By Kathryn Mayer
A growing number of private employers—including Allstate, Target, KPMG and Nike—are recognizing Juneteenth as a company holiday as employers eye diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) efforts in their benefits strategies.
Nearly 4 in 10 employers (39 percent) now offer June 19 as a paid holiday, according to new data from Mercer. That’s up from the 33 percent of employers that reported offering Juneteenth as a paid holiday last year and up significantly from the 9 percent that offered it in 2021, when it became an officially recognized federal holiday.
“For companies that are focused on DE&I, it’s a very visible way to signal their commitment to this effort,” said Shauna Bryngelson, national growth, innovation and absence leader at Mercer.
The number of private employers offering the day as a paid holiday is in addition to the federal employers that are required to provide the day as a holiday to their employees.
“We’ve seen a big increase from 2020 on the number of employers offering Juneteenth as a paid company holiday,” said Julie Stich, vice president of content at the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP), a nonpartisan group that counts more than 8,200 organizations and 32,000 individuals as members. IFEBP’s own data found that roughly 31 percent of private employers offered Juneteenth as a paid holiday last year, although the group did not survey employers this year. “I’m predicting this number will continue to grow,” Stich said.
Juneteenth—a combination of the words “June” and “nineteenth”—commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas. It’s viewed as the day slavery ended in the United States.
Although the day has been celebrated for several decades, momentum for its recognition grew during the past couple of years following the death of George Floyd and the subsequent proliferation of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Momentum also grew in 2021 after President Joe Biden signed Juneteenth into law as a federal holiday—the first public holiday created since Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983. As a result, federal employers are mandated to offer the date as a paid holiday to employees. Several states and cities have followed suit, with the Pew Research Center reporting that 28 states and the District of Columbia this year are recognizing Juneteenth as a public holiday; those state workers will have a paid day off as well.
Offering the day as a paid holiday is a “small example of how organizations are making changes to their policies through the lens of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging,” Stich said.
Jason LaRue, U.S. national managing partner of talent and culture at consulting giant KPMG, agreed, and said recognizing the Juneteenth holiday supports the firm’s Accelerate 2025 initiative—a strategic DE&I effort at KPMG. One of its objectives, LaRue said, is to “elevate KPMG as an employer of choice for underrepresented talent and to ensure our people have a consistent experience and sense of inclusion and belonging every day.”
KPMG began offering the day off to its employees in 2022.
“We close our U.S. offices to encourage celebration, reflection and community engagement,” LaRue said of Juneteenth. “We want to ensure everyone is able to participate in celebrating this cultural observance in a way that is meaningful to them.”
Stich said if organizations aren’t offering the day itself as a paid holiday, they might consider expanding their floating holiday or paid-time-off structures to allow more flexibility for employees taking certain days off that are important to them.
“This sends a message of belongingness and acceptance to all employees, regardless of what they choose to celebrate,” she said.