Update: federal employees will have a new paid holiday starting in 2021 thanks to passage of this law.
It appears that federal employees will soon have another paid holiday based on some recent developments in Congress.
Legislation was introduced earlier this year to make Juneteenth a legal public holiday. Bills were introduced in both the House (H.R. 1320) and Senate (S. 475) by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), respectively.
Movement on the Senate bill had stalled because of opposition from Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) to the notion of giving another paid holiday to federal employees.
“I am happy to celebrate Juneteenth. I think we should celebrate the fact that we did remove an ‘original sin’ by emancipating slaves,” Johnson said in a statement last year. “I simply don’t believe we should make American taxpayers in the private sector pony up $600 million a year, $6 billion over 10 years, to give federal workers, who already are paid quite generously and have quite a few days off, one more paid day off.”
However, as of today, Johnson announced he is dropping his opposition to the bills granting the new holiday when he issued the following statement:
Resolutions recognizing the significance of, and celebrating, Juneteenth have unanimously passed with my support in Congress every year I’ve been a U.S. Senator. Last year, a bill was introduced to celebrate Juneteenth by providing an additional paid holiday for 2 million federal employees at a cost of $600 million per year. They attempted to pass the bill without debate or amendment process. Although I strongly support celebrating Emancipation, I objected to the cost and lack of debate. While it still seems strange that having taxpayers provide federal employees paid time off is now required to celebrate the end of slavery, it is clear that there is no appetite in Congress to further discuss the matter. Therefore, I do not intend to object.
As of the time of this writing, the legislation passed the Senate unanimously after Johnson dropped his objection.
Current expectations are that the legislation will move through the House fairly quickly. The bill has passed the House and has gone to the president for signature. President Biden is expected to sign it into law on Thursday, June 17 at a signing ceremony.
With June 19 quickly approaching, it seems unlikely that it could pass and become law in time to get the holiday on the books in 2021 but that remains to be seen.
Current Holidays for Federal Employees
In a typical year, federal employees get 10 paid federal holidays. Some years are exceptions, such as this year when federal employees in the Washington, DC area got an extra holiday for Inauguration Day. In other years, federal employees are sometimes given an extra day off for Christmas Eve.
This is the standard list of current federal holidays for the federal workforce according to the Office of Personnel Management:
- New Year’s Day
- Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Washington’s Birthday
- Memorial Day
- Independence Day
- Labor Day
- Columbus Day
- Veterans Day
- Thanksgiving Day
- Christmas Day