Juneteenth National Independence Day (June 19) became a federal legal public holiday last year. With the second federal observance of Juneteenth right around the corner, employers may have questions about the impact on their operations. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about the holiday.
Q: What is Juneteenth?
A: Juneteenth is a holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. The date of June 19 is significant because on that day in 1865, word reached enslaved individuals in Texas that they were free. Communities have been celebrating Juneteenth since 1866. Many states already recognize Juneteenth as a holiday.
Q: Are private employers required to offer employees paid time off on Juneteenth?
A: Unless obligated by contract or agreement, private employers are generally not required to provide paid time off to non-exempt employees (those entitled to minimum wage and overtime) on any holiday*, including Juneteenth. However, if your company closes on Juneteenth (or any other holiday), exempt employees (those who meet specific salary and duties requirements) must generally still receive their full salary, as long as they work any part of the workweek.
* Note: Under federal and many state laws, employers are generally required to provide reasonable accommodations for employees' sincerely held religious beliefs and practices, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the business. This may include providing time off for religious observances.
Q: What if I offer paid time off on other legal public holidays, must I include Juneteenth?
A: Employers may generally choose which (if any) holidays to observe as paid ones. Given the significance of Juneteenth, employers may want to recognize it as a paid holiday. Employers should also consider equity and consistency when developing and applying pay practices for holidays.
Q: How are most employers handling Juneteenth this year?
A: Many employers have joined the list of companies that have made a practice of observing Juneteenth as a paid holiday. Other employers will continue to offer floating holidays that employees can use on any day, including Juneteenth. Some employers are also recognizing Juneteenth in the workplace through companywide communications and events.
Q: If we remain open on Juneteenth, am I required to pay non-exempt employees a premium for working that day now that it's a federal holiday?
A: Under federal law, there's generally no requirement to pay non-exempt employees a premium for working on a holiday, unless it results in the employee working more than 40 hours in the workweek. However, there are exceptions in some states where some employers may be required to provide premium pay regardless of how many hours the employee worked. For example, Massachusetts requires retail establishments with seven or more employees (including the owner) to pay a premium of 1.1 times the employee's regular rate for work on Juneteenth, Sundays, and certain other legal holidays in 2022 (this premium-pay requirement will end in 2023). Absent a state requirement, some employers choose to offer premium pay to employees as an incentive to work on a holiday.
Q: Can I require employees to work on Juneteenth?
A: Check your state law, which may have restrictions. For example, Massachusetts prohibits certain employers from requiring employees to work on Juneteenth (and certain other holidays) as well as Sundays.
Q: Juneteenth falls on a Sunday this year. When will it be observed by employers?
A: Since June 19 is on a Sunday this year, the federal government will observe Juneteenth on the following Monday. Many employers will follow the same practice.
Q: What if Monday is also our payday?
A: The Federal Reserve and banks will be closed on Monday for Juneteenth, so direct deposits generally won't be posted to employees' accounts on that day. Keep in mind that some states require payment on the preceding business day if a scheduled payday falls on a holiday. Absent such a requirement, employers generally have the option of paying employees on the business day before or after the holiday. When your check date falls on a bank holiday and you wish to pay employees the day before, adjust your check date to avoid delaying payroll delivery.
Make sure you understand the rules that apply to your business and clearly communicate, and consistently apply, your policies on holidays.