I suspect from what you say that you and your co-workers are hourly employees employed at will. I know of no general principle of law that requires employers to give notice that an office is closing for a holiday a certain amount of time beforehand.
Not legal advice as I don't practice law in California. It's just my two cents on your question in light of general principles of law. If you need legal advice, please consult a lawyer who holds California licensure. That's not me.
Good luck and enjoy your days off.
Unfortunately, this is one of the downsides of working for a small employer. They often do not have policies and handbooks which spell out what to expect and may make scheduling decisions on the spur of the moment. While it may be unfair to spring surprises on employees, it is not illegal. We simply do not have laws that require employers to provide advance schedules to employees, unless negotiated for in the form of a contract (usually through a union). Nor is an employer required to make up the lost time. There is no law that requires holiday pay.
If your employer is someone you think you can talk to, without getting defensive, try approaching him in a professional manner, and explain the hardship his decisions cause on his employees. Perhaps you could suggest he invest in some form of an employee handbook, which spells out what his personnel policies are, including holiday schedules, vacations, etc., so everyone knows what to expect. There are many firms out there that create such handbooks for employers, catered to their individual needs, and to make sure the policies conform to California law. Every employer, no matter how small, should have one.
If you cannot discuss such things with this employer, or the inconsistent behavior continues to such a degree you find it intolerable, it may be best to look for work elsewhere.
They say you get what you pay for, and this response is free, so take it for what it is worth. This is my opinion based on very limited information. My opinion should not be taken as legal advice. For true advice, we would require a confidential consultation where I would ask you questions and get your complete story. This is a public forum, so remember, nothing here is confidential. Nor am I your attorney. I do not know who you are and you have not hired me to provide any legal service. To do so would require us to meet and sign written retainer agreement. My responses are intended for general information only.
I agree with Mr. Kirschbaum and write to suggest you take a look at my Avvo guide on California's at-will employment law. This should help you have a better understanding of the rights and responsibilities that employers have, and employees have. The guide won't give you any relief for your current problem, but it will provide information so you can protect yourself more effectively in the future.
*** All legal actions have time limits, called statutes of limitation. If you miss the deadline for filing your claim, you will lose the opportunity to pursue your case. Please consult with an experienced employment attorney as soon as possible to better preserve your rights. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer provides information on Avvo as a service to the public, primarily when general information may be of assistance. Avvo is not an appropriate forum for an in-depth response or a detailed analysis. These comments are for information only and should not be considered legal advice. Legal advice must pertain to specific, detailed facts. No attorney-client relationship is created based on this information exchange. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer is licensed to practice law before all state and federal courts in California, and can appear before administrative agencies throughout the country. She is eligible to represent clients in other states on a pro hac vice basis. ***