Wednesday, August 12, 2015

President Obama Considering Executive Order Requiring Paid Sick Leave



Continuing his “pen and phone” approach to effecting change, The New York Times announced last week that President Obama is considering using his executive authority to mandate paid sick days for federal government contractors and subcontractors.

The draft executive order, which is marked “pre-decisional and deliberative,” would require a minimum of 56 hours (or seven work days) per year of paid sick leave for employees of federal contractors and subcontractors. Under the draft executive order, the paid sick leave would allow an employee to take paid time off to care for themselves or a sick family member, obtain preventative care, or address domestic violence and stalking situations. In addition, employers would be required to allow unused paid leave to roll over from year to year for later use.

The proposed executive action comes on the heels of a recent blogpost by the U.S. Department of Labor ("DOL"), in which the Labor Secretary stated that 39 percent of the private sector workforce – or 44 million people - do not have access to paid sick leave.  The Labor Secretary called for nationally mandated paid sick leave. In his January 2015 State of the Union address, President Obama similarly urged Congress to pass legislation granting paid sick leave to private sector employees, but no such legislation has come to a vote. 

President Obama has used his executive authority in the past to impose greater workplace protections for employees of federal contractors. Recent executive orders issued by Obama prohibit LGBT discrimination in the workplaces of federal contractors, as well as impose various reporting requirements on federal contractors. While the impact of the proposed executive order on sick pay would be limited to federal government contractors, employers should keep an eye out for the potential introduction of similar federal legislation. With several states and municipalities already implementing paid sick leave laws, there is a growing push for mandated sick leave that may eventually extend to the federal level.

The DOL has stated that no final decision has yet been made on President Obama’s draft executive order. If issued, the order calls for the DOL Secretary to issue detailed paid sick leave regulations by September 30, 2016. The executive order would then apply to contracts entered into after January 17, 2017.

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