Obama’s Plans A, B, C (and D) for Paid Sick Leave

President Obama wants all U.S. workers to have access to paid leave, and he’s not afraid to bypass Congress. Again.

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President Obama drummed up support for mandatory paid sick leave at a Baltimore coffee shop. According to the President’s statement, employers like Charmington’s Café who have voluntarily offered paid sick leave and pay more than the minimum wage experience greater worker productivity, lower staff turnover, and increased profits.

With Congress often deadlocked (or just dead-set against him), President Obama has developed several plans to help the national paid sick leave movement gain momentum – plans that mirror the effort to raise the minimum wage.

Plan A: Congressional Passage of the Healthy Families Act

Noting that 43 million American workers don’t have access to any paid sick leave, the President is advocating that Congress pass the Healthy Families Act (H.R.1286). The Healthy Families Act would require employers who employ 15 or more employees to allow each employee to earn at least one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked to:

  • Meet his/her own medical needs
  • Care for the medical needs of family members (including a domestic partner or the domestic partner’s parent or child)
  • Seek medical attention, assist a related person, take legal action, or engage in other specified activities relating to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

Plan B: Paid Sick Leave Passed by City and State Governments

Given the current Republican majority in Congress, the Healthy Families Act isn’t likely to pass, so the President mentioned a hot back-up plan: “to go beat the drum across cities and states to encourage not only that these laws are adopted nationally, but also that employers start adopting these policies as well”.

He sweetened the deal by announcing that the Department of Labor would offer to fund implementation studies for states and cities.

Currently only three U.S. states — California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island — offer paid family and medical leave. Massachusetts will require employers to offer earned sick leave beginning July 1, 2015. More than a dozen U.S. cities have paid sick leave ordinances,

President Obama already had set the example at the federal level by issuing a Presidential Memorandum directing agencies to allow federal workers to take six weeks of advanced paid sick leave to care for a new child or ill family members.

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What’s the difference between a Presidential Memorandum and an Executive Order?

A Presidential Memorandum and an Executive Order are essentially the same thing, but when President Obama came under scrutiny for issuing too many Executive Orders and bypassing Congressional involvement, the White House began issuing Presidential Memoranda instead. Obama has issued more Presidential Memoranda than any other U.S. President. Read more here.


Plan C: Voluntary Paid Leave by Employers

Presidential Adviser Valerie Jarret Turns to LinkedIn to connect with employers.

In a coordinated social media blitz, the White House’s message even reached LinkedIn. In her debut Pulse article, Senior Adviser to President, Valerie Jarrett, urged LinkedIn readers to take action voluntarily:

This is the world’s largest online audience of professionals. And if you’re an employer, the folks who are coming to your company’s pages will be looking to see if you offer precisely these sorts of policies on your books. These are the policies that will attract the best new talent. They are the policies that will make the employees you hire more productive — and encourage them to stay longer. Keep in mind that nearly one in two working parents has turned down a job because it would not work for their family. Don’t let your job be one of those.

Currently, workers are granted up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Plan D: Lose the Battle but Win the Hashtag

The Democrats flooded social media, “owning the hashtag” prior to President Obama’s public appeal to Congress and U.S. employers. The outreach campaign will help drive grassroots support so that workers will put pressure on employers and constituents will light fires (hopefully figurative fires) under politicians.

Here’s a collection of tweets supporting the President from the #leadonleave hashtag.


The Twitter stream even saw a torrent of infographics to help the cause. Be warned – some of these are quite, well, graphical.


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Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order

The Fair Pay and Safe Workplace Executive Order (E.O. 13673) targets companies doing business with the Federal Government to “increase efficiency and cost savings”, according to President Obama. But how does it affect primary Federal Contractors and their subcontractors?

Who Is Affected by the Fair Pay and Safe Workplace Executive Order?

The Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order affects all Federal Contractors with contracts valued at more than $500,000. The Department of Labor estimates that there are roughly 24,000 businesses with federal contracts, employing about 28 million workers.

What Does the Fair Pay and Safe Workplace Executive Order Change for Federal Contractors?

  • Labor Law Violation Tracking and Reporting

Federal Contractors must track all of their labor law violations and reveal the past three years of violations in Federal contract proposals (Section 2). These include violations of:

      • Fair Labor Standards Act
      • Occupational Safety and Health Act
      • Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act
      • National Labor Relations Act
      • Davis-Bacon Act
      • Service Contract Act
      • Equal Employment Opportunity
      • Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
      • Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act
      • Family and Medical Leave Act
      • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
      • Americans with Disabilities Act
      • Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
      • Executive Order 13658 Establishing a Minimum Wage for Contractors
      • Equivalent State laws

Section 2 also applies to subcontractors whose portion of the contract exceeds the $500,000 threshold. Additionally, primary contract holders must report updated information on any new violations every six months for the primary contracting company and for all subcontractors whose portion of the contract exceeds the $500,000 threshold.

