Some South Florida workers get a day off for June 16 – Sun Sentinel – Low Calorie Diets Tips

Some South Florida workers are getting their first paid day off Monday in honor of June 16, a new federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.

President Biden last year signed legislation recognizing June 19 as June 16, commemorating the day in 1865 when enslaved blacks in Galveston, Texas, were told the Union had won the Civil War and they were free. The holiday, observed on June 20 this year, means federal employees get paid for their time off. But states, counties, and cities are taking a number of approaches to figure out how to fit the holidays into the work calendar.

In South Florida, some employers haven’t waited for governments to take the lead. Some of the companies have thousands of employees, others only a handful. Some have extensive employee networks that have pushed them to offer the tag. In smaller offices, money is tight and paid vacation means no business comes in, but employers have decided that a day off is a way to show respect for the black community.

“As a small organization, paid days off are difficult. But we wanted to make a statement,” said Alex Saiz, director of legal counsel at the Florida Justice Center, a five-person nonprofit legal aid organization in Oakland Park. “We represent clients in the justice system, so we try to be very prudent in our actions. We wanted to show a commitment to this cause.”

Boca Raton’s Misfits Gaming Group, an e-sports and entertainment company, has also been giving its 50 employees paid time off, while Delray Beach’s Arts Garage, which has 18 employees, has been providing time off since 2018.

“We also offer Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Free, and I think they’re no different,” said Marjorie Waldo, Arts Garage’s chief executive officer. “This is nothing new for us. We work hard to be an equitable organization. I talk about it with everyone I hire.”

In some offices, the day off is less ideological than a matter of consequence.

“We have a list of national holidays,” said Lynn Van Lenten, director of programs for the Greater Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce. “If it’s a national holiday, we’ll do it.”

Also free: Comcast employees, totaling more than 2,000 in South Florida.

Mindy Kramer, Comcast’s vice president of public relations for the Florida region, said the addition of the holiday to the calendar is a natural progression after enthusiastic responses from employees to past June 16 events. Those events, sponsored by the company’s Black Employee Network, last year included a talk by a Smithsonian historian on the 1921 Tulsa race massacre.

Kramer said Comcast hosted a curator from the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture last week, and a panel of Comcast executives discussed “what June 16 means to them” as part of the series. The company has also celebrated Pride Month to honor the LGBTQ community, and next week former tennis star and gender equality advocate Billie Jean King will lead a discussion on social justice.

The company sees these events as a way to retain a diverse workforce and attract new employees, she said.

“These moments and our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion are critical to our business, and we are committed to creating a workplace that reflects the world around us,” said Kramer. “We know that a diverse, equitable and inclusive company is more innovative and successful.”

When it comes to putting a holiday on the office calendar, it’s mostly up to the employer, said Donna Ballman, a Cooper City employment attorney. At one non-union company, employers can add or subtract paid leave unless there’s a written contract, she said. In a unionized workplace, the owner must negotiate with the union for any changes, including paid holidays.

Ballman, who is closing her office Monday, said workers who want their employer to make June 16 a paid day off should sign a letter explaining why and then have representatives show it to the boss to let.

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“There is no guarantee or requirement that private employers will observe federal holidays,” she said. Many don’t recognize Presidents Day, she said.

“Now is the time to start making a change next year,” Ballman said.

At the federal level, a bill that would make the day a public holiday for Florida state employees was defeated in a Legislative Committee earlier this year. Banks and scattered municipal buildings will be closed in Miami, including the Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade court systems, as well as county offices and libraries in Miami-Dade and in the city of Deerfield Beach.

Broward commissioners decided last year not to make June 16 a paid vacation for their employees, but plan to reconsider that decision in August for 2023 following a suggestion from County Commissioner Jared Moskowitz.

Many government officials and business owners are still unfamiliar with the holiday, said Patty Archer, president of the Miramar Pembroke Pines Regional Chamber of Commerce.

“There seems to be a general lack of awareness that this is a federal bank holiday, and for others, there is also a lack of awareness of the meaning or significance of June 16,” Archer said. “Our Chamber will lead by example and close our offices to observe the holiday. We will send out appropriate communications to raise awareness and encourage other companies to do so where possible, or to plan for compliance over the next year.”

Contributor Lisa J. Huriash contributed to this report.

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