June 18, 2021
President Biden signed into law legislation passed by Congress this week after objections were lifted that makes Juneteenth a federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. The national recognition gives employers another opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of their Diversity and Inclusion efforts.
Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the day the Union army arrived in Galveston, Texas, and announced that all African American slaves were free in accordance with the Emancipation Proclamation (which had been issued more than two years earlier). The Proclamation was not recognized in Texas until the Union army arrived to enforce it. Currently 47 states recognize Juneteenth as a holiday or day of observation.
Growing number of employers recognize or observe Juneteenth: According to USA Today, 460 companies observe Juneteenth, some by closing, others by observing and providing opportunities for learning, understanding, and reflection. MasterCard offers its global employees “globally the day for service, learning or reflection.” Some retail chains, such as Target and Best Buy, are closing corporate offices and paying retail employees time and a half for all hours worked during the day.
The opportunity for employers: The creation of the federal holiday provides employers a clear, annual opportunity to reflect on whether the company’s words and actions on diversity and inclusion align. The events of the past year have put a sharp focus on those efforts, but the holiday will continue far into the future. As it did this week, the Association’s Council On Inclusion and Diversity will be synthesizing best practices and advocating disclosure approaches that help reinforce sustained progress for underrepresented employees in the workplace.