Employer’s Corner: Labor Day executive order for federal contractors on sick leave

On Labor Day, President Barack Obama signed an executive order mandating that certain federal contractors will be required to provide up to seven days of paid sick leave annually to their employees. While these new requirements will not be effective until Jan. 1, 2017, many federal contractors are champing at the bit to review the implementing regulations that will result from this executive order.

In a White House news release titled “Helping middle-class families get ahead by expanding paid sick leave,” President Obama is quoted from his State of the Union address on Jan. 20 as saying the following: “We are the only advanced country on earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers. ... And that forces too many parents to make the gut-wrenching choice between a paycheck and a sick kid at home.”

The news release goes on to say: “Today, the President will sign an Executive Order requiring federal contractors to offer their employees up to seven days of paid sick leave per year. He will travel to Boston to renew his call on Congress to pass legislation expanding paid sick and family leave and announce new Department of Labor rules giving federal contract workers new tools to demand equal pay. Last November, Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly approved a new paid sick leave law that went into effect statewide on July 1, and in April the Boston City Council passed an ordinance creating six weeks of paid parental leave for City of Boston employees.”

The essential idea behind this new executive order is that certain federal contractors and subcontractors will be required to provide not less than one hour of paid sick leave to both full-time and part-time employees for every 30 hours worked. Accrued paid sick leave must be carried over each year, and contractors cannot limit the accrual to less than 56 hours. In addition, employees who are rehired within a year of their separation must have their prior accrued leave time reinstated. However, employers will not be required to pay out accrued sick leave to employees who are being terminated. The paid time off is limited to use under certain circumstances.

Federal contractors should remember that they may or may not be covered by this executive order. If an employer has any doubt as to coverage or has any questions regarding this executive order, we recommend it seeks experienced labor and employment counsel.

Sarah Phaff is an employment law attorney in Atlanta and Macon at the national labor and employment law firm of Constangy, Brooks, & Smith LLP.