The largest hospital system in Georgia has scrapped Christmas Eve from its paid holiday calendar, effective next year. Juneteenth has been added in its place. This will impact over 24,000 employees.
While the controversial zero-sum swap is purportedly an attempt to support "diverse communities" and ensure "equitable outcomes for all," the system comprising 11 hospitals and over 250 provider locations does not appear to have done anything substantive for workers by virtue of this change.
Atlanta News First reported that employees were let down by what some had anticipated to be an "exciting announcement."
"I think, in general, everyone at Emory is pretty frustrated right now," said one Emory health care provider. "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," an employee told Atlanta News First.
NAACP Dekalb County president Edwina Clanton puzzled over "why they can't do both," suggesting "it will put anger in some hearts."
"Why do we have to do this? Why can't we have our old holidays off?" said Clanton. "Some more consideration, even asking the employees which days you want to give up, that may have worked better."
In his memo to employees last month, Lee reportedly indicated leadership did not want to add another day to the nine paid holidays observed each year.
"For each observed holiday, our clinics and business offices close, which means our patients are unable to make clinic appointments for those days," wrote Lee. "To minimize the impact on patient care, we will not be adding another paid holiday to our calendar."
The Washington Free Beacon reported that Lee had further stressed in his email to employees, "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."
"In response to requests from our care team members over the past few years, we are pleased to add Juneteenth to the holidays we recognize," Janet Christenbury, a spokesman for the health system, told Becker's Hospital Review. "At Emory Healthcare, we strive to support our employees and our diverse communities in recognizing holidays that are meaningful and important to them."
Atlanta News First indicated the system said employees retain the option to use paid time off for Christmas Eve.
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