the lottery and was then told to work or got picked in a lottery that didn’t include half the staff I’d be looking for a new job so fast.

      Family is what you make of it and no one type of family is more valuable than another. People who want the time off should have an equal shot at getting it regardless of who makes up their family.

    2. Zillah*

      In terms of actionable advice other than a story that is both true and might give people a reality check:

      Is it possible to ask for volunteers first, if you don’t already? Christmas was important to my mom, and I don’t want my dad alone on his first Christmas without her… but after that, I can definitely see myself volunteering to work Christmas sometimes in a situation like the one you’re in, especially if I’d get paid extra for it. Thanksgiving would be more important to me – though honestly, depending on the incentives, I can see myself volunteering to work both next year.

      Would it be possible to offer some incentive to people who work one, and then an additional incentive for anyone who volunteers to work both? (E.g., time and a half on the holidays, and volunteers who work both get an additional $ bonus or extra PTO?)

      When are you running the lottery? I feel like doing it in the spring or summer would be ideal, since that’s before plane tickets for the holidays get totally unreasonable.

    3. Temperance*

      Yep. I will always have a special hate for my ex boss who took off Christmas Eve through January 5th every year, and who gave me so much shit about wanting to spend Christmas Eve with my great grandmother, who died the next year.

  34. queequeg in his coffin*

    My partner’s job used to have a policy like this — people without kids were encouraged but not required to take the day shift on Christmas instead of the night shift, for example — but because several parents called out for all of the holidays they now have a policy where NOBODY gets any holidays off, unless you are part time and the holidays fall on your regular schedule (or you can convince someone to swap shifts with you).

    It sucks for me that I’ve never spent Thanksgiving with my spouse, but at least it’s fair from a business standpoint.

  35. LCL*

    OP, you said you are a 24/7 business. How does your office handle the schedule and filling shifts now? Looking at your existing policies may help give you some ideas on how to schedule around vacation. In general, if the office is doing some kind of shift work schedule, allowing vacation leave by lottery is a lousy way to grant vacation. For all of the reasons you have found out. The most successful shiftwork schedules don’t take into consideration the reason a person is requesting vacation when granting vacations. If vacation rules are strict, your company will still be able to function when someone has to be out unscheduled for illness or injury.

    1. LawBee*

      This isn’t a scheduling-around-vacation issue or unscheduled illness or injury, though. What’s happening here is employees are deliberately taking advantage of their coworkers as well as refusing to show up for scheduled work – and doing it at a time of year where people understandably may have strong emotional/cultural/etc feelings about being forced to work when someone else bailed.

      It’s one thing for Coworker to not show up on a Tuesday because she’s sick. It is something completely different for Coworker to know in advance that she is going to work a holiday, sign onto the process, and then be a no-show when Coworker is fully aware that the business is a 24/7 concern.

      1. LCL*

        We really need to know how the schedule is handled now so we can make our suggestions more useful to OP. Right now they are using a holiday process that works fine for a Mo-Fr office hour job. But they aren’t working that kind of schedule, so their process is broken. We know the reasons why it is broken, but fixing it will take a deeper understanding of the office schedule. The end result of an unscheduled absence is a hole in the schedule, whatever the reason for the absence.

        I know how we do it at my job because the schedule is one of my jobs. We limit the number of people who can be gone, so we don’t fall apart when we have illness or injury hit. Right now it’s looking like we will have 2 people on unscheduled leave over Christmas week, but we will still be able to function.

        1. Autumnheart*

          OP described how it was handled, though. There’s a coverage lottery and people are assigned shifts based on the dates for which their names were drawn. The problem isn’t that there is no method for assigning coverage, the problem is that some employees are no-showing on their assigned days, and trying to justify their no-show by claiming travel plans or sentimental value.

  36. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    OP, my question to you: you’ve created and enacted a lottery system. Employees called off and when you attempted to react to that, your bosses said you can’t (“have a heart”)
    I think this is one of Alison’s “your company sucks and isn’t going to change” situations. What the hell are you supposed to do with no buy in from staff or management?

