ATLANTA, Ga. (KPEL News) - A Methodist-founded healthcare system in Georgia is adding Juneteenth as a paid holiday on its calendar, but in the process is scrapping Christmas Eve.

The controversial decision is drawing blowback online and is leading to more questions about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) policies nationwide - and whether or not they could be happening elsewhere, including Louisiana.

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Here's the full letter from Emory Healthcare CEO Joon Sup Lee.

At its heart, diversity, equity and inclusion at Emory Healthcare (EHC) is about creating an environment of true belonging for our patients and team members, while ensuring equitable outcomes for all. But making that an everyday reality requires purpose, planning and intentional action.
It also requires input from the whole team. So, when it comes to the holidays that EHC recognizes, we listened. Thanks to your feedback, the Executive Leadership Team and I have decided to make Juneteenth (June 19) an EHC observed holiday. We hope this will allow more opportunities for celebration, reflection and education.
EHC currently observes nine paid holidays each year, while other Atlanta health systems average six paid holidays. We are proud to offer a rich holiday benefit package to our staff. For each observed holiday, our clinics and business offices close, which means our patients are unable to make clinic appointments for those days. To minimize impact to patient care, we will not be adding another paid holiday to our calendar.
Rather, beginning January 2024, we will remove Christmas Eve from our holiday calendar and replace it with Juneteenth. However, team members still have the flexibility and option to use paid time off for Christmas Eve.
Although we're announcing the change now, EHC will still observe Christmas Eve 2023 as a paid holiday. Beginning in 2024, Juneteenth (June
19) will be added to the holiday calendar and Christmas Eve (Dec. 24) will be removed. As with other observed holidays, we will offer holiday pay to staff working on Juneteenth.
I hope you'll continue to share your thoughts as we work together to make EHC an even more welcoming place for employees and patients.

Getting Rid of Christmas Eve?

According to Atlanta News First, the decision has been receiving pushback from employees in the healthcare system.

“I think, in general, everyone at Emory is pretty frustrated right now,” one healthcare provider told the news station. “You can’t replace one for the other. It’s completely inappropriate. It’s essentially pitting a Christian holiday against something that’s to be celebratory for everyone – but specifically for our Black colleagues.”

“Something that should be an extremely joyful and collective celebration has become another reminder of how our Black colleagues can’t have anything without sacrifice,” another said. “This is not what we have been pushing for. We thought Juneteenth was being added to the holiday calendar.”

The local NAACP was also concerned with the decision.

“I don’t understand, why they can’t do both,” asked NAACP DeKalb County President Edwina Clanton.

Clanton believes companies should recognize Juneteenth, which became a federal holiday in 2021. However, she said the move by Emory could be more harmful than good - at least initially

“I’m sure it will put anger in some hearts,” Clanton added. “Why do we have to do this? Why can’t we have our old holidays off? Some more consideration, even asking the employees which days you want to give up, that may have worked better.”

 

The online blowback was just as critical.

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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Louisiana

The push against DEI initiatives in nationwide has also taken root in Louisiana. In the last legislative session, conservative lawmakers worked on bills that would kill DEI policies in higher education, a political move that was criticized by the state's higher education faculty.

The recent legislative session in Baton Rouge was a battleground for the "culture war" issues that have been featured on the main stage of national politics in recent years.

But the issue isn't taking root in Louisiana as some fear. While there are DEI initiatives in some universities, it isn't a major push. But Republican critics have been insistent on preventing those initiatives in the state's public and higher education systems.

However, the state's healthcare systems have DEI programs, as well. Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Louisiana, for example, has an entire page on its site dedicated to careers in DEI. The Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System, which includes Our Lady of Lourdes in Lafayette, also has DEI language on its site.

However, Lourdes (nor any other healthcare system in the state) has not announced a plan like Emory, which is affiliated with Methodist-founded Emory University in Georgia.

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