The General Service Administration (GSA) will develop a web site that Federal Contractors will use to report labor law violations that will be visible across Federal agencies (Section 4d).

  • Paycheck Transparency

Each pay period, Federal Contractors must provide employees performing work under the contract with notice of the employee’s hours worked, overtime hours, pay, and any additions or deductions made in pay (Section 5). This requirement also applies to subcontractors whose portion of the contract exceeds the $500,000 threshold.

  • Arbitration Clauses

Federal Contractors with contracts requiring services and supplies with an estimated value greater than $1 million must have the voluntary consent of employees and independent contractors before requiring arbitration for claims arising under title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or for sexual assault or harassment claims (Section 6).

When Does the Fair Pay and Safe Workplace Executive Order Take Effect?

Although Executive Order is effective immediately, the affected agencies need to determine how to implement the specifics (like the GSA website, for example)(Section 10). The Administration anticipates the Executive Order to be implemented in stages beginning in 2016.

Why Did Obama Sign the Fair Pay and Safe Workplace Executive Order?

Although the Executive Order’s introduction claims to be in the best interest of the employees of Federal Contractors, Section One reveals that it is meant to reduce project delays and avoid complications for the contracting Federal agencies. Additionally, repeat violators of labor laws have continued to receive Federal contracts. Weeding out questionable contractors will, the theory goes, narrow the field of potential vendors and help the contracting agency move through the procurement process and project execution more swiftly.


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Puerto Rico Labor Law Requirements 101

Puerto Rico has been a commonwealth of the United States since 1952, and the 3.7 million citizens of Puerto Rico also have automatic U.S. citizenship. The World Bank Group ranks Puerto Rico #40 on its list of countries rated for ease of doing business.

Employment law in Puerto Rico is covered both by U.S. labor law and Puerto Rico’s Constitution, which affirms the right of employees to choose their occupation, to have a reasonable minimum salary, a regular workday not exceeding eight hours, and to receive overtime compensation for work beyond eight hours.

The Puerto Rico Department of Labor and Human Resources is responsible for overseeing the legislation affecting workers and employment programs in Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico Minimum Wage

The Minimum Wage, Vacation, and Sick Leave Act of Puerto Rico (Minimum Wage Act) was enacted in 1998. The Minimum Wage Act establishes that the federal minimum wage fixed by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) applies automatically to non-exempt employees in Puerto Rico who are covered by the FLSA. Currently, the U.S. federal minimum wage for non-exempt employees is set at $7.25 per hour. Employers not covered by the FLSA must pay a minimum wage to non-exempt employees of at least 70% of the applicable federal minimum wage.

Puerto Rico Overtime

Employees covered by the FLSA are entitled to overtime pay at a rate of 150 percent of their regular wage (commonly known as “time and a half”). If employees are not covered by the FLSA, they are entitled to a rate of two times their regular compensation rate for every hour worked beyond forty within a week.

Puerto Rico Christmas Bonus – ¡Feliz Navidad!

Known as el Bono de Navidad in Spanish, the Christmas Bonus is a mandatory annual payment to employees based on their earned wages for the year; however, Puerto Rico’s credit rating was recently lowered to “junk” status, and legislators are considering a reduction in the Puerto Rico Christmas Bonus as one measure to spur the economy.

For now, the Christmas Bonus rates are based on company size.

  • 15 or fewer employees: Bonus of 3 percent of employee’s earned wages
  • 16 or more employees: Bonus of 6 percent of employee’s earned wages

The bonus must be paid between December 1 and December 15 of each year.

No At-Will Employment in Puerto Rico

What do Puerto Rico and Montana have in common besides having Spanish names? Employees in Puerto Rico and Montana are not at-will employees, meaning that employees in Puerto Rico (and Montana) cannot be fired anytime, for any reason.

Employers in Puerto Rico (and Montana) should anticipate more difficulty than in other locations in the U.S. as Puerto Rico law favors employees.

Employers must demonstrate just cause for employee termination or risk paying a premium (una mesada) to the discharged employee that can be a severance package on steroids – including two months’ salary (minimum) plus progressive compensation depending on length of service.

How can employees in Puerto Rico be fired? Example of just cause for termination include:

  1. Documented pattern of improper or disorderly conduct.
  2. Measurable work performance issues (efficiency, quality, etc.).
  3. Violations of reasonable written rules.
  4. Closing of business operations.