    1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      Another thought, OK, people working holidays get more money or more time off…the way your management is leaning and entitled attitude of your employees has me thinking that you won’t get support for this…THOSE people don’t need more money! THOSE people don’t need more time off! Why are they being REWARDED for being single? I can’t work the holiday, I have kids, so why am I being punished?!?!

      1. Brownie*

        That kind of whining is exactly what’ll happen. Several jobs ago a childless single friend of mine was sent overseas for a two week project specifically because of her “I can’t go, I have kids” coworkers. So said friend decided to take an extra two weeks holiday at the end of the project (with manager permission) before the company flew her home. Cue all the “I can’t, kids” coworkers throwing a fit about how the company never flew them overseas for vacation and my friend being singled out for special treatment because she didn’t have kids.

        The lesson I learned was employees who think they’re entitled will always find a way to complain, even if what happened was at their request in the first place. Even if OP’s company implements bonuses for holiday work there will be someone who says that the bonuses are unfair because said someone can’t take advantage of them. It’s a rock vs hard place dilemma, especially when trying to ensure that not only are the kid-less employees treated fairly, but that those who do have kids and aren’t acting like entitled jerks are also treated fairly without being lumped in with said jerks.

          1. Brownie*

            Won’t lie, her experience was one of the reasons I started evaluating potential new workplaces as to if they treated single and/or kid-less employees differently when it came to holidays, overtime, and on-call work. It was an excellent way of sussing out if there were underlying management or HR issues if the attitude was that people with kids were excused from working on-call/holidays/weekends while kid-less employees weren’t.

  37. Dance-y Reagan*

    This is somewhat of a side issue, but it’s been my experience that companies for whom hiring diversity is a priority often find themselves solving this sort of issue with less difficulty. If everyone celebrates different religious holidays then finding coverage isn’t as onerous (though national holidays are still universal, of course).

    1. ExcelJedi*

      Plenty of my Jewish friends & family will work Christmas to get Rosh Hashanah off. I’ll personally work Christmas to get my birthday or some other random day off. Not everyone celebrates Christmas (and if they do in your org, that might be a problem).

      1. Où est la bibliothèque?*

        There are huge swathes of this country where non-Christmas-celebrators just don’t exist and no amount of effort in diverse hiring is going to uncover them.

        1. Zillah*

          Sure – I think that’s why “often” and “might be” were used, rather than “definitely” and “is” – but there are also huge swaths of this country where there are people either don’t celebrate Christmas or aren’t that attached to it. At least 25% of Americans actively do not identify as Christian, and there are others who aren’t particularly religious; they’re not all in cities.

          1. KR*

            Yess & also if Dance-y’s advice does not apply to OP they can simply decline to explore this one option in solving the problem. I’d say it’s still useful feedback.

          2. ExcelJedi*

            Yes, this is exactly why I chose the words I did! I live in a very Christian non-coastal city, but we have both Muslim and Jewish pockets. Areas kind of close to me in flyover country are seeing more and more diversity from refugee populations in particular. 10 or 15 years ago, these places were 99% white and Christian, but that’s no longer the case.

            That may not be the same everywhere, but it’s not uncommon.

        2. Colette*

          I doubt that’s true – but even if it is, not everyone celebrates Christmas the same way. My family’s big celebration is Christmas Eve – I could work Christmas Day without missing anything that is important to me (except I live far enough away that that’s logistically difficult). Other people really only find Christmas morning important, or dinner at night, or the big family get-together on boxing day.

        3. Merula*

          There are parts of the country where non-Christmas-celebrators are less common, but there are not “huge swaths” where they “just don’t exist”.

          Agnostic in Fly-over Country

        4. mr. brightside*

          If you honestly think they “just don’t exist”, you might want to consider why they aren’t very visible in your area (pretty likely), or why the community left (why where the Jewish community where my grandparents lived is now located entirely in the cemetery), or why the communities are discouraged from moving there.

    2. doreen*

      It’s not uncommon for even non-Christians to celebrate Christmas if they have family or friends who do. My husband got hassled about wanting Christmas Eve off at one job- but just because he wasn’t Christian didn’t mean I wasn’t.

