On September 8, 2015, President Obama signed an Executive Order that will require companies that contract with the federal government to provide paid sick leave to their employees. The Order will become effective in 2017. According to the Order, employees working on federal contracts will be able to earn at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to 7 days. Sick leave under the Order will be available to employees to care for themselves, a family member, such as a child, parent, spouse, or domestic partner, or another loved one, as well as for absences resulting from domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. The White House believes the Order will affect approximately 300,000 workers.
This move by President Obama is seen by some as another step toward more global federally mandated sick leave for private sector employers. A White House fact sheet issued on September 7, 2015 noted that President Obama will renew his call for Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act, which would require employers with 15 or more employees to provide at least seven paid sick days per year. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Labor has established a paid leave resource page, claiming “It’s Time for America to #LeadOnLeave,” which advocates expansion of paid sick leave.
Although it seems unlikely that the Healthy Families Act or similar federal legislation requiring private sector employers to provide paid sick leave will become law during the remainder of President Obama’s term, efforts to mandate sick leave will no doubt continue. The Executive Order is just one example of that movement. Moreover, as the Department of Labor web page emphasizes, an increasing number of cities and states are adopting sick leave laws. At present, California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Connecticut have adopted paid family and medical leave or earned sick leave laws. As the number of cities and states adopting paid sick leave laws seems to be on the rise, employers should remain watchful for paid sick leave mandates that may be adopted in the locations where they do business in order to ensure compliance.