Mandatory Paid Sick Leave for Federal Contractors

Federal Contractors awoke to a Labor Day game-changer. President Obama signed an Executive Order on September 7, 2015, mandating paid sick leave for employees working on federal contracts. This new mandate affects all federal contracts beginning in 2017.

Adding up the numbers, it seems that a worker will accrue one hour of paid leave for every 30 they work. Over a year this can add up to about 7 days of paid leave. Many federal contractors provide a measure of paid leave for their employees. However, an estimated 300,000 workers who are not receiving paid sick leave becomes covered under this executive order. Unlike FMLA, this paid sick leave legislation carries no minimum number of employees an employer must have for the mandate to apply. This means even small employers with only a few workers are required to track and pay this benefit to their workers in 2017.

Complicating the issue is the Department of Labor’s latest guidance on how to determine who is considered an employee vs. an independent contractor. Federal contractors who use “contractors” to accomplish the mission of their contract with the feds will see heightened scrutiny now that they have one more federal law they could be breaking by misclassifying a worker. The heat is on!

While this new benefit may not actually be termed FMLA paid sick leave, employees will be allowed to request the paid time off for reasons such as:

  • A physical or mental illness, injury or medical condition
  • Obtaining diagnosis, care or preventive care from a health care provider
  • Caring for a child, a parent, a spouse, a domestic partner or any other individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship
  • An absence resulting from domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking

Paid sick time will carry over from one year to the next and be reinstated for employees rehired by a covered contractor within 12 months after a job separation. The paid sick time needs to be provided in response to an oral or written request made (if possible but not required) at least seven calendar days in advance. Certification by a health care provider for paid sick time may be required only for paid sick time for three or more consecutive workdays and be provided no later than 30 days from the first day of the leave. The order also provides that its mandate shall not excuse noncompliance with any law, ordinance or collective bargaining agreement that requires greater paid sick time or leave rights.

Notable is the provision for paid leave usage due to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. Most states have written this provision into their paid sick leave laws and is a big step forward in supporting the eradication efforts of this silent epidemic that actually costs employers over a billion dollars annually.

Federal contractors: Get ready to hang your paid sick leave posters and locate a paid family leave form. You will need it come 2017.