Sick Leave EO Draws Strong Reactions

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By Gayle Cinquegrani

Sept. 8 — President Barack Obama's Sept. 7 executive order that would require federal contractors to provide their employees up to seven days of paid sick leave per year is drawing strong reaction, with Republicans and industry groups describing it as a drain on the economy, and Democrats and worker advocacy groups commending it as a welcome and necessary benefit.

Workers on federal contracts will earn at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours they work under the order, which the president signed on Labor Day. They will be allowed to use this leave to care for themselves or a family member, and for absences resulting from domestic violence or sexual assault. The requirement will apply to new federal contracts beginning in 2017.

It likely will take a year for the Labor Department to complete rulemaking to implement the executive order, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said during a Sept. 8 press briefing. The order directs the DOL to issue regulations by Sept. 30, 2016.

Republicans, Industry Groups Critical

Republican lawmakers and some industry groups were quick to criticize the paid sick leave order.

“This announcement reflects another missed opportunity to advance real reforms for working families, and it will make it even harder for small businesses to do business with the federal government,” Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, and Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Workforce Protections Subcommittee, said in a joint statement Sept. 7.

“Once again, despite our strong admonition that this never-ending spate of EOs is adding substantial costs to the government and contractors alike, often with little or no actual benefit, the White House has gone forward with yet another contractor-unique executive order that is really a proxy for its broader policy objectives,” said Stan Soloway, president and chief executive officer of the Professional Services Council.

Paid Sick Leave Is Public Health Issue

A Democratic lawmaker and workers' advocacy groups praised the executive order as a step forward in the campaign to extend paid family and medical leave throughout the workforce.

“While paid sick leave is an important family issue, it is also an economic and public health issue,” Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), a member of the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee, said in a Sept. 8 statement. “When employees come into work sick, productivity is decreased and illness spreads to others. Ultimately, when a sick employee can’t afford to take a sick day it hurts businesses’ bottom line.”

Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, said in a Sept. 7 statement, “as a result of this executive order, fewer workers will have to make impossible choices between their jobs and their health, or their family’s health, when stomach flu, strep throat or minor injuries strike.”

For more information, see Compensation and Benefits Library’s Sick Leave and Pay chapter.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gayle Cinquegrani in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan J. McGolrick at