History Has Its Eyes On You, Employers

Most employers provide vacation and holiday leave. Now, employers have a new holiday to add to their roster: Juneteenth.

On June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed a bill establishing Juneteenth, the date marking the end of slavery in the United States, as a federal holiday. (CNBC)

This is a big deal. A very big deal.

Employers don’t have to provide any holiday pay, by law, but they do. It’s smart. People need a break from work, and employers get bonus points from employees when that break is paid. More holidays and other benefits often mean better recruitment, increased retainment, and less attrition. That’s the idea, anyway.

Plus, so many holidays honor what’s so important to Americans: Veterans Day to celebrate our vets, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Memorial Day, and, of course, the date we became an actual country – July 4th. To some these are just paid days off, but to others, these holidays hold deep meaning within the fabric of their lives.

After this past year, Juneteenth is sure to be one of them.

Image by Wynn Pointaux from Pixabay

For employers, the recognition of Juneteenth by the Biden Administration – which gives public employees the day off, and applies, by extension, to private employers if they choose to provide the leave- is pivotal to something we talk a lot about—inclusivity.

Inclusivity goes a long way, employers, toward maintaining a cohesive, respectful organizational culture.

As I explained here and here, “diversity” refers to the components of a workplace while “inclusion” measures how fair and inclusive the interactions and practices are within that workplace. Inclusivity is about the employee’s experience and how an employee feels (s)he or they is treated.

A diverse workplace has individuals who represent different races, national origins, ethnicities, genders, ages, and the like. It embraces cultural differences in the workplace.

If your organizational culture has suffered in this past year – what with civil unrest the likes of which we have not seen since the 1960’s – consider whether the workplace culture is one that fosters respect and recognizes the value of its Black employees and how this past year has affected them.

Will adding recognition of Juneteenth in your Employee Handbook solve all workplace culture problems? Unlikely. But, it can move the needle. It is action, and it shows employees that their employers see them and recognize the significance of calling Juneteenth a holiday.

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Amy Epstein Gluck

Amy Epstein Gluck has represented individuals and corporate clients in Virginia, Washington, D.C., and various federal district courts for more than twenty years. Ms. Epstein Gluck’s current practice areas include employment law—advising on and drafting employment agreements; handling employment negotiations, severance agreements, noncompete and nondisclosure agreements, “wrongful terminations” and other EEO matters; representation at the EEOC level; advising employers about discrimination laws and how to remain in compliance, and employment negotiations.