Jun 19, 2023 - Economy

Juneteenth grows as a state holiday and paid day off

Illustration of the Juneteenth flag next to a desk calendar dated June 19.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Two years after Juneteenth became the 11th federal holiday, more companies are giving their employees the day off and a growing number of states are recognizing it as a public holiday.

Driving the news: At least 28 states and Washington, D.C., are legally recognizing Juneteenth — a day celebrating Black emancipation from enslavement — as a public holiday this year with government offices closed, according to a Pew Research Center analysis.

  • Other states commemorate Juneteenth as a day of observance and cities across the country have also declared it an official paid holiday.

Context: Juneteenth recognizes the day in 1865 when enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas, learned they were free, which came more than two months after the Civil War ended.

  • Attempts to make Juneteenth into a holiday like Memorial Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day gained traction in 2020 amid discussions of racial injustice following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

What's happening: Juneteenth is a new public holiday this year for Connecticut, Minnesota, Nevada and Tennessee.

  • California also added Juneteenth as a state holiday this year and state employees can take it off "in lieu of receiving a personal holiday," according to the state's human resources department.
  • Alabama and West Virginia governor proclamations have authorized Juneteenth as a state holiday, though not a permanent one.
  • North Carolina allows some state workers to take off one paid day of "cultural or religious importance," which includes Juneteenth.

Most businesses open but banks, USPS closed

State of play: New data from the Mercer consulting firm found that 39% of private employers have made Juneteenth a paid company holiday up from 33% in 2022 — a major jump from 9% in 2021.

  • In some industries, providing the day off for Juneteenth is quickly becoming the norm, Shauna Bryngelson, Mercer's national growth, innovation and absence leader, told Axios.
  • In financial services, 63% of employers are now providing paid time off for the day, Mercer’s survey of 721 organizations found this year.
  • U.S. stock markets, banks and the U.S. Postal Service are closed Monday in observance.

What's next: An additional 7% of employers said in Mercer's survey that they are considering making Juneteenth a holiday next year.

  • "As more employers take this step, we expect the momentum will build," Bryngelson said.
  • Julie Stich, vice president of content at the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, also said there could be an uptick next year.
  • Stich also said some companies are looking at adding another floating holiday or modifying their PTO structure for employees who might want to take off for Juneteenth.

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