        1. doreen*

          No one has directly said otherwise, but a couple of them almost seem to assume that if you have a diverse workforce, everyone will celebrate religious different holidays.

          1. Lissa*

            It’s way more likely though!

            I mean I would love to work somewhere that I could work Christmas and then use it for extra pay or good karma with a coworker. :D I’d sell it to the highest bidder! (kidding, sorta.)

    3. MsMaryMary*

      I was coming here to say the same thing. OldJob’s workforce was very diverse and finding coverage around the holidays was much less of an issue than it is at my current job. Some people were happy to work on Christmas Eve/Day because they would be taking time off to celebrate Rosh Hashanah or Eid at another time. Someone who didn’t grow up in the US might not be as attached to Thanksgiving traditions. Some people have family members who also work on holidays, so they have their family celebration on another day. I’m not saying diversity solves all scheduling conflicta, but it makes things easier.

    4. NeonFireworks*

      This is exactly how I reacted. If you hire lots of different types of people, there’s a much smaller chance that they’re all going to have exactly the same needs and desires and interests. I belong to a non Christian religion, and if my office weren’t closed for the holidays, I’d probably just go to work on December 25. I’ve never done anything on December 25.

    5. Ann O.*

      Yeah, I was wondering about that, too. I would happily come into work on Christmas if I got Yom Kippur as a holiday in exchange. And honestly, pre-kid I would have been pretty willing to come into work on Christmas even if I didn’t get one of my holidays in exchange because Christmas is freaking boring as heck when you’re not Christian. (It’s a little different with an elementary age child, so I wouldn’t necessarily volunteer just to be nice these days.)

  38. LawBee*

    SEEEEEEEEETHE. I worked at an office where flextime and W@H opportunities were offered to parents and never to non-parents, and the only way I avoided working EVERY SINGLE HOLIDAY was by threatening to quit. It is infuriating.

    Hold firm, LW! Fight this bs as hard as you can – and definitely stop working all the holidays yourself.

  39. The Original Stellaaaaa*

    Are these staffers in jobs that are generally hard to hire for, and then hard to keep people in? This is something to think about after the holiday madness has passed, but if this is a field where qualified people know they’re valuable and hard to come by, they’re not going to start following these rules. They know that the company can’t easily replace them if they quit.

    Which is a long way of saying that the answer to this question might be “the overall nature of this field and the structure of this specific org means that this is not a good rule in the first place.” Not all fields are stacked with people who are 1) qualified, 2) interested in working nights and weekends.

    1. The Gollux (Not a Mere Device)*

      If that’s true of this field, it cuts both ways: the non-parents who are being forced to work other people’s holiday shifts can also go find another job. The difference is, if Jane Child-free wants to be able to spend some holidays with her family, she can do that in any job that doesn’t discriminate against non-parents; if Mary Call-out wants to be able to spend all the holidays with her kids, she either needs to find a job that doesn’t involve 24/7/365 coverage, or find someplace else that will let her pull less than her fair share of the holiday shifts. There are likely to be fewer of the latter than there are companies that spread the burden more or less fairly.

    2. Not Saul Goodman*

      Bingo, we have a winner. For starters, let me say that I strongly agree that parents shouldn’t get special privileges. But the threat to fire parents who refuse to show up is credible only if they’re commodities.

      If they’ve got a highly specialized, hard-to-find skill set, unfortunately it’s not credible. Which means the company needs to look at the 365/24/7 operating requirement.

      It’s a bit like what they say of NASA: you can have a cheaper, better, or faster spaceflight program: pick two. Here, you can have round-the-clock operations, highly skilled employees, or strict enforcement on the “you must show up on Christmas” policies. Pick two.

  40. Fantasma*

    In previous jobs, we also needed at least a skeleton staff on all holidays. Our system, which applied to everyone no matter how senior you were, was a combination of incentives and individual prioritization. In late summer, managers listed all winter holidays and key dates surrounding them in a spreadsheet plus jobs needing to be done on those dates, like 1 teapot supervisor, 3 teapot painters and 1 quality control specialist. You were allowed to select two days you absolutely wanted off; you could also volunteer to work certain days. If you worked on official company holidays, you got paid double time and a half. We always had enough staff because management modeled the behavior by also working holidays (including doing hands-on tasks) and made expectations clear.

