Ask the HR Guy 1/10/01: Must MLK Day Be A Paid Company Holiday?
Dear HR Guy,
I am the HR manager of a small start-up company. We recently hired our first African American employee and I am wondering what the legal HR protocol for MLK Day is. Do we need to give this employee the day as a paid holiday? If yes, do we need to give the entire office the day as a paid holiday as well?
Yikes! Holy discrimination, Batman!
As a private sector business, you must decide for yourself whether or not you want to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a paid company holiday. You have no obligation to do so, but if you decide to do so, it must be for all employees. Providing it to just African Americans would be clearly prejudicial. There is no hard and fast rule on deciding whether or not to offer MLK Day as a paid holiday. Just as is the case with Columbus Day, Veterans Day, and Presidents Day, some companies provide MLK Day as a paid holiday and some do not.
To balance some of the potential sensitivities associated with having MLK Day off as a paid company holiday, I suggest that In addition to paid company holidays you provide your employees with personal days or floating holidays. If a particular day is important to a specific employee, whether it be MLK day or any other holiday or celebration, he/she can take it as a personal day. Everyone wins this way. The employee is happy and you keep your company on track.
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