Should Your Business Offer Juneteenth as a Paid Holiday?

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



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?

Currently, there is no requirement under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) that requires private employers to offer paid time off for anything. 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. Because these policies are not consolidated in one easy place to find for a quick reference, 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 a federal holiday 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 a bank holiday or observance, not all states have been able to set aside funding to include it as a paid holiday for state employees. 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.

How to Recognize Juneteenth as a New Paid Holiday

If you have reviewed your organizational needs and determined you are able to add Juneteenth in the workplace or as a paid holiday 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, whether employees will be allowed to work despite it being a holiday -- and if so, if it’s at an increased holiday pay 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, whether it’s just for full-time employees or includes part-time employees – if part-time employees are included, 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 for a specific day only 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 it 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.

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.

Are You Considering Adding Juneteenth as a Paid Holiday?

Juneteenth is a holiday that celebrates the ending of slavery in the United States. 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.

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