Don’t be surprised if no one is answering the phones at Brody and Associates on June 19th. The number of private employers offering Juneteenth as a paid holiday continues to grow and has jumped significantly over the last three years. Last year, nearly one-third of all private employers gave their employees a paid day off. This year that number is expected to grow close to 45%, which is up from just 8% in 2020. These numbers are in addition to the federal employers and contractors who are already required to provide Juneteenth as a paid holiday.
For those not in the know, Juneteenth is the day that commemorates June 19, 1865, the day when Union soldiers informed enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas, that they were free. This news came more than two months after the Civil War ended – and is viewed as the day slavery ended in the United States.
So why the sudden surge in social awareness more than 150 years later? Here are just a few reasons. There was national furor that followed the 2020 murder of George Floyd, resulting in demands for social justice. Organizations are now scrutinizing their diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. And there has been a rising awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement.
In addition to simply giving Juneteenth off as a paid holiday, many employers are hosting events around the holiday to advocate for the advancement of Black employees. Employers are providing important recognition of historical systemic racism and suggesting employees and employers alike reflect on these issues.
The push for recognition of the holiday has also been bolstered by President Biden signing Juneteenth into law as a federal holiday in 2021. Since then, several cities and states across the country have followed suit. In 2022, 24 states recognized Juneteenth as a state holiday, Connecticut will become the 25 this year, and cities like New York City and Los Angeles have also designated it as a paid city holiday.
Regardless of your politics, Juneteenth is a movement sweeping the country. Each employer should evaluate if and how they individually want to recognize Juneteenth in their own workplace. Considerations should include both your personal beliefs, your workforce and your customer base.
Brody and Associates regularly advises management on complying with the latest local, state and federal employment laws. If we can be of assistance in this area, please contact us at email@example.com or 203.454.0560.