Thanksgiving is a day traditionally filled with food, family and football, and while most workers will be able to spend the day off eating turkey, sleeping in or hitting up holiday store sales, some employees will find themselves on the clock.
In a recent survey of 387 employers, Bloomberg Law found that 97 percent of employers will provide paid time off for all or most of their employees on Thanksgiving, while 78 percent will give employees a fully paid four-day weekend.
“A robust economy may be the reason behind so many employers being so generous with time off during the holiday,” said Molly Huie, manager of surveys and reports at Bloomberg BNA. “Even though most employers are giving a full four-day holiday weekend, a third of them still say they need at least some workers in the office: those responsible for the essential operations.”
Still, the nationwide survey found that one in three employers will require at least some employees to work on Thanksgiving.
Employees responsible for service and maintenance or security and public safety support are most likely to be required to work on Thanksgiving, the survey found. Seventeen percent of maintenance businesses and 16 percent of security and public safety companies will require at least some employees to hold the fort on the holiday.
That’s the case at Atlantic Westchester, a commercial heating, ventilation and air conditioning company that covers Westchester, Fairfield and Putnam counties and portions of New York City. Though the company’s offices are closed for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, technicians remain on call to handle any issues that may arise.
“Holidays are busy if we have extreme weather,” like an excessively hot Fourth of July or torrents of snow on Christmas, said Atlantic Westchester president Bud Hammer. “The equipment we service works harder during extreme weather and that’s when problems can surface.”
Years ago, he said, the company decided internally to trade a day off on Veteran’s Day, a union holiday, for Black Friday. “A four-day weekend gives everyone a well-deserved break and offers time for travel or hanging out with the family,” Hammer said.
It’s not all bad news for those who will be required to punch the clock on Thanksgiving. According to Bloomberg, 85 percent of organizations surveyed that plan to have at least some employees work on Thanksgiving will provide them with some form of extra compensation.
For Atlantic Westchester, a union trade contractor, that means overtime pay during the holidays.
Aside from a bump in pay, the Bloomberg survey found that those who do work on Thanksgiving should not expect to take home any extra gifts or feast on the job. Only 23 percent of employers plan to give their employees gifts or host holiday meals, and only 3 percent of organizations will give out a turkey.
The survey also found that the larger the company, the more likely it would require some employees to clock in. Sixty-three percent of organizations with more 1,000 employees will require some to pull a holiday shift compared to 22 percent of small organizations.
Companies most likely to shut down all operations during the holiday are in the manufacturing industry, the study found, with 91 percent of manufacturers indicating they will provide a paid holiday for employees on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. That compares with 75 percent of surveyed companies outside manufacturing and non-business organizations such as schools and hospitals that plan to do the same.
“Illness and accidents don’t respect holidays,” said Lewis Kohl, chief medical information officer at CareMount Medical, the multispecialty medical group headquartered in Mount Kisco. “Health care services are needed 365 days a year.”
Holidays like Thanksgiving, when most medical offices are closed, can be days when patients need medical services the most.
“For example, overindulgence during the holidays leads to increased consumption of salt, sugar, fats and alcohol, not ideal for the diabetic and heart patients among us,” Kohl said. Increased travel and accidents at home can also lead to an uptick in patients during the holiday season.
“Car accidents, falls and slicing of fingers during food preparation are common reasons for visits to our CareMount Medical urgent care centers during the holidays,” he said.
Many area restaurants will also be open for business on Thanksgiving. Some, like La Cremaillere in Bedford and Peter Pratt’s Inn in Yorktown Heights, will offer specials for customers who choose to skip the do-it-yourself meal and opt for an evening out.
Equus Restaurant at Castle Hotel & Spa in Tarrytown has long made a practice of staying open for the holiday, hoping to entice customers with a meal with all the fixings: roasted, herb-stuffed turkey, butternut squash soup and, of course, pumpkin cheesecake.
That won’t be the case at Blockheads, though, an eatery that offers a healthier spin on Mexican food with locations in New York City and White Plains. Any customers looking for their taco fix will find their doors closed on Thanksgiving.
“There are a lot of restaurants that these holidays are make-or-break for them,” said Ken Sofer, co-owner of Blockheads. “We’re a burrito joint. It’s not so much (that way) for us.”
Sofer said Thanksgiving is one of three days his businesses shut their doors, the others being Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
“I think it’s just important to let these people have some time with their families on these holidays,” he said. “These people need the time. They need some time with their families, because they work really hard.”
That time is especially important, he said, for those in the food service industry. “In the restaurant business, you’re always working when people are off,” he said.
Sofer will be shutting the doors of his own establishments, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be spending Thanksgiving in the kitchen at home.
“We’re going out to a restaurant, so somebody is going to work for us that night,” he said with a laugh. “It ain’t going to be my employees, but somebody is going to be serving me.”