On June 17th, 2021, U.S. President Joe Biden signed into law the declaration that Juneteenth - June 19th - would be held as a federal holiday. Because Juneteenth falls on a Saturday this year, June 18th was celebrated as a federal holiday in its place.
Today, we're going to cover more of the history behind Juneteenth and what federal workers can expect from its status as a new holiday.
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What Is Juneteenth?
On June 19th, 1865, the formerly enslaved people of the U.S. were officially declared free under the terms of the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862.
Since that date, many Americans have celebrated Juneteenth as an important holiday in the history of American, particularly within the context of the Civil Rights movement.
What Changes Now That Juneteenth is a Federal Holiday?
Biden announced the establishment of Juneteenth as a federal holiday on June 17th, effectively giving businesses that wished to celebrate the holiday and nonessential government offices one day's notice.
For businesses such as Nike that already planned to observe Juneteenth as a holiday prior to Biden's announcement, the late notice didn't impact operations. Other businesses, such as Stanley Black & Decker, moved quickly to notify employees of the new holiday and observe it, while others announced they would wait a year to observe Juneteenth due to the lateness of the announcement.
In the federal government, many "nonessential" government offices closed to observe the new holiday. However, other offices - such as the U.S. Postal Service - stayed open, expressing support for the decision but stating that closing on such short notice would cause significant disruptions to operations. Additionally, some federal courts shut down, as did some schools.
Overall, the celebration of Juneteenth this year at the federal and state level was sporadic thanks to the relative suddenness of the announcement.
However, in future years, federal employees should expect to celebrate Juneteenth as they would any other federal holiday, such as Independence or Memorial Day. Similarly, many non-federal businesses will probably begin to recognize Juneteenth as a holiday, particularly those who already give federal holidays off to employees.
At The Law Firm of John P. Mahoney, Esq., Attorneys at Law, we work with clients to handle employment litigation disputes at the federal level. To schedule a consultation with our team and work with an experienced attorney, contact our team online or via phone at (202) 759-7780.