    FWIW, my strategy was to ask for two days where I didn’t get holiday pay and when my friends and family celebrated: Christmas Eve and New Years Eve. Then I’d volunteer to work all holidays for the extra money.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      “which applied to everyone no matter how senior you were” – this. Thank you. In most offices that I’ve worked where they claim to need to be open, they let all the high level people off and make the peons fight it out. I’m like, wait, do we have important work to do on this day or not?

      1. Autumnheart*

        That tendency is especially aggravating when said peons have something come up that requires intervention by a decision-making authority, and all of those are out of the office.

        I’m really grateful that my employer has top-down expectations for coverage–the higher you are in the food chain, the greater the expectation that you’ll be visibly present for holiday stuff. If you’re an individual contributor and not on the assigned coverage rotation, you go home and enjoy your holiday. It’s nice to work for a place that makes an effort to be Fair that way.

        1. Fantasma*

          The work required sign-off from senior leaders so they couldn’t NOT show up. And very often they were the most festive people there, bringing candy and other treats and if we finished our work early they’d start sending people home.

          There was one department at that job, though, that did try to implement a “child-having vs. child-free” system during a natural disaster and that went about as well as you’d expect. We were on the West Coast, and another office on the East Coast was in the path of a hurricane. The work still needed to get done so senior company leaders asked our office to send a few people to work in another nearby East Coast office to cover everything; that other office also had a risk of being affected by the hurricane. That department manager (fortunately not mine) called in all of the child-free staff and said basically you all don’t have kids so which of you want to go? No one volunteered, and all of them gave a reason they couldn’t travel. Finally someone said, “Is this whole process discriminatory?” End of meeting.

  41. Kate*

    It sounds like OP has a fair, reasonable system in place. I would love to hear an update about how this plays out. As a parent, I have less than no sympathy for the parents pulling this behavior.

    1. Away Team Redshirt*

      Why are people messing up a very reasonable and fair system? It’s so frustrating!
      I expect that the OP will 1) Have to get buy in from upper managers to enforce the reasonable system, 2) hold employees accountable for ignoring the system, 3) possibly having the lottery earlier in the year and/or 4) rewarding people who work holiday shifts.
      The OPs work place could try offering perks (increased pay/flexibility/a kitten/whatever) to people who volunteer for holiday work shifts.

  42. Kay*

    Given how entitled parents are these days, I’m not even surprised at this. Parents seem to have this weird notion that the world revolves around their child and everyone should now to their demands. Poor OP. I hope all the people without kids find better jobs and leave the people with kids behind to deal with the mess/consequences.

    1. Anon for this*

      No this is unfair. Not all parents are like this and as a parent myself I’m horrified at the behaviour of the OP’s colleagues.

      1. Doug Judy*

        Most parents who work a 24/7/365 job figure it out. My best friend works as a med flight nurse and has two small kids and it’s never an issue. She usually asks to work Christmas, because once the presents are opened the magic is kinda over and she’d rather go to work. And as a parent myself I almost daily remind my children that they are NOT the center of the universe.

        Also schools and daycares are usually closed so if you don’t have a spouse or a relative to watch your kid it can be hard to find someone to take your kids on a holiday. Now most figure that out too with advanced planning (and in the OP’s case there does seem to be some air of entitlement) but it’s not fair to lump it as “parents these days”.

    2. Prior HR*

      Please don’t lump all parents in with this organization. I’d never pull the ‘I have kids’ card to make co-worker, who doesn’t have kids, have to work or have to take on a task neither of us wanted. Some parents are good people and do care about other people.

    3. Liet-Kinda*

      This is a needlessly strident and offensive comment. There’s plenty of vociferously entitled childfree folks around too.

      1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

        I have never heard of childfree people refusing to do assigned shifts because ‘these holidays are meant for me and the parents can do it. Not like they have lives!”

  43. Sarasaurus*

    Honestly, kids are so flexible. Growing up, my parents were a firefighter and a nurse who worked holidays all the time. We just picked a different day to celebrate and it wasn’t a big deal at all.

