Op-Ed: Diversity in Business: Here’s What MLK Day Says About Your Company

If you refuse to observe a holiday that acknowledges the man who, in no small part, has inspired your internal policies and company culture—then diversity is obviously not...

Why Many Companies Don’t Acknowledge MLK Day

What is more mind-boggling are the reasons why companies refuse to [acknowledge] the U.S. federal holiday.

It makes sense that healthcare professionals continue caring for the sick and for law enforcement to keep our streets safe. And, let’s face it, retail organizations don’t even close for Thanksgiving anymore (but that’s another argument).

The most vocal reasons for not observing the holiday are the impact of taking another holiday on production and budgets as well as the fact that MLK was not an elected official.

I’m sure there are many other arguments that could be made against observing the holiday, but, by the same token, I’m sure they could all be summed up with one word: bull****.

If a company remains open on MLK Day on claims of productivity, then shame on them.

Studies show that overall productivity is largely unaffected by paid time off (PTO) within reason. And if we’re not [acknowledging] days that do not honor elected officials, then we need to take Labor Day off the calendar as well as the myriad other holidays.

Diversity in the Workplace Should Be More than Lip Service

It is a sad state of events that the only place you can truly escape the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is in the workplaces of Americans on the day we [should be] celebrating it. Places where his efforts to improve the quality of life of his fellow Americans has opened doors of opportunity for all people, and has made our country a better place.

[Studies indicate that] 30 percent of all companies in the country observe Martin Luther King Day.

[If you are among the 70 percent of companies that refuse to recognize this U.S. Federal holiday], it is not only sending a message that [your] diversity programs are just lip service, but [you are] are also missing an opportunity to practice goodwill. For example, companies such as Comcast, in addition to giving their employees the day off, also encourage their staff to use the day to volunteer at their favorite charities or for a good cause.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s monumental “I Have a Dream” speech.

Whether you end up working, have the day off or are performing a day of service, I encourage everyone to honor the man and the message.

Furthermore, to the 70 percent of companies that do not honor the U.S. federal holiday — MLK Day, I challenge you to watch this video, then justify your decision.  Most importantly, I have a simple message: Shame on you.

Does your small business recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Photo: Martin Luther King – I Have A Dream Speech – August 28, 1963

Brian Easter is the co-founder and CEO of Atlanta-based Nebo Agency, an award-winning interactive marketing agency that offers web design, search engine optimization, pay per click advertising, and interactive marketing strategy. Brian brings extensive international experience to his role along with a proven track record of helping Fortune 500 organizations reach their interactive marketing objectives. Brian has been published and regularly featured in Ad Age, iMedia, Social Media Today, Promotion World, and other industry publications.


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