Elon Musk is jumping on the bandwagon, following major U.S. companies in recognizing Juneteenth as a holiday for Tesla TSLA and SpaceX workers. But employees at the companies led by the billionaire entrepreneur were unaware he planned to do that, receiving email notification only on the morning of the holiday informing them they were free to take the day off without pay.
“Juneteenth is henceforth considered a US holiday at Tesla & SpaceX,” Musk tweeted on Friday morning, about two hours after emails were sent to all company staff at 8:18 a.m. Pacific time. The notification appears to have been sent after the start of first-shift assembly work at the company’s Fremont, California, plant. Musk didn’t reply to questions on Twitter from reporters as to whether the holiday would be paid and if second- or third-shift production work would be suspended for the day.
“Tesla fully supports Juneteenth for any US employee that wants to take the day off to celebrate, reflect or participate in events that are meaningful to you,” Valerie Capers Workman, Tesla’s head of human resources, told employees in an email that was obtained by Forbes. “This is an unpaid PTO and excused absence.”
Juneteenth, which falls annually on June 19 and isn’t yet recognized as a federal holiday, marks the end of slavery in America. It’s gained elevated prominence this year in the wake of mass protests seeking an end to racism and police violence against minorities in the weeks following the death of George Floyd. It commemorates June 19, 1865, when federal troops informed slaves in Texas, the last in the U.S. still in bondage, that they were free–months after the Civil War ended and more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln officially abolished slavery in the U.S. with the Emancipation Proclamation.
Musk’s decision comes after a report that some workers at the Fremont plant intended to protest for racial justice Friday and that employees at Tesla’s Palo Alto headquarters had called on Musk to voice support for the Black Lives Matter. The protest at Fremont is to begin at 1 p.m. local time.
Tesla shares fell less than 1% to $1,000.90 in Nasdaq NDAQ trading on Friday.