June 15, 2022

Juneteenth as a Holiday: What Employers Need To Know

This coming Monday, June 20, 2022, will be the second Juneteenth officially recognized as a federal holiday in the U.S. All federal government offices, federal courts, banks, post offices, schools, and the U.S. financial markets will be closed. Many private employers are following suit, although they are not legally required to give employees time off. Also, although Juneteenth is not yet an official state holiday in California, employers should treat Juneteenth in the same manner as all other federal holidays.


Last year, in the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement, President Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, recognizing June 19th as a federal public holiday.

Although President Abraham Lincoln’s January 1863 Emancipation Proclamation officially abolished slavery, it would be over two years before the Civil War ended in April 1865, and even longer before the news spread to all parts of the U.S. Juneteenth marks June 19, 1865, the day that U.S. Brigadier General Gordon Granger and his troops landed at Galveston, Texas, bringing the news that the Civil War had ended and that enslaved African Americans were now free.

Juneteenth is the first new federal holiday approved since Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.

This year, the Juneteenth federal holiday will be observed in the U.S. on Monday, June 20, 2022.

California State Holiday?

While California has not yet designated Juneteenth as a state holiday, a proposal to make Juneteenth a paid holiday for California state employees recently passed unanimously in the Assembly and moved to the Senate. When introduced in May 2022, Assembly Bill 1655, sponsored by Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, would have made June 19 a paid holiday for civil service employees along with those who work for California State University and California Community Colleges. Currently, state employees may use their one annual “personal holiday” to take the day off on June 19th; state employees receive one personal holiday per year in addition to 11 paid holidays.

Next Steps

Employers are taking notice and using the new federal holiday as a way to advance their diversity, equity, and inclusion goals and commitments by closing or operating with skeleton crews on June 19th or 20th. For those employers unable to shut down their operations, they can consider holiday pay premiums for working employees or letting employees use PTO or floating holidays on or around Juneteenth.

Employers should also update their employee handbooks if they are observing Juneteenth as a holiday, paid or otherwise.

For more information, contact Kirstin Muller, a partner in the Los Angeles office of Hirschfeld Kraemer LLP. She can be reached at kmuller@hkemploymentlaw.com or (310) 255-0705.