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Am I in Sweden? No, You Just Have a Contract with the U.S. Government

In a recent Republican debate, Marco Rubio argued that “Bernie Sanders would be a good president ­of Sweden.” In reality, even a President Sanders would have a difficult time getting the United States Congress to pass laws that would require most American employers to provide Scandinavian-style employee benefits. Congress, however, may have little say about government contractors. Employers with contracts with the U.S. federal government are becoming the experiment for what the current administration in Washington (and Mr. Sanders) would prefer for all work places. The latest development in this area is a proposed rule that mandates covered contractors provide paid sick leave to employees. The requirement is one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked on covered contracts and subcontracts, up to 7 days (56 hours) per year. Even if the federal contract employer already provides the required leave, the proposed rule would also impose substantial records keeping requirements. Under the proposed rule, employees would be able to use their paid sick leave not only for their own physical or mental health, but also to care for sick children, parents, spouses, or partners. In addition, the rule would allow this time to be used for circumstances related to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. Note that under the rule, the required sick leave that could not be counted as a bona fide fringe benefit under the Service Contract Act. Comments on this proposed rule are due by March 28, 2016. The Executive Order on this rule requires that it be final by September 30, 2016; however, the timing of the proposed rule suggests that a final rule may be issued much earlier.

Unlike other employers, federal contractors can be reached directly by the administration and its effort to reform the U.S. work place. For this reason, it is very important that federal contractors pay attention to developments such as this required sick leave proposed rule.

This information is provided by Vinson & Elkins LLP for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended, nor should it be construed, as legal advice.