President Obama has issued an executive order requiring federal contractors to provide up to seven days of paid sick leave per year to their employees. The White House anticipates that the requirement could benefit more than 300,000 workers who are not currently eligible for any paid sick leave.

The order, issued on Labor Day, affects certain procurement contracts or contract-like instruments where the solicitation has been issued on or after January 1, 2017. The Department of Labor is directed to develop regulations under the order.

Pursuant to the order, employees of covered contractors must accrue paid sick leave at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked. Contractors may not set a limit on the total accrual of paid sick leave per year, or at any point in time, at less than 56 hours. Additionally, contractors are free to offer more generous amounts of paid sick leave at their discretion. An employee’s accrued paid sick leave must carry over from one year to the next. Although nothing in the order requires a covered contractor to make a financial payment to an employee upon a separation from employment for accrued sick leave that has not been used, accrued paid sick leave must be reinstated for employees rehired by a covered contractor within 12 months after job separation.

Contractors with existing paid leave policies made available to all covered employees will satisfy the requirements of the order if the amount of paid leave is sufficient to meet the mandated leave benefit and if the leave may be used for the same purposes and under the same conditions described in the order.

An employee may use accrued paid sick leave for:

  • An employee’s own physical or mental illness, injury, or medical condition;
  • Obtaining diagnosis, care, or preventative 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 who has any of the conditions or needs for diagnosis, care, or preventive care described above or is otherwise in need of care; or
  • Absence necessary due to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, where the absence is due to the employee’s own medical condition or the need to obtain counseling, to seek relocation, to seek assistance from a victim services organization, to take related legal action, or to assist an individual related to the employee as described above.

The order requires covered contractors to provide paid sick leave upon the oral or written request of an employee that includes the expected duration of the leave and is made at least seven calendar days in advance, where the need for the leave is foreseeable. In the event the need for the leave is not foreseeable, an employee should provide notice as soon as practicable. Under the order, covered contractors may only require certification issued by a health care provider—or documentation from an appropriate individual or organization in the event the leave is used for the purpose of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking—for employee absences of three or more consecutive workdays.

Pursuant to the order, a covered contractor may not interfere with or in any other manner discriminate against an employee for taking, or attempting to take, paid sick leave as provided for under the order or in any manner asserting, or assisting any other employee in asserting, any right or claim related to the order.

Covered employers in jurisdictions that already mandate some form of paid sick leave will face the daunting task of creating paid leave policies that meet potentially conflicting leave mandates and/or attempting to integrate the new leave mandates into existing policies. Ballard Spahr’s Labor and Employment Group routinely helps employers update their policies and procedures to comply with new laws, regulations, and executive orders. If you have any questions about the new executive order, or would like our assistance in developing compliant policies, please contact Brian D. Pedrow at 215.864.8108 or pedrow@ballardspahr.com, Steven D. Millman at 856.761.3421 or millmans@ballardspahr.com, or the Ballard Spahr attorney with whom you work. 


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