Companies that do work for the federal government must give their employees up to seven days of paid sick leave per year under new rules announced Monday by President Obama. The move is the latest in a series by the Obama Administration to bring about workplace changes in the private sector through actions that do not need congressional approval.

The President set the sick-leave rules in an executive order that will apply to federal contractors beginning in 2017. Under the new rules:

  • Contractors must allow employees to earn paid sick time at a rate of at least one hour of leave for every thirty hours worked.
  • Contractors must allow employees to use paid sick leave when needed to care for themselves and to care for family members, including children, parents, and spouses.
  • Contractors also must allow employees to use available paid sick leave for work absences that result from domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

    The administration said the executive order could result in 300,000 workers receiving paid sick leave who otherwise would not. A White House summary of the executive order is available here.

    President Obama announced the executive order during a Labor Day event in Massachusetts, where voters approved a statewide paid sick leave law last year. The Massachusetts law took effect July 1, 2015, and requires private employers to offer at least seven days of paid sick leave per year. Connecticut, California, and Oregon are the only states besides Massachusetts to require paid sick leave in the private sector. Various cities and municipalities, as well as Washington, D.C., also have laws in place that require employers to provide paid sick leave to employees.

    Monday’s executive order is the latest move by the Obama Administration to enact parts of the President’s labor and employment agenda through actions that do not need approval from the Republican-led Congress. In 2014, for example, President Obama signed an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour, far above the federal minimum wage of $7.25, and effective April 2015, he extended protection against workplace discrimination to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees of federal contractors and the federal government (see our earlier alert here). And in July 2015, the Department of Labor proposed new rules that would make more white-collar workers eligible for overtime pay. A public-comment period on the overtime rules closed last week.