Tesla has made Juneteenth a holiday for its US employees in an apparent reversal of its initial policy.
CEO Elon Musk announced the decision on Twitter Friday in the wake of reports that employees observing Juneteenth would be taking unpaid time off if they observed it.
“Juneteenth is henceforth considered a US holiday at Tesla & SpaceX,” Musk tweeted.
Employees who choose to observe the holiday will use paid time off, according to a subsequent tweet from Musk.
The holiday commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, coinciding with when slaves in Galveston, Texas learned of their freedom two months after the Civil War ended in 1865. Juneteenth has received increased attention in the wake of George Floyd’s death and calls for racial justice.
Tesla isn’t alone in recognizing Juneteenth. Nike, Twitter and Square are among those making it an annual holiday.
The company had not previously issued a public statement commenting on events in the wake of George Floyd’s killing by a Minneapolis police officer, in contrast to most of its competitors in the automotive industry. Musk did comment on Twitter on June 1 that it was not right that the other officers involved in Floyd’s death hadn’t been charged at that time. (They were later charged.)
Valerie Workman, Tesla’s head of North American human resources, sent a message to employees that she subsequently posted to LinkedIn about her experience as a Black woman both at Tesla and in the United States. The message went on to elucidate the company’s internal diversity efforts.
Tesla’s competitors have taken more public steps to recognize Juneteenth. GM and Ford are holding moments of silence lasting 8 minutes 46 seconds, recognizing the period of time a police officer’s knee rested on Floyd’s neck before his death. Ford’s leadership has said it’s launching a dialogue on issues of diversity and inclusion, but Juneteenth is not a holiday for its workers.