There were just a few hours between Juneteenth being made the newest federal holiday and it taking effect as a paid day off Friday for most federal government employees.
That left little time for many employers in metro Atlanta to nail down their own plans for whether to close or offer workers a new, immediate holiday.
Private-sector businesses and state and local government employers generally aren’t required to give workers paid time off for federal holidays.
Some, including the city of Atlanta government, planned for the day off long before the federal government’s decision.
But Georgia’s state government employees will remain on the clock. And many of the area’s big employers expect to keep their workers working, at least this year.
Officially, June 19, Juneteenth National Independence Day, recognizes the end of slavery. The holiday was approved earlier this week by Congress and signed into law Thursday afternoon by President Joe Biden. Because the holiday falls on this Saturday, most federal workers will have the day off on Friday.
The U.S. Postal service said it will continue its usual schedule of deliveries Friday and Saturday because “it is not possible to cease the operations” on such short notice for an essential service. It said it “will discuss future recognition of this significant new holiday with our national Unions, Management Associations, and other stakeholders, consistent with our collective bargaining and consultative obligations.”
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp this week signed a proclamation recognizing Juneteenth as a holiday, but it won’t be a paid day off for state employees, according to a spokesman for his office. He cited Georgia state law limiting state office closures to 12 public and legal holidays — not a day more or less. The state already has 12 in place.
The ACLU of Georgia called on the state to add Juneteenth to that list and drop Columbus Day.
Some banks are wrestling with their own plans.
“A number of banks that operate in Georgia will be closing early Friday and on Saturday in observance of the new Juneteenth federal holiday,” said Joe Brannen, the CEO of the Georgia Bankers Association. “Some may choose to remain open this year because of short notice of the new federal holiday in order to serve customers who get paid on Friday, for example.”
But in an email to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he wrote that it is reasonable to assume that banks may close for the holiday in the future.
Georgia law allows banks to close on legal holidays, which can include federal holidays even if they aren’t also state government holidays, according to the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance.
Some local businesses made Juneteenth a paid holiday for the first time last year, among them tech company Mailchimp, law firm Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, crowdsourced delivery company Roadie and the Atlanta Hawks. Because many Hawks staffers will work Friday due to the team’s playoff game, some will take Monday off instead.
The Metro Atlanta Chamber had already decided to make Juneteenth a paid holiday for its staff, starting this year.
A spokesman for Delta Air Lines said the carrier doesn’t currently have Juneteenth as a company holiday. Nor does Wellstar Health System. A Coca-Cola Co. spokesman did not have an immediate comment Thursday.
Both Southern Company, which is the parent of Georgia Power and Atlanta Gas Light, as well as Cox Enterprises, which owns the AJC, said they will take the new law into consideration for their 2022 holiday schedule.
Home Depot stores will remain open — they only schedule closings for Christmas and Thanksgiving, according to a spokeswoman. The retailer hasn’t made it a paid holiday, but “we’ll host a virtual event for associates to come together, have open conversation and celebrate the day.”
Last year the Atlanta City Council passed an ordinance adding Juneteenth to the list of paid city holidays. Friday will be the first time city employees take it.
In July 2020, DeKalb County made Juneteenth an official paid holiday for county workers. Last year, Juneteenth corresponded with the removal of a Confederate monument that had stood in Decatur’s downtown square since the early 1900s.
Cobb County doesn’t observe Juneteenth as an employee holiday, according to county spokesman Ross Cavitt.
— Mark Niesse, J.D. Capelouto, Matt Bruce, Zach Hansen, Michael Kanell and Kelly Yamanouchi contributed to this article.
About the Author