    1. Whoop*

      +1 A friend of mine is a nurse and her husband a first responder. They hardly ever both have Christmas off, and their two young kids just do. Not. Care. They celebrate Christmas another day with their parents, and then they usually get Christmas day with a set of grandparents anyway. The kids understand that their parents have jobs that don’t stop because of holidays and it’s fine.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I bet those kids would fiercely defend Christmas at Grandma and Grandpa’s. If mom and dad were home one year, the kids would probably complain: “We always go to a grandparents’ place! We can open presents here at home some OTHER day!”

    2. The Original Stellaaaas*

      This is so true. I’m an atheist-ish Jew and I grew up never knowing when our holidays even were. Kids aren’t invested in celebrating something on the exact calendar day.

    3. Pippa*

      Same for military kids. Dad missed some birthdays and holidays, we understood perfectly well why, and we adapted life to necessity. People with rigid ideas – about how holidays must be celebrated, about the superior status of parents over nonparents, about their lives being more important than other people’s – aren’t a great model for kids regarding flexibility, responsibility, or respect for others.

    4. Nita*

      Yes and no – kids are flexible, but school days off are not! Not that this excuses what’s going on in OP’s office in any way, because it looks like things have crossed the line of what’s fair and reasonable.

  44. Phil*

    I was in a 24/7/365 business for many years: television. Watching football on Thanksgiving? There are about 100 people working to bring it to you. Even the burning Yule log has somebody at the station.
    And we knew when we took the job that was going to be the way it was. So does everyone in your office. So what’s the problem? If you don’t show up on Christmas, you don’t work on Boxing Day because you’ve been fired on the spot! Your office is being held hostage And I’ll be there are other problems too.
    In the French Army they used to shoot soldiers as an example to other soldiers to do their duty: pour encourager les autres. See the film Paths Of Glory. I think a firing would bring the others right in line.

    1. ENFP in Texas*

      As someone who will be working at the Cowboys/Redskins game tomorrow, I hear you. In addition to the hundred or so Network folks taking care of the broadcast, there are hundreds of people who are working at the stadium to make the game possible. If I basically told my boss “Hey, I’m not showing up tomorrow” I’d be toast…

  45. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

    I’ll tell everyone a story of how holidays are done right. 24/7 365 operation.

    Holidays are assigned the year prior, (so in October everyone knows what holidays they work for the next calendar year). Vacation may be used for holidays but only X number of people allowed to be on vacation, vacation days also chosen a year in advance* by everyone based on seniority in rounds**. If you are scheduled a holiday and don’t want to work, it’s on you to find a trade. Trades can be anything from one holiday swapped for another, 2 regular days for one holiday***, and all sorts of creative things.

    If you don’t find a trade for a holiday you suck it up and work.

    Here’s why this system works.
    Advance Notice: Same routine every year at the same time with plenty of time to make alternate plans and/or make trades
    Diversity: Not everyone celebrates the same holidays
    Preference: Some people value different holidays more than others. They guy that had a blowout 4th of July party every year was usually willing to trade Christmas for it. Some people’s family celebrate on Christmas Eve and don’t do much for Christmas Day, so they are willing to trade with someone who celebrates Christmas Morning.
    Maturity: They are all adults who act like it and understand that sometimes you get the fuzzy end of the lollypop

    So yes, to the OP I would ask how the above compares to what you have going on and figure out how to address deficiencies. From what you describe you are lacking more than one of these.

    *Just after the holidays schedule is announced
    ** This part may not work or be appropriate in all settings
    ***Again this doesn’t work in all situations but it does at this job

  46. Genny*

    LW, when you talk to the directors above you about this problem, I think it’d be important to keep the discussion as fact-based as possible to cut off the appeals to emotion at the knees (gag at the “heartless” comment). When those directors make those emotional appeals, point out what you did here. You had to work every holiday even though you were scheduled to off. Childless employees are taking X% more of the undesirable shifts the employees with children. Employees with children are essentially getting Y amount of time off while childless employees are getting Z amount of time off. That sort of thing. Hopefully seeing the disparity clearly laid out will work. The trick is to connect it to business needs and make the argument without emotion (not that there’s anything wrong with being emotional over this, it’s just that those emotions aren’t likely to change the directors’s minds).

