Is your organization ready to observe Juneteenth, the nation’s newest federal holiday? We offer a 2-part series on Juneteenth National Independence Day. In part 1, we focus on what employers need to know to be ready for the new holiday. In part 2, we’ll focus on the importance of recommitting to end racism at work.
With the pandemic shutdowns and work-from-home arrangements, employers can be forgiven if the enactment of the nation’s newest federal holiday a year ago slipped by the radar. On June 17, 2021, President Biden signed a bill naming Juneteenth National Independence Day as the newest federal holiday. Previously, June 19 was celebrated in a handful of states throughout the country under various names: Jubilee Day, Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, and Black Independence Day. It marks the end of slavery.
The history of the holiday
- Juneteenth: A Celebration of Resilience. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History & Culture says that Juneteenth is a time to gather as a family, reflect on the past and look to the future. Through a multimedia exhibit, learn more about the history and discover ways to celebrate this African American cultural tradition of music, food and freedom.
- The Washington Post features a fascinating multimedia overview of how Juneteenth evolved and been celebrated in various parts of the country.
- The History of Juneteenth – (note: site may be slow to load)
Time off, pay, and other benefit administrative matters
Since June 19 falls on a Sunday this year, the federal holiday will be observed on Monday June 20th. All non-essential federal government offices will be closed, including the federal bank and post offices. The US stock markets and bond markets will also be closed.
While all 50 states now recognize the new federal holiday, not all states recognize it as a state-paid holiday, but the list of those that do is growing. See the Employee Law Handbook for a list of all federal holidays as well as links to state holidays. Note the section on pay – while federal and state regulations specify leave or additional compensation on holidays, these regulations generally do not extend to private employers:
“Although the federal government and state governments have established public holidays, it does not necessarily mean that all employers are required to give these days off or pay premium pay for working on the designated holidays. In fact, except for private employers in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, no other states or the federal government offices require private jobs to grant time off for any state-designated holidays or pay extra for working.”
For more on holidays and employer obligations:
- Juneteenth Holiday: What Employers Need to Know – a Q&A from ADP
- Federal Holidays and How They Are Paid
- More employers add Juneteenth as a paid holiday this year
- Companies Making Juneteenth A Paid Holiday Say It’s The Right Thing To Do
How employers can celebrate & recognize Juneteenth in the workplace
If you plan to celebrate or mark the holiday in the workplace, it’s important to have it be a meaningful, authentic, and non-commercial event. Maybe it’s a free brown bag lunch with food from a local Black-owned restaurant and a speaker or a panel from the African American studies department of a local college. Maybe it’s a few hours off to volunteer at a local non-profit, or matched donations to local Black-focused nonprofits. Here are ideas and examples of things other organizations are doing.
- How to Celebrate – Information about the holiday along with suggestions for how to celebrate the holiday in the workplace, in the community, and in the home (note: site may be slow to load)
- Celebrating and Understanding Juneteenth
- 3 ways to mark Juneteenth — without cultural appropriation
- Celebrate Juneteenth. But please, let’s not turn it into a consumer holiday
- Companies are celebrating Juneteenth in unique ways
- Ultimate Juneteenth Social Media Toolkit: 2022
- The Juneteenth Federal Holiday and What it Means for Employers
- How companies can celebrate Juneteenth
- Black Joy — Not Corporate Acknowledgment — Is the Heart of Juneteenth
- Juneteenth beyond a day off: How to celebrate year-round