Celebrating Juneteenth: What Employers Should Know

Celebrating Juneteenth: What Employers Should Know

In 2021, the federal government recognized Juneteenth as a federal holiday, and California followed suit in 2022. Many events are scheduled across the state to celebrate Juneteenth, but what are California employers’ obligations for this upcoming holiday? There may be a couple, depending on their holiday policy.

Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, commemorates the day in history, June 19, 1865, when slavery in the United States officially came to end after enslaved individuals in Texas finally heard that they were free — two and a half years after then-President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

And on Juneteenth this year, which falls on a Wednesday, there are countless events to celebrate — including more than 20 in the Bay Area alone, many across Southern California and at least 11 in Los Angeles County. Many celebrations take place the weekends before and after the official day, some are weeklong extravaganzas, and many are held on the actual holiday itself: Wednesday, June 19.

In California employers are neither required to offer employees time off for federal or state holidays, nor pay for time for holidays granted — and employers that do offer paid holidays choose the holidays that are observed.

So, if an employer recognizes such holidays as Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Cesar Chavez Day and Veteran’s Day, for instance, it may want to also recognize Juneteenth as a paid holiday in the name of not only consistency, but also inclusion.

And for employers that already recognize Juneteenth as a holiday, remember that if an employee is required to work on this day, the employer must make up the lost benefit in one of the following ways:

  • Paying for all hours worked, plus eight hours of holiday pay at straight time.
  • Paying for all hours worked and providing another day off in lieu of the holiday pay.
  • Paying for all hours worked at a premium rate of pay (not because it is overtime, but because the employee is working on a paid holiday), plus providing:
    • Eight hours of holiday pay at straight time; or
    • Another day off in lieu of the holiday pay.

Also, because Juneteenth is both a holiday listed in the California Government Code and is a banking holiday observed by the Federal Reserve, most major banks (such as, Bank of America, Chase, TD Bank and Wells Fargo) will be closed. So, if payday happens to fall on Juneteenth, employers may pay wages on the next business day: Thursday, June 20, 2024. 

Jessica Mulholland, Managing Editor, CalChamber

CalChamber members can learn more about the ins and outs of Holidays and Timely Payment in the HR Library. CalChamber’s California Harassment Prevention Training can be bundled with our Foundations of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion course — which will not only help employers fulfill their California harassment prevention training but also help participants become more self-aware as they learn to identify behaviors that ensure a welcoming workspace for all individuals. CalChamber Preferred Members and above receive a 20 percent discount. Not a member? Learn how to power your business with a CalChamber membership.

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