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Government Contractors Face a Continuing Wave of Executive Orders on Labor & Employment

Published by on September 17, 2015

Recognizing the impact of the federal government’s contractor workforce as a standard-bearer for labor practices, the Obama administration has continued to issue executive orders that seek to strengthen the protections afforded to personnel within the federal contracting environment. The most recent step taken by the White House is a new executive order that will require federal […]

Recognizing the impact of the federal government’s contractor workforce as a standard-bearer for labor practices, the Obama administration has continued to issue executive orders that seek to strengthen the protections afforded to personnel within the federal contracting environment.

The most recent step taken by the White House is a new executive order that will require federal contractors to issue paid leave to employees who are sick, are seeking medical attention or who need to care for a sick relative.

This comes on top of thirteen other executive orders impacting the government contractor workforce that have been previously issued by the Obama administration on topics including:

  • Recognizing same-sex marriages
  • Nondiscrimination against homosexual employees
  • Required overtime pay
  • Contractor tax delinquency
  • Human trafficking protections
  • Non-retaliation for disclosure of compensation information
  • Use of Project Labor Agreements for federal construction projects
  • Minimum wage (this was raised to $10.00 per hour for federal contractors in 2014)

The new order not only added a new change to the list for government contractors, but it also suggested in its language a very broad scope, mandating not just paid sick leave for the employee, but also paid leave for employees caring for a child, parent, spouse or domestic partner; those absent from work due to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking (under certain conditions); and more.

The original draft of this latest executive order suggested a minimum requirement of 56 hours of paid sick leave per year, and sought to order employers to allow year-over-year accrual of six leave as well.

One larger challenge employers face as a result of executive orders is determining whether or not a business is covered by the order in the first place. Prime contractors and those subcontractors who derive their primary sources of revenue from federal contracts clearly fall within the scope of the new orders.

Less clear is the place of companies such as those who sell products to the federal government (or supply them for use on federal projects); those for whom federal business is a small portion of the company’s overall activities; or those who operate independently but whose activities involve an interface with the federal government (such as fast-food franchises on military bases or concessionaires in national parks).

Laconic Lookout:

The orders impact approximately 300,000 small-business contractors alone. Four major trade associations representing the government contracting community are submitting letters of complaint in response to the changes.

Technically, changes made by the President to federal contracting regulations must be made in the interests of increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of contracting on behalf of the government, and not via what some have referred to as a ‘backdoor’ means of setting social policy.

Nonetheless, the message is clear: companies engaged in federal government contracting in any way, shape or form should become conversant with these orders and be prepared to rapidly adjust their workforce strategies to accommodate them.

 

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