Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the day Union soldiers delivered news to Texas that slaves were to be emancipated. The troops’ arrival came a full two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Today, Juneteenth is the oldest African-American holiday and marks the long fight for freedom from enslavement. To recognize this history and the significance of the holiday, on June 17, 2021, President Biden signed a bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday. The law was effective immediately, and many federal employers gave Friday, June 18, 2021, off to their employees, in observation of Juneteenth, and many federal offices were closed.
California observes Juneteenth on the 3rd Saturday in June as a day of observance but does not offer it as a paid holiday to state employees. Existing law also does not require private employers to give employees the day off or treat it as a paid holiday.
Employers are not required by federal law to recognize any federal holiday and California does not require paid holidays or holiday pay. Employers therefore have the discretion to choose whether to treat Juneteenth, or another day in recognition of it, as a paid holiday. Any employer opting to offer Juneteenth as a holiday should update their employee handbook and any employment offer letters to reflect this change or review them to ensure that the policy is clear.
Employers that do not choose to offer the day as a paid holiday should also review their employee handbooks and offer letters to determine whether they state employees get all federal holidays off, or whether the holidays/dates are specifically listed. If the handbook states more generally that employees get all federal holidays off, employers should edit their handbooks to list each specific holiday offered by the employer.