    1. Lil Fidget*

      TBH, if I was going to approach this with higher ups, I might try not to emphasize the child/no child divide so much – I’d just worry I was going to trigger the bias of the person I was talking to. I might say, “Emily has worked Thanksgiving and Christmas three years in a row, while Sally refused to come in last year and this year says she’s booked a plane ticket. We need to come up with an equitable system and enforce it.” I think? Or feel free to disagree with me, I’m just worried based on the “heartless” comment that OP is working in a company that’s biased towards kids.

      1. Lissa*

        You are unfortunately correct. Bringing up kids is likely to not go well. If the other person does, I’d clarify. So if they say “Well, Sally has children and Emily doesn’t, so …” maybe say something like “so am I understanding correctly, the lottery doesn’t actually matter and those of us who don’t have kids should expect to have to work every holiday?” Make them admit it straight up.

        1. Psyche*

          Also, point out how having people simply call out if they don’t feel like working a holiday sets a terrible precedent and will make it impossible to guarantee coverage. If I knew that the only way to get a holiday off was to call in on the day and that everyone else got away with it, I would be seriously tempted to do so.

          1. TootsNYC*

            it also sets up an atmosphere in which gaming the system, and going back on your work, are winning strategies. What OTHER corners will they cut, if they don’t like them?

            Will they file things promptly so they can be found later? Will they fill out forms sloppily so they have to be done again? Will they put off returning a difficult email, and thereby one of your clients/customers is damaged in some way because the employee didn’t do the right thing, because the management has allowed an undisciplined workplace to develop?

      2. Genny*

        I did think of that, but it sounds like this is a problem beyond Thanksgiving and Christmas since OP mentions childless employees also being assigned less desirable weekend shifts throughout the year. In that case, I think a broader discussion of whether the company is treating its employees equitably is needed. Unfortunately, based on the heartless comment, I don’t have high hope that the LW will get through to them regardless of what she does. Personally, this attitude towards childless employees is something I’d start looking for a new job over because it’s not going to get better without leadership making major changes.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          Yeah, maybe there’s a way to frame the discussion around a particularly hard to fill position or a high turnover. “We aren’t able to keep people in these roles because the company is discriminatory against employees who don’t have kids” might win over a kid-lover better than “this isn’t fair and needs to stop”. Especially since you do need to retain enough employees to provide this coverage somehow!

  47. Rachael*

    When I was younger I worked at Payless Shoesource. Did I quit because of low pay or the actual job? No. I quit because I was forced to work EVERY holiday the mall was open (and/or the day before) because I was young and didn’t have kids.

    People will start to quit if they feel that they are taken advantage of.

  48. Liz*

    One thing that could be done instead of a lottery is what a lot of nursing homes do for their staff. One year staff work “A Holidays” and one year they work “B Holiday”, so staff know ahead of time which holidays are theirs. Staff never work Thanksgiving AND Christmas, it’s either/or. ‘A Holidays’ are like New Year’s, Easter, Memorial Day, and Thanksgiving and ‘B Holidays’ would be like 4th of July, Labor Day, Christmas. (I’m making that list up but you get the idea.) The benefit of this is people know way far in advance, and can work out trades as their jobs/responsibilities allow.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      This plus letting people switch (maybe somebody doesn’t care about Christmas) AND financial incentives for the people who do work the holiday would work for me.

    2. Anon Nursing Home Employee*

      Nursing home employee here. This is what we do. Group A will work Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, Group B will work Black Friday and Christmas Day (all other major holidays are assigned as well, but these are the ones that people always care about). Holidays are then swapped the next year, so you never work Christmas Day two years in a row. You get paid double time (plus any applicable over time) on the holiday that you work, regular pay for your holiday off. Employees are allowed to trade, but if they don’t find their own coverage, they are required to work. If Sally quits, then the employee that replaces Sally is assigned to that holiday group. We also provide a nice meal on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. It is made clear upon hire that calling out on your assigned holiday is a fireable offense. It works well for us.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        I’m glad it works for you, but what do people do who want to travel at the holidays? If you always have to work either Thanksgiving or the day after, and Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, that would make it really hard to fly anywhere to see family over the holidays.

