With Congress’ recent vote to make Juneteenth (June 19th) a federal holiday, we’ve created a guide for HR and Employers on commemorating the holiday in the workplace (whether you’re remote or in-person). In addition to a quick recap on the history of Juneteenth, we want to serve as a resource for HR managers everywhere by providing ideas for honoring Juneteenth in the workplace – even if your workforce is still remote!
Despite the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation that formally freed enslaved people two years prior, about 250,000 people remained enslaved in Texas – which was one of the most isolated slave states. On June 19, 1865 Gordon Granger, Union general, arrived in Galveston, Texas with the federal orders that all of the enslaved people there were free.
It became an official state holiday in Texas on January 1, 1980. Although it’s not yet a federal holiday (The National Juneteenth It was an observed holiday in 47 states and Washington, D.C but not a federal holiday until Wednesday, June 16th of 2021.
It’s the most popular annual celebration of emancipation from slavery in the United States, yet isn’t known by many Americans despite being celebrated like other barbecues and parties around independence – like the 4th of July.
Although most businesses offer federal holidays off, it’s important to note that it isn’t technically required. We decided to offer Juneteenth as a company holiday as part of our continued effort in striving for anti-racism, and as a part of our willingness to improve and have tough conversations. Making diversity a cultural constant, and maintaining an environment of growth and learning is a priority – this is just one way that we demonstrate that.
And we’re in good company – according to Juneteeth.com, companies like Twitter, Square, Nike, Lyft, the NFL, and Quicken Loans are doing the same.
Having a fully digital HRIS means that making updates to company holidays, employee handbooks, or any other policies can be done in seconds – e.g. If you’d like to add a new company holiday to your PTO policy and circulate that information, or if you’d like to update your policies remotely.
From education to action, there are a number of ways that businesses and employees can recognize Juneteenth. Here are just a few ways:
Offer PTO for Observance: Whether people use their time off for volunteering, educating themselves more about the holiday, or rest, offering PTO is one of the biggest ways to recognize the holiday.
Volunteer at Local Events: Although many events have likely gone remote, for businesses that are back in the office, this can be an excellent day for team volunteering. Even if you’re not in the office, companies can recognize the holiday through donations or similar charitable acts and contributions.
Self-Educate: Junteenth.com offers a much more detailed “History of Juneteenth” reading that can highlight how the celebrations have looked over the years. They offer even more information in their “About Juneteenth” section.
Attend Virtual Events: There are a number of virtual events including demonstrations, virtual tours, presentations and more taking place during the week. Here are a few:
Discuss DEI Efforts: Continue to open up a racial dialogue and continue educating employees. Consider using this time for reflection to understand what are the experiences of racial and ethnic minorities in the company? People of different religions? People of different abilities or sizes? Diversity, equity and inclusion efforts fall short when they feel like one-day isolated events in an environment that lacks inclusion any other day of the week.
Invite virtual speakers: Activists, historians, and authors who are experts in civil rights and racial justice and reform are just a few examples of people who can be invited as speakers. The local library may be another resource – they can often share materials or host workshops, in addition to any other services around the holiday.
Identify growth opportunities: DEI is an ongoing and continual improvement effort that goes far beyond one day. How can you connect this holiday to the broader organizational efforts? How can you continue to learn and grow? Consider having an open discussion or roundtable around these topics. Perhaps there is a need for policy changes or updates to processes.
And if you do need to make updates or create new policies, GoCo can help you easily create, sign, complete and track all of your documents in one place. Creating “Magic Fields” allows you to place text fields, drop-downs, and signature fields in the spots where something needs to be filled in by an employee.