Puerto Rico Labor Law Posting Requirements

In addition to required Federal labor law posters, employers in Puerto Rico are required to display a variety of work place postings to remain compliant with Puerto Rico labor law.

Required Federal Postings

  • Equal Employment Opportunity Is the Law
  • Federal Minimum Wage Notice
  • Employee Polygraph Protection Notice
  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • Job Safety and Health “It’s the Law!” (OSHA)
  • Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)

Required Puerto Rico Commonwealth Postings

  • Working hours (29 L.P.R.A. § 283): Employers must display a printed notice of the:
  • Number of working hours required daily from employees for each day of the week.
  • Time to begin and end work.
  • Time to begin and end the period for taking food within the regular working hours.
  • Ley de Seguridad y Salud (Safety and Health Act)
  • SINOT Sistema de Compensasion por Accidentes del Trabajo (Workers’ Compensation)
  • Antidiscrimen “Discrimination Is Illegal”
  • Negociado De Normas de Trabajo

 Another Bonus: The National Anthem of Puerto Rico

Enjoy the Puerto Rico national anthem, La Borinqueña

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Philadelphia Pregnancy Protections and New Required Poster

The City of Philadelphia has amended its Fair Practices Ordinance: Protections Against Unlawful Discrimination to require employers to provide reasonable accommodation for employees with special needs resulting from pregnancy or childbirth.

The Ordinance revision adds pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical issues as conditions protected against discrimination in employment opportunities, public accommodations, and housing.

How Philadelphia Employers Need to Accommodate Pregnancy and Childbirth

Philadelphia employers must provide eligible employees reasonable accommodation for workers who are pregnant, new mothers, or who suffer from a pregnancy-related or childbirth-related medical condition, as long as the accommodation doesn’t pose an undue hardship to the business.

Reasonable accommodations include:

  • Restroom breaks
  • Periodic rest breaks
  • Assistance with manual labor
  • Maternity leave
  • Reassignment to a vacant position
  • Job restructuring

Philadelphia Employers Claiming Undue Hardship

In order to demonstrate undue hardship, an employer must demonstrate cost and operational impacts that would impair normal business operations and budgets.

New Philadelphia Pregnancy Poster Requirement

The Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (PCHR) released a new Protecting Pregnant Employees posting that informs employees of their right to be free from discrimination in relation to pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions. Employers must provide the posting to all new and existing employees by April 20, 2014.

The GovDocs Research Department has confirmed with the Philadelphia Human Resources Compliance Department that the posting is required for Philadelphia employers, in spite of language in the ordinance suggesting the posting is optional.

City Posting Compliance

GovDocs monitors more than 50 cities in the U.S. for required workplace posters – more than any other provider in the industry. If your compliance program needs City Postings, contact us today to see how GovDocs can help you achieve complete posting compliance.

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Spanish Version of Revised FMLA Posting Released

The Department of Labor has issued the Spanish version of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) posting.

After revising the English version of the FMLA posting in February 2013 to include important changes regarding the expansion of coverage of job-protected FMLA leave for families of eligible veterans and airline personnel and flight crews, the Department of Labor has released the Spanish-language version.

The Spanish version is strongly recommended for employers with Spanish-speaking employees who are subject to the FMLA (“covered employers”):

  • Private employers with 50 or more employees
  • Public agencies
  • Public or private elementary or secondary schools

GovDocs, Inc. includes the revised Spanish-version as part of our Spanish Federal-on-One poster, which is available to large employers with 50 or more locations as part of our automatic Spanish Update Program, which covers both the State and Federal levels. With a subscription for each posting location, companies stay updated with all mandatory State and Federal posting changes.

The English-language FMLA posting is required for all covered employers who have any employees eligible for FMLA leave. Covered employers also must provide employees with the same posting information through an employee handbook or other written materials to explain leave and benefits.

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What Changed in the 2013 FMLA Posting?


The most significant changes were:

  • Inclusion of language in the Military Family Leave Entitlements section that describes the Act’s expanded coverage for employees who provide care to injured or ill veterans no longer in active military service.
  • Clarification that FMLA definition of “serious injury or illness” may differ from “serious health condition”.
  • Added flight crew employees who meet specific requirements to employees eligible for FMLA benefits and protections.

Large employers rely on GovDocs to eliminate unnecessary spending on labor law posting compliance. We provide ongoing compliance coverage for more than 265,000 employment locations in the U.S. and Canada. Our customers include:

  • The world’s largest employer
  • 25 percent of Fortune 50 companies
  • 20 percent of the Top 50 retailers

Contact Us Today to Learn How GovDocs Can Help Your Company Eliminate Unnecessary Spending on Labor Law Posting Compliance

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Changes in the FMLA Affect Millions of U.S. Employers

Federal FMLA posting revised.

