Juneteenth so far only partially embraced by private sector

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Juneteenth is a relatively new holiday, and private firms are in varying stages of embracing it.

The holiday, adopted by the federal government last year and the state government this year, is still not treated as a paid day off by most of the large companies sampled by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week. Most that replied to questions instead praised the holiday or said they were taking part in its commemoration, even if they were not giving paid time off.

One that has made Juneteenth a paid holiday is Porsche Cars North America, Inc., a subsidiary of the German carmaker.

Juneteenth is “the monumental day that changed the course of history for the United States,” said Erika Burk, vice president of human resources at Porsche. “We are proud to stand in honor of Juneteenth and celebrate this historical milestone.”

Juneteenth got its name as a shortening of “June Nineteenth,” the day in 1865 when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to take control of the state from the seditionists who had supported the Confederacy during the Civil War. The Emancipation Proclamation had been signed by President Abraham Lincoln two years earlier, and Robert E. Lee had surrendered his troops in April 1865, but slavery had continued in Texas until those U.S. troops arrived.

The end of Reconstruction in 1877 and the imposition of Jim Crow laws undid many of the gains the former slaves had made. Still, Juneteenth was long commemorated among Black people and finally adopted as a federal holiday in 2021, the first new U.S. holiday since the adoption in 1983 of a day off to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.

Because Juneteenth falls on a weekend, the holiday this year will be observed on Monday.

After the murder of George Floyd in 2020, many companies voiced support for the Black Lives Matter movement and one way to demonstrate respect was to recognize Juneteenth, said Colleen Madden, a vice president with the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, which tracks company behavior.

Government typically gives a paid day off to all employees as soon as a holiday is approved. But it is too soon to have a precise picture of how quickly the private sector is incorporating the holiday, she said.

“We don’t have any good data on this,” Madden said. “Although anecdotally, we do know of companies who made this an official holiday over the last two years.”

Among the companies that have embraced Juneteenth as a paid holiday is Truist. The bank will be closed on Monday, and will light its Charlotte headquarters building in red, yellow, green and black for two days to celebrate the holiday, a spokesperson told the AJC.

Home Depot’s stores are open, a spokeswoman said, but as with all federal holidays, overtime is paid for any hours worked.

A number of companies said they are allowing employees to take Juneteenth as one of their “floating holidays,” or personal time off, paid days off that are selected by the worker. Among those are Chick-fil-A, Coca-Cola, Delta Air Lines, UPS, YKK America, and Cox Enterprises, which owns the AJC.

Newell Brands said employees are encouraged to participate in events to commemorate the day.

“In recognition of Juneteenth and the emancipation of Black enslaved people in the United States, Newell Brands will be proudly highlighting Teaching for Change, a nonprofit partner of the Newell Brands Charitable Foundation,” the company said in a statement.

The company is also hosting guest speaker, Chamique Holdsclaw, a former professional basketball player and activist.

A number of companies did not respond to inquiries from the AJC about Juneteenth. Among them: Arby’s, Equifax, Kia Motors, Mohawk Industries and NCR.


Who’s working, who’s not

Here’s a sampling of how some companies are handling the new holiday.

Atlanta Hawks and State Farm Arena — Paid holiday.

Chick-fil-A – Not a paid holiday, but staff members can use one of their floating holidays or other paid time off (PTO) if they choose.

Coca-Cola – Employees can use one of their “floating holidays or hours designated for volunteerism.”

Cox Enterprises – Employees may take the day using PTO.

Delta Air Lines – Employees can use floating holiday or take PTO.

Habitat for Humanity — Paid holiday.

Home Depot – Stores are open. But, as with all federal holidays, overtime is paid for any hours worked.

Metro Atlanta Chamber – Paid holiday

Newell Brands – Juneteenth activities planned for the day, but not a paid day off.

OFS – Employees may choose to take off Juneteenth using their PTO.

Porsche North America – Paid holiday.

Southern Co. – Not a day off.

Truist – Paid holiday.

UPS Employees may use PTO for the day.

YKK America Employees can use floating holiday or take PTO.