J. C. Penney Company Inc. has declared Juneteenth an annual holiday for its employees.
In a memo shared to staffers on Monday, CEO Jill Soltau announced that June 19 — also known as Freedom Day and commemorates the end of slavery in the United States — would be a paid day off for JCPenney workers. Hourly associates working on that day will receive additional holiday pay.
“I ask that you take the day to honor the historic pain caused by — and lives lost to — racial inequity and celebrate racial diversity,” Soltau said. “This is an opportunity to continue to learn, connect with each other and reflect on how we can move forward and achieve permanent and lasting change.”
What’s more, the department store shared that leaders at its chains across the country this week will host “open listening conversations” with their teams, including furloughed employees, surrounding race relations.
“These conversations are designed to be open, collaborative and supportive,” Soltau explained. “Our company’s commitment to inclusion and diversity runs deep, yet we must dig deeper and do better.”
In the letter, the executive chief cited the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, at the hands of Minneapolis police on May 25, as well as the death of Rayshard Brooks, who was fatally shot by cops at a Wendy’s drive-thru in Atlanta.
“American voices are growing louder and calling for an end to racial injustices,” she added. “I will continue to listen and learn from all of you and strive to make improvements as we grow together.”
JCPenney is not the only nationwide retailer to make Juneteenth a corporate holiday: Last week, Nike CEO John Donahoe revealed that workers would get paid time off every year on June 19 as part of broader plans to get its own “house in order” with regard to boosting racial equality. The sportswear giant said that it would hone in on four key areas to improve internal race relations: representation, professional development, inclusion and belonging and education.