White House Expands Paid Sick Leave Requirements for Federal Contractors

Author: Marta Moakley, XpertHR Legal Editor

September 8, 2015

On Labor Day, the White House announced that President Barack Obama signed an Executive Order requiring federal contractors to offer their employees up to seven days of paid sick leave on an annual basis. The President also announced new Department of Labor rules giving federal contract workers access to new tools to demand equal pay.

The Executive Order will:

  • Provide individuals working on federal contracts the ability to earn up to seven days of paid sick leave each year. For contracts entered into in 2017 and later, workers will earn a minimum of one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked; and
  • Allow workers to use paid sick leave to care for themselves, a family member (e.g., child, parent, spouse or domestic partner) and for absences resulting from domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.

Supporters of paid sick leave laws argue that the measure protects public health by allowing sick workers with communicable diseases to stay home. In addition, the provision of sick days may make certain federal contractors' benefits plans more competitive in the marketplace.

Opponents of paid sick leave measures disagree, arguing that the measures raise business costs and could potentially lead to job cuts.

The US Chamber of Commerce has criticized the use of Executive Orders to expand worker protections, arguing that the practice improperly supplants legislative powers. The President has renewed his plea for Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act, which would expand paid sick leave protections to private industry. However, these measures have met with resistance from Republican opponents.

The President's Executive Order could expand paid sick leave's reach into states that have passed preemption laws addressing paid sick days. In those states (e.g., Florida), municipal governments are banned from passing paid sick leave ordinances, otherwise expanding employment benefits or increasing minimum wages not otherwise required by state or federal law.

In a number of states without those bans, paid sick leave laws have either been passed on a state-wide level or flourished in municipalities.