Is Thanksgiving Day a Recognized Holiday in All Fifty States? Using Fifty-State Surveys to Find the Answer!

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Did you know that Thanksgiving Day is designated as a public holiday by federal law? Under 5 U.S.C. §6103, there are ten days recognized as legal public holidays by the federal government. For those of us who love our turkey with all the fixins, it is certainly good news that Thanksgiving Day is protected by federal statute!

While you were likely already familiar with the list of federal holidays, you might not know that most states also have their own statutes recognizing state legal holidays. These statutes tend to include the major federal public holidays, but they also include unique days in honor of important individuals in each state’s history. One way to quickly locate these holiday statutes is by utilizing a fifty-state survey. This blog post will walk you through using a variety of databases to locate fifty-state surveys.

What is a fifty-state survey, and why is it useful?

Fifty-state surveys are surveys of state law, usually of statutes or regulations, on specific legal topics. If you are tasked with researching the law in multiple jurisdictions, or if you are working on comparative legal research, a fifty-state survey is an efficient way to locate relevant law.

UNC Law students have access to a variety of different databases that all provide fifty-state surveys. In today’s blog post, I will be using the surveys in HeinOnline, Lexis Plus, and Westlaw Edge to search for a fifty-state survey that outlines state holiday statutes.

HeinOnline’s Fifty-State Surveys

HeinOnline offers two databases containing fifty-state surveys. The National Survey of State Laws, provides an overview of “sought-after and controversial legal topics in the United States.” This collection can be navigated either by legal practice area or topic. Each topic is connected to a fifty-state survey that lists the relevant state statutes and typically provides summaries of the law.

Luckily for me, this collection offers a handy fifty-state survey on “Legal Holidays,” which includes the relevant statutory code citations and lists of recognized holidays.

HeinOnline’s second database of fifty-state surveys, Subject Compilations of State Laws, is for those researchers looking for more abstract or not-so-easily classified surveys. This collection allows you to either browse a large index of terms or to search using your own key terms. It then runs your search against thousands of articles, books, government documents, loose-leaf services, court opinions, and websites for any fifty-state surveys on your area of interest. This database identifies fifty-state surveys completed as a part of larger projects, so it is a powerful catch-all tool for locating these surveys.

For this blog post, I ran a basic keyword search for “holidays” and received nearly sixty survey sources from resources as different as tax treatises and human resource manuals. I can see that legal holidays surveys are included in my search results.   

Westlaw Edge & Lexis Plus

Westlaw Edge has a dedicated space for fifty-state statutory and regulatory surveys, located in the left-hand sidebar of its Statutes & Court Rules content page and in its Secondary Sources content page. You can also access fifty-state surveys by searching "50 state surveys" in the main search bar. (Search Tip: Using the number "50" is important! If you try to search by spelling out "fifty," you will not have access to the keyword search bar to build your own searches!)

The surveys available through Westlaw Edge are curated for complex legal research issues, and I was unable to find one specifically outlining state holidays. However, you can run advanced keyword searches or use their topic structure to browse through available surveys.

Lexis Plus also offers users access to fifty-state surveys on statutes and regulations. The surveys are organized topically, and Lexis allows you to search within the surveys using the main keyword search box. I ran a search for “holidays” and received fourteen search results highlighting possible surveys from banking, employment, and healthcare law. This was a broad search that returned some unrelated content, but my most relevant search result - “Legal and Bank Holidays” survey - was on point.

Finally, Lexis and Westlaw also both offer tools that allow you to construct your own fifty state surveys. Be sure to try out Lexis's State Law Comparison Tool or Westlaw's State Q&A Comparison Toolto create your own targeted surveys.

National Conference of State Legislators

Finally, it would not be a survey of fifty-state survey databases if I didn’t mention a free resource. The National Conference of State Legislators is one of the best free outlets for fifty-state surveys. In addition to offering fifty-state surveys on a variety of topical areas of interest, the NCSL also offers fifty-state searchable bill tracking. This feature allows you to monitor the progress of pending legislation on specific topics across the United States.

My quick review of fifty-state surveys on legal holidays reassured me that, yes, Thanksgiving Day is statutorily recognized as a legal holiday in all fifty states. So fear not, UNC law students! No matter where you practice in the United States, you will likely always enjoy a holiday on Thanksgiving Day!


Posted by Melissa M. Hyland on Tue. November 17, 2020 10:00 AM
Categories: Uncategorized


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