Race and Economy

More companies offer a paid day off for Juneteenth

Justin Ho Jun 19, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
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Marchers celebrating Juneteenth at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington on Friday. Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images
Race and Economy

More companies offer a paid day off for Juneteenth

Justin Ho Jun 19, 2020
Marchers celebrating Juneteenth at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington on Friday. Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images
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Many corporations gave people a paid day off for Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S., for the first time this year. 

Some companies made that decision just days ago.

The ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s started planning Friday’s holiday about 10 days ago, said Chris Miller, head of global activism strategy.

The company held a Zoom call with employees Friday morning to discuss Juneteenth and the company’s response to the police killing of George Floyd. Then, everyone got the rest of the day off.

“At a time when we’re not seeing each other, moments like these are important,” Miller said.

Miller added that yes, meetings were missed, but the work can just resume on Monday

“A moment like this actually may have a real benefit to employees and the productivity of the company by providing just a brief pause for folks,” Miller said.

It can be challenging to quickly organize a day off, especially when the line between work and home has gotten so blurry. Employment lawyer Deborah Weinstein said many companies would see a hit to productivity or sales if they shut down for a day. She said that’s why the people getting the day off are mostly white-collar workers.

“They’re not the service workers and the people who are at the checkout lines at the grocery store and health care workers,” she said.

By giving employees a day off, companies are also inviting more accountability, said Nicholas Pearce, clinical professor of management and organizations at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

“Now, they are opening themselves to the question: next year this time, what have you done since Juneteenth 2020 to advance Black freedom, besides giving people the day off?” he said. Instead, Pearce said companies should make Juneteenth an intentional day on for discussing how to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

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