Is Juneteenth a Paid Holiday? Should Your Business Offer It?

Our company gives paid time off for federal holidays. Should Juneteenth now be included as a paid holiday? Any legal ramifications if not?



Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, is deeply connected to the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. This historical context highlights the significance of Juneteenth as a day of freedom and emancipation.

I was recently asked whether a private company that had always given paid time off (PTO) for federal holidays is obligated to include Juneteenth as a paid holiday.

The short answer is there may be an underlying expectation by employees, but there is no requirement. Here is what employers need to know about giving employees this holiday.

Do Employers Have to Recognize Juneteenth as a Federal Holiday?

Currently, there is no requirement under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) that requires private employers to offer paid time off for any federal holiday or official state holiday. Holiday pay and other paid time off (PTO) is a matter of agreement between the employer and the employee.

Having said that, there may be state or even local laws that require companies of certain sizes and/or industries to offer paid time off to employees for sick or other types of leave. 

Additionally, many states recognize Juneteenth as an official state holiday, with some states providing paid time off for state workers. These policies are not consolidated in one easy place to find for a quick reference, so you will need to either do an online search or contact your certified HR rep for details about your company’s state and local leave requirements.

Who Gets Juneteenth Off?

Since President Joe Biden officially recognized Juneteenth as "Juneteenth National Independence Day" in 2021, federal employees now receive a paid holiday for June 19. This holiday includes employees who work for federal government offices and courts, banks, post offices, schools, and U.S. financial markets. In total, there are 11 federal holidays for which federal employees receive paid time off.

While every state now recognizes Juneteenth as an official holiday or observance, not all states have been able to set aside funding to pay state employees for taking the day off. Check your state laws to determine whether Juneteenth is a paid holiday for your state employees.

Many private employers have also adopted paid time off policies for Juneteenth, although they are not legally required to do so. Review your company’s handbook to determine whether Juneteenth is included as a paid federal holiday.

In some states, employees can take Juneteenth off as a personal holiday, allowing them to choose it as one of their designated personal holidays rather than it being one of the standard paid holidays.

How to Recognize Juneteenth as a New Paid Holiday

If you have reviewed your organizational needs and determined you are able to add Juneteenth to the list of paid holidays for your employees, do the following:

1. Add the holiday to your list of qualifying holidays in your existing holiday policy

If you do not currently have a holiday policy in place, create one with the following:

  • Be specific about what is and is not allowed, that overtime calculations do not include non-worked holiday pay, and whether employees will be allowed to work despite it being a holiday (and if so, if pay will be at an increased holiday rate).

  • Define whether the office will be closed for the day or will remain open with a minimum skeleton crew, how to coordinate time off, rules about making up for those who must work on the holiday, etc.

  • Outline who is eligible for holiday pay such as how long they must be employed and whether it is just for full-time employees or includes part-time employees. If part-time employees are included, specify what average minimum hours they must work to be eligible and that employees must be in good standing with the company.

  • Determine whether the holiday is only for a specific day or if can be used as a floating holiday. If you make it a floating holiday, define how and when they accrue the holiday, if it can be carried over the following year, and if the holiday pay can be cashed out at the end of the year or when they leave the company.

Be cautious about being overly rigid with your holiday policy. Whenever possible, make reasonable accommodations to allow employees to take time off to not only show you care about them but to also avoid claims of discrimination.

Keep in mind that you may need to pay employees on a different day other than Juneteenth, as banks will be closed for the federal holiday.

2. Communicate the addition to employees

Adding a new paid holiday to staff members is a great benefit to promote! Create posters, send emails, write messages on your company’s intranet, and send out a link to the most updated version of your company handbook. Ensure everyone gets word about the new holiday that has been added to your list of employee benefits.

stratus hr can help with all the official state holiday laws and more.

Are You Considering Adding Juneteenth as a Paid Holiday?

Juneteenth is a holiday that celebrates the ending of slavery in the United States. President Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act in 2021, recognizing Juneteenth as a federal holiday. If you are unable to completely close company operations for Juneteenth, see if you can operate with a skeleton crew and encourage employees to use a floating holiday to observe the day.

For help with updating your company holiday policy and/or your employee handbook, please contact your certified HR expert. If you are not a current Stratus HR client, please book a free consultation and our team will contact you shortly.

Similar posts