        I totally understand doing your share of holidays, but this would be tough for me.

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          Yeah, I would rather work Thanksgiving and Black Friday OR Christmas Eve and Christmas Day than one of each from both groups for that reason.

        2. doreen*

          When I’ve seen these sorts of schedules, it was completely separate from vacations. So if you were actually taking vacation, you could be off both on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. The either/or is more of a change in schedule similar to jobs where you would have either Saturday or Sunday as one of your regular days off each week , so that nobody was regularly scheduled to work both.

          1. Guacamole Bob*

            Ah, that makes sense. I’ve only ever worked jobs with federal holidays off, so I was confused!

    3. Kat in VA*

      Even then, people at LW’s job who are SCHEDULED to work holidays just…simply don’t show up.

      Or brandish their plane tickets and say WULL I CAN’T POSSIBLY NOW, CAN I? (paraphrased of course)

      How do you deal with that? I assume the people who are no-showing *know* they’re scheduled, they just don’t bother to come in because (a) someone will cover and (b) there are no apparent consequences.

      So people doing this could be all, “Yeah, yeah, I know, I pulled A list this year” and then…just not show up, necessitating the scramble by the folks without kids to cover.

  49. Dame Judi Brunch*

    This makes my blood boil.
    You absorbing all the holiday coverage is making it easy for the two managers to avoid the issue, because hey, there’s coverage! They get to look like the benevolent managers, while your holidays are ruined. Not to mention the undermining.
    I’m childless but that in no way means my family and time are less valuable. If you were my boss and you fought this battle, I’d be so loyal to you. Thank you for speaking up and calling this out.

    1. Oranges*

      I always state that things won’t change unless the higher ups feel the pain. Make them feel the pain of holiday coverage…. somehow….

      1. Dame Judi Brunch*

        Exactly, they need to experience the pain of having holiday plans and being forced to work.

          1. Kat in VA*

            This. Often terrible managers will shift the load onto the employee who isn’t barking, because dealing with the elephant in the room is too (dramatic, upsetting, enraging, fruitless, whatever).

    2. Psyche*

      Is the OP required to be on call every holiday? If not, can their phone mysteriously die so that they cannot be called in and the upper managers get to deal with it? Or go out of town? Or simply unavailable to come in?

  50. Old Cynic*

    When I was young and working in a 24/7 credit carrd call center, we used to massage shifts on Christmas. Usually had about 25 people working, kind of a light day.

    People with kids could work a later shift so they could see the munchkins wake up to gifts. I normally worked swing, but covered an earlier shift and was still able to have dinner with my family.

    They also brought in huge buffet spread that rivalled a 4 star hotel. How they found a caterer to work the day, well, I guess money talks.

    And of course it was time and a half on top of holiday pay.

  51. SittingDuck*

    I like Allisons suggestion of sitting down with your staff and coming up with a solution together, and adding incentives for working those days, an extra paid day off at another time perhaps?

    I am a Mom, and have tried my best to never work a job that required holidays, but havent always been sucessful at that and sucked it up when I had to.

    My husband had a job for 3 years which required you work Thanksgiving and Christmas alternating years, so you always worked one of the two. It sucked not having him there but at least he had a job! (Granted this was during a rough few years when he got bumped into a lower level job due to Union politics and we were barely scraping by so we were thankful he was at least employed!)

    I get that these people dont want to be away from their families for the Holidays, but as others have said they should know its part of the job.

    As much as it wont be fun to do you will need to enforce the rules you come up with in order for them to be effective, and get buy-in from higher-ups too.

    As someone who currently is the recipient of a different work arrangement due to the fact that I have kids, an arrangement others in my company arent privy too, I understand where the parents are coming from. Having the ability to get what you want(in their case holidays off), and being allowed to circumvent the rules for awhile can make it seem like a perk they now feel entitled to, so while they are in the wrong technically they probably dont see it that way, so please be open with them about the process of reafirming the rules.

