Last month, President Obama issued an Executive Order that continued the recent trend toward providing more employee-friendly regulations. The Order’s key feature is that it requires all federal contractors to allow employees at least 7 days of paid sick leave annually, accruing at the rate of 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. The paid sick leave can be used for employees to care for themselves or family members (due to physical/mental illness, injury, or medical condition), obtain a diagnosis or preventative care regi men by a health care provider, or be used in relation to safety concerns regarding domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault. Employers can’t limit the sick leave by having a replacement employee cover for that period, nor can employers require a doctor’s note for circumstances not specifically listed on the Order (which says that the note can only be required when employees miss 3 consecutive work days). Employers can, however, require employees to give at least 7 days prior written or oral notice, unless circumstances make it impossible. Currently, an estimated 300,000 federal contractor employees don’t have access to paid sick leave clauses that adhere to the new standards, and their employers now must update their policies to comply by 2017.
The White House said that the Order was created to better help employees balance the demands of the job with any health concerns that may compromise their ability to work. This may allow previously unprotected workers to not have to choose between financial stability and medical wellbeing, such as staying home when affected by a contagious illness or taking time to care for a sick child. The President also urged Congress to pass legislation requiring all businesses with over 15 employees to provide paid sick leave pursuant to the Order. That is highly unlikely to occur, given the present political climate. Until a wider net is cast, federal contractors affected by this Order should understand all regulations that apply to them, on federal, state, and local levels. It overrides any less-generous mandatory sick leave regulations that states or townships may have in place (though more generous local laws will apply).
New Jersey businesses (especially those located in townships that have their own ordinances on the matter, including Newark, Trenton, and Jersey City) must take care that their policies are consistent with the federal Order and requirements of the state or town. Proposed legislation requiring paid sick leave for all employees was recently advanced by a New Jersey Senate committee, so such a change – for all employers – may arrive sooner than anticipated here. Loree Varella, Rutgers School of Law Newark candidate for a JD degree in May 2016 collaborated on this blog. She is Associate Editor of the Rutgers Computer and Technology Law Journal and Managing Research Editor of that publication.