Federal FMLA posting revised.

The Department of Labor has issued a revised Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) posting that includes important changes regarding the expansion of coverage of job-protected FMLA leave for families of eligible veterans and airline personnel and flight crews.

Employers subject to the FMLA and who are required to display the poster (“covered employers”) include:

  • Private employers with 50 or more employees
  • Public agencies
  • Public or private elementary or secondary schools

The FMLA posting summarizes the Family and Medical Leave Act and provides Wage and Hour Division contact information for employees. The poster must be displayed in a conspicuous place where employees and applicants for employment can see it. A poster must be displayed at all locations by covered employers even if there are no eligible employees. An employer who willfully violates this posting requirement may be assessed a civil money penalty of $110 for each separate offense. The revised posting was dated February 2013.

In addition to displaying the revised posting, covered employers who have any employees eligible for FMLA leave must provide employees with the same information that is in the poster through an employee handbook or other written materials about leave and benefits.

Visit our FMLA Changes page for more information about the FMLA posting update and for changes to the Act.


Do You Need To Post the Revised Federal FMLA?

FMLA posting changes

Changes to the FMLA affect millions of employers in 2013.

The U.S. Department of Labor revised the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and made important changes to the FMLA posting.

Which U.S. employers are required to display the updated FMLA posting?

Employers subject to the FMLA and who are required to display the poster (called “covered employers” in the Act) include:

  • Private employers with 50 or more employees
  • All public agencies
  • Elementary and secondary schools, public or private

Covered employers were required to have the revised FMLA posting on display by March 8, 2013.

Final Rule for FMLA Extends to Families of Veterans and Additional Airline Flight Crew Members

medical leave requestThe U.S. Department of Labor recently issued a final rule to the Family and Medical Leave Act, implementing two new congressional expansions affecting the rights of families of military members and veterans and the access to FMLA leave for airline flight crews. The revised FMLA became effective March 8, 2013, and entitles eligible employees to take unpaid leave for family or medical reasons.

Family Leave for Armed Forces Members and Veterans

The first expansion enables families of members of the Armed Forces to take leave when a current military member is deployed. Also, the first expansion extends job-protected FMLA leave currently available to families of service members to families of eligible veterans.

This expansion allows for family members of veterans and current servicemembers a greater ability to take leave to address the medical needs of these family members.

Airline Flight Crew Eligibility for FMLA

The second congressional expansion adjusts the rule of required number of hours airline flight crew employees must meet to be eligible for FMLA leave. These changes, implemented by the Airline Flight Crew Technical Corrections Act (AFCTCA) state an airline flight crew member will be eligible for FMLA leave if during the previous 12-month period the employee has done one of the following:

  • Worked or has been paid for at least 60 percent of the applicable total monthly guarantee
  • Worked or has been paid for at least 504 hours, not including time spent commuting, on vacation, or on medical or sick leave.

With this change, the Department of Labor anticipates approximately 6,000 flight crew members to take new FMLA leave.

Employers to Adjust FMLA Policies

As a result of the expansions, companies should familiarize themselves with all FMLA rulings and adjust policies to accommodate these rules for employees.

Get Your FMLA Posting from GovDocs

GovDocs Inc. offers a Federal Poster with updated FMLA postings required for employers with U.S. locations.

Supreme Court Ruling on Same-Sex Marriages Changes Workplace Benefits

United States Supreme Court building.

United States Supreme Court building. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling could affect employers with American locations that provide federally regulated workplace benefits.

In United States v. Windsor, the Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) definitions of “marriage” and “spouse” that specifically excluded same-sex partners. The decision is lauded as a victory for the rights of gay and lesbian civil rights and for states’ rights to define and regulate marriage.

Twelve U.S. states have legalized same-sex marriages and many have expanded state-regulated benefits to include same-sex partners, affecting some workplace benefits—such as health, death, and disability insurance provided through group-insured plans, which are regulated by state insurance laws.

Employees who are married to same-sex partners will be entitled to the same level of benefits as their heterosexual counterparts, if the benefits (such as such as retirement plans and health benefits) are regulated by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

One example includes the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). Prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling, DOMA excluded same-sex spouses from coverage of this federal piece of legislation.

Without federal same-sex limitations, employers will have to take a close look at:

  • Employee handbooks
  • Maternity leave policy
  • FMLA implementation
  • Benefit plans
  • Federal tax benefits

…and anything where the definition of marriage previously excluded same-sex partners.