Obama weighs requiring paid sick leave for gov't contractors

AP News
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Posted: Aug 05, 2015 7:34 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is considering signing an executive order requiring all federal contractors to offer paid sick leave to their employees, two individuals familiar with the deliberations said Wednesday.

The executive order, which is in the works but not yet final, would mandate that companies doing business with the federal government allow their workers to earn at least seven days of paid leave per year. Workers could use those days when they are sick or caring for sick relatives, said the individuals, who weren't authorized to comment on the order and requested anonymity.

Obama has been calling for an expansion of paid leave since January, when he urged Congress to pass legislation granting paid leave to many private-sector employees who are currently ineligible. The legislation, which Obama touted in his State of the Union address but has yet gain traction in Congress, would have allow workers to earn up to seven days — or an hour for every 30 hours they work — to care for themselves or a sick family member, obtain preventive care or address domestic violence situations.

The White House declined to comment on the draft executive order, which was first reported by The New York Times. The Labor Department said it was "exploring ways to expand access to paid leave" but declined to elaborate.

"At this time, no final decisions have been made on specific policy announcements," the Labor Department said in a statement.

Unable to push much of his agenda through a Republican-controlled Congress, Obama has in recent years used executive orders with frequency to apply policies to federal contractors that he lacks the authority to enact nationwide, aiming to lay the groundwork for those policies to later be expanded to all Americans. Earlier executive orders have barred federal contractors from discriminating against workers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, raised the minimum wage for contractors and expanded the number of contract workers eligible for overtime.

More than 40 million private-sector workers don't have access to any type of paid sick leave, the White House said in January as Obama called on Congress to act. He also encouraged states and cities to pass measures to let workers earn up to a week per year.

In March, Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington succeeded in inserting an amendment into the budget requiring all but the smallest employers to offer a week of paid sick leave. But the legislation was a non-binding blueprint, and there has been little action on the issue since.

"We just aren't moving quickly enough," Labor Secretary Tom Perez wrote in a blog post last week. "We need a national policy on paid sick leave, and we need it now."

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