Obama Orders Federal Contractors to Provide Workers with Paid Sick Leave

Court. Gavel isolated on white background

On Labor Day 2015, President Obama signed an executive order requiring federal contractors to provide up to seven days of paid sick leave per year. In his speech, Obama pointed out that the United States is the only advanced country that does not guarantee paid sick leave or maternity leave for our workers, which forces too many parents to make the decision between attending to themselves or a sick family member and their paycheck.

The order will only apply to new federal contracts as of 2017 because it must first go through public notice and comment. However, it has the potential to provide more protection for employees nationally seeking to take leave. Recently, Obama has also used executive orders to require contractors to pay higher minimum wages, ban retaliation against workers who discuss compensation, provide more information to employees about their pay, and to protect gay and transgender workers from discrimination.

How Much Leave?

The order will grant full and part-time federal contract workers one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked up to a total seven days per year. The leave is not specifically limited to the workers themselves calling in sick, but could also be used for caring for a member of the family or another loved one. It is predicted that this order will affect approximately 300,000 workers.

What About Everyone Else?

As the president, Obama can use his executive order power to extend certain benefits to federal employees, but not other private sector employees. Thus, he has now asked Congress to extend paid leave to millions more by passing the Health Families Act, which would mandate that any employer with more than 15 employees provide at least seven paid sick days annually.

The Law in Pennsylvania Until 2017

In an earlier post,, we discussed the 44 million people do not have paid sick leave, and that many of them are contractors. That is also the case in Pennsylvania, and the state Senate has approved a bill to invalidate Mayor Nutter’s proposal to provide a minimal one-hour of sick leave for every 40 hours worked..

Other Employee Benefit Changes On the Horizon

Obama also recently signed an executive order to raise the minimum wage for federal contractor employees to $10.10 per hour. The Labor Department is also proposing that he raise the threshold for overtime pay, which would increase wages for approximately 5 million Americans as of 2016. In January, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum directing the federal government to advance up to six weeks of paid sick leave in connection with maternity leave, adoption of a child, or sick leave-related issues.

Solnick & Associates, LLC

The Pennsylvania personal injury and employment discrimination attorneys at Solnick & Associates are committed to representing all Pennsylvania workers—including those that employers often try to designate as “independent contractors” in order to avoid providing benefits. Contact us today for a free case consultation so that we can ensure that your employment rights are protected and you are covered in case of an unexpected injury.