The Obama administration is on a mission to expand protections and rights to as many workers as possible until the president’s tenure is complete at the end of 2016.  In fitting style, President Obama signed an executive order on Monday (Labor Day) requiring federal contractors to provide up to seven days of paid sick leave a year.  This is two full days in addition to what private workers are provided under New York City’s paid sick leave act.

Unfortunately, the executive order will have no real effect until after Mr. Obama’s presidency is complete, since it requires a public comment period to pass before the order becomes law.  The hope here is that a standard is set that will prompt lawmakers, private employers, and state and local governments to expand their leave policies.  In the end, it is good business policy for workers not to be fearful of losing their jobs simply because they come down with something as common as the flu.

The business community and some lawmakers are sure to object to the president’s move; the common misconception being that he is always overstepping his boundaries, however, those with adversarial opinions forget that this move will only apply to employees who work for federal contractors, a mere 300,000 workers.

The president’s order will guarantee both full- and part-time federal contract workers an hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, for a total of up to seven days a year. The workers could use the leave to care for themselves, a member of their family, a domestic partner or another loved one, or they could take the leave to recover from domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking, similar to the class of persons protected under New York City’s paid sick leave act.

The paid leave order is the latest move by the Obama administration to institute changes on a tiny portion of the labor market, being that the president cannot persuade the government to act in concert with him to benefit the nation’s workforce.  Among other things, the president has signed orders, banning retaliation against workers who discuss their compensation, requiring contractors to pay higher minimum wages, protecting gay and transgender workers from discrimination and providing employees additional information about their pay.

New York City is typically ahead of the curve when it comes to providing protections to workers, but not in this case. It looks like we may have to play catch up here to ensure our law does not end up burdening the worker simply they are sick.

Risman & Risman, P.C. wants to make sure that your employer is not depriving you of your right to take off from work in the event you are ill.  If you believe you or your family member was and/or has been retaliated against in the workplace for calling out of work due to illness, please do not hesitate to contact the employment attorneys of Risman & Risman, P.C. at (212) 233-6400 or contact us online.

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