Increase Inclusiveness by Recognizing Juneteenth in the Workplace - American Society of Employers - Emily Price

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Increase Inclusiveness by Recognizing Juneteenth in the Workplace

juneteenthAs you put together your 2023 holiday calendar, have you considered Juneteenth? Since June 2021, Juneteenth National Independence Day (“Juneteenth”) is recognized as a U.S. federal holiday.  According to a survey performed by Harvard Business Review, only 41% of U.S. workers were aware of Juneteenth prior to 2020.   Why the date, June 19th, you ask? On this date in the year 1865, Union soldiers arrived in Texas to announce that the Civil War was over, and slavery had been abolished.

To give some backstory, on January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves in the states that were in rebellion against the Union, aka the Confederate states.  Unfortunately, the Union troops did not reach Texas, the westernmost Confederate state, to enforce the order until June 19, 1865 (two and a half years later).  To put it simply, June 19 is a remembrance of freedom for Black Americans.  Because of this, and the history surrounding the event, it is important for employers to recognize Juneteenth as well as other non-minority holidays to ensure a welcoming workplace for all.

Juneteenth has increasingly become a topic of conversation, especially since we are now in the second year that it has been acknowledged as a federal holiday.  It is wise for companies to start recognizing this holiday, if not already, and emphasize its importance and history.   According to ASE’s 2023 Holiday Schedule & Practices Survey, only 12% of the companies that responded include Juneteenth as a paid holiday. Fortunately, this amount is an increase from the previous year’s result of 7%.  Other than offering Juneteenth as a paid holiday, there are many ways a company can support Juneteenth in the workplace.  Below is a list of a few ways to help your company get started.

  1. Make it a conversation.  Some employees may feel hesitant to speak about their racial/cultural background.  It is important to encourage open discussion and to maintain a workplace that is open and accepting of all backgrounds.
  2. Facilitate a company-wide event. Juneteenth is a holiday that many employees may wish to celebrate. Organizing a company-sponsored event with activities such as guest speakers, open discussion, films, music, and food can show employees a sense of appreciation.
  3. Include Juneteenth in your company’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) goals. Incorporating Juneteenth in a company’s DEI goals can help further build DEI in the workplace and portray that your company is making diversity and inclusion a priority. Along with this, companies can share updates with employees about what the leadership team is doing to increase DEI within the company itself.
  4. Donate to a local non-profit in honor of Juneteenth.  Allowing employees to choose an organization to make a donation to encourages company participation on all levels, as opposed to only management. It also can spread awareness of some local organizations that employees may not be aware of and create partnerships.
  5. Ask your employees how they want the company to honor Juneteenth.  Welcoming suggestions shows the employees that your company genuinely cares and wishes to celebrate diversity. It also facilitates a sense of feeling heard.
  6. Offer a training course.  Connecting employees with information on Juneteenth can help broaden the understanding and meaning of it for those who may not be familiar with the background.   In doing so, it has the potential to create a company-wide understanding and highlight how far we have come as a nation.
  7. Think long-term.  Even after your company implements certain things in recognition of Juneteenth, it does not stop there.  Therefore, it is important to continue to improve your company’s DEI goals, spread awareness, and make your workplace as inviting and comfortable as it can be.  

ASE members can access the full 2023 Holiday Schedule & Practices Survey report in the ASE Member Dashboard.  Non-members, request to purchase here.


Source: How Your Organization Can Recognize Juneteenth by Ella F. Washington & Jasmine Sanders, June 17, 2021 


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