White House Mulls Executive Order on Paid Sick Leave

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By Chris Opfer

Aug. 5 — The White House is working on an executive order that would require federal contractors to offer paid sick leave to their workers, a source familiar with the effort confirmed to Bloomberg BNA Aug. 5.

The draft order, as first reported by The New York Times, would mandate that contractors provide workers with at least seven days of paid sick leave per year in order to be eligible to compete for federal contracts. That includes time away from work based on an employee's own illness, as well as sick leave related to caring for a spouse, child or parent.

“This is certainly something that we've been asking for for a long time,” Vicki Shabo, vice president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, told Bloomberg BNA Aug. 5. Shabo said the success of paid sick leave laws and longer-term sick leave insurance systems at the state level has helped bolster the argument for federal action.

The sick leave order would be the latest in a number of workplace-related executive actions President Barack Obama has issued in response to congressional gridlock. That includes orders to raise the minimum wage for federal contractors to $10.10 an hour (E.O. 13,658) and protect from retaliation contractor employees and job applicants who discuss, disclose or inquire about compensation (E.O. 13,665).

The Labor Department recently extended the public comment period for Obama's Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order (E.O. 13,673) until Aug. 26. The order would require businesses to disclose violations of 14 federal labor and employment laws and equivalent state laws for the previous three years in order to be eligible to compete for a government contract worth more than $500,000.

The Labor Department declined to confirm whether the administration was working on the paid sick leave order.

“The Administration continues to look for ways to strengthen the middle class, and we have long expressed support for expanding access to paid sick and family leave to more workers,” a Labor Department representative told Bloomberg BNA via e-mail Aug. 5. “In the absence of action from Congress on this issue, we continue to explore ways to expand access to paid leave. At this time, no final decisions have been made on specific policy announcements.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Opfer in Washington at copfer@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan J. McGolrick at smcgolrick@bna.com