    My own situation is an agreed upon arrangement with the owner of the company, and comes with its own downsides as well, but my point is that it was (multiple) discussions and tweakings before it happened and its still evolving. So perhaps individual conversations with each employee about their specofoc situation would be helpful as well.

  52. CatCat*

    If people with children are refusing to show up for their scheduled work days without consequence, this behavior will expand to everyone.

    1. fposte*

      It would sure be tempting, wouldn’t it? If you can get out of holiday work just by no-showing, surely people without kids can do that, too. Though the managers might be as unfair on firing as they are on holidays.

  53. Student*

    One thing I’d do is announce that 1) that future call-outs on holidays will require a doctor’s note and 2) that if you call out for Christmas this year, you’re automatically assigned for next year. Things happen, but if this is an ongoing problem in the office, you’ve got to manage that head-on. You owe it to your responsible employees.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      Ooh, this is a pretty elegant solution to the call-out-sick technique. Then again, there are probably people who figure they won’t be here next year (and that wouldn’t really help me if I got unexpectedly dragged in to work).

      1. Psyche*

        I would not be as upset having to go in if someone were legitimately sick. Although it think that they do need to so something for whoever gets called in like guarantee that they will not work either holiday the next year and give extra pay and/or days off.

    2. Sylvan*

      I really like the second idea.

      Also, if you have a policy about no call no shows, reiterate it to employees before the holidays and enforce it.

    3. Kathenus*

      Love all this. Add to it the well in advance scheduling/lottery/rotation that many have mentioned and offering incentives for working the holiday, and you have a great policy.

  54. AlexandrinaVictoria*

    I was the music director in a large church for many years. One Easter, we had the orchestra playing and the bell choir (for which we had to set up many tables and lug many cases of heavy bells) as well as the regular choir. After the services, everyone started walking out the door without helping break down or put things away. I asked someone if they could help, and they said “Well, we have families!” I was there for 1.5 hours cleaning up. I no longer work in a church and never will again.

    1. Narise*

      At our church we struggled to get volunteers for during services to stay/work with younger kids. Nursery was usually covered but 4-12 year olds needed volunteers. Deacons solved the problem by having the kids stay in the service for two Sunday’s in a row. After that we got volunteers.

    2. SechsKatzen*

      Easter (and Holy Week generally) is the worst for church musicians, though Christmas isn’t much better. And yes, it’s often “run out as quickly as possible and not put anything away.” Of course, it usually doesn’t take that much time if everyone stays and helps (30 minutes tops most times).

  55. GobbleWobble*

    For most of my retail career in a small town, this was the unofficial policy- but they did have time & a half, so it helped a little. When I later worked in cooking-centric retail, and it was basically all hands on deck for pre-Thanksgiving- no preference, no bonus time.

    I don’t think it’s right to value-judge others’ lives- not everyone feels up to having their life examined and judged this way. I can’t have kids. I don’t tell everyone. I have an ailing relative- it’s not something I like to talk about. It just doesn’t seem like a humane approach…

  56. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    Oof, that would make me livid. My kids are now adults and I no longer have a spouse. But I have a mother who’s past 80, who lost her husband of 50 years five years ago, and who looks forward to celebrating holidays with us for a good part of a year. At least mine lives close and we can be flexible about when to celebrate, but I somehow have no problem putting myself into the shoes of those of my coworkers who have to travel out of state to see their families. Or the ones with multiple siblings where the only way the whole family would be able to get together is on a holiday. What’s so special about having young children in the house that it takes priority over all of that? I don’t get it. I was on 24/7 on-call support from the time my children were 4 and 7, to when they were 11 and 13. My on-call weeks sometimes fell on holiday weeks. The kids somehow survived. We never had to skip Christmas or cancel the gifts because of that. I get it that not working on a holiday is better than having to work on one, but if everyone takes turns and plays fair, then it won’t even be that often.

  57. 1.5 years til Retirement*

    my mother was a nurse for many many years. She had four children. She volunteered each year for Christmas shifts and we all knew present opening was a 4 pm after she got home. We all survived.