Employment Law

President Biden Raises Contractor Minimum Wage, New COVID-19 Leave Options Issued

As we covered in one of our blogs last month, multiple presidential administrations have promised federal employees increased wages - but the expected increases haven't always gone into effect as proposed.

However, on Tuesday, April 27th, President Joe Biden issued an executive order raising the minimum wage for federal contractors to $15 an hour, an increase of roughly 37%.

Additionally, the administration recently launched a new program awarding government employees impacted by COVID-19 with increased leave and will introduce a plan to expand paid family leave benefits.

Today, we're covering all these recent developments. For help with your federal employment law case, contact our office online or via phone at (202) 350-3881.

Biden Increases Minimum Wage for Federal Contractors

As we stated in our introduction, President Joe Biden recently introduced an executive order increasing the minimum wage for federal contractors to $15 an hour. The wage increase extends to all federal contractors, including those with disabilities.

The increase comes as part of President Biden's efforts to make good on his campaign trail promises to increase wages for workers. He also recently signed an order creating a White House task force headed by Vice President Kamala Harris that aims to promote unions and labor organization across the U.S.

Biden initially attempted to include the wage increase for federal contractors in his proposed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, but the measure was stripped from the bill by Congress before the stimulus package passed.

Under the executive order, all federal agencies must integrate the wage increase into worker contracts by January 30th, 2022. By March 30th, 2022, agencies must implement the wage increase as the base wage of contracts for new employees.

COVID-19 Illness-Related Leave Package Created by Congress

The wage increase isn't the only change many federal employees will experience to their contracts.

Congress recently created a $570 million fund aimed at providing federal employees with increased leave opportunities for workers suffering from COVID-19-related illnesses or childcare difficulties.

Beginning Thursday, April 29th, federal agencies can begin approving special leave requests from employees for difficulties related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As part of the measure, federal employees may be able to take as many as 15 weeks off to care for themselves or family members who are struggling from COVID-19, a COVID-19-related illness, or who need help with childcare. The initiative is only available for employees who aim to take time off between March 11th and September 30th, 2021.

Once the $570 million allocated to the initiative runs out, workers will need to start taking personal leave or leave without pay to address COVID-19-related hardships. As a result, many federal employees impacted by COVID-19 have already begun the process of filing for special leave to take advantage of the initiative.

Senators Introduce Bill Proposing Increased Paid Family Leave Benefits for Federal Employees

Last but not least, four Democratic senators recently proposed legislation that would grant federal employees up to 12 weeks of paid family leave per year to take care of illnesses or other hardships not currently covered by paid parental leave benefits.

It's not the first time an expansion for paid family benefits for federal employees has been introduced to the senate, but many previous bills have been buried or lacked the support to pass.

Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) introduced the bill stating that:

"The current public health crisis has shown us why it's so important to have strong paid leave policies, but our current laws are still forcing federal workers to make the impossible choice between caring for their families and keeping their jobs."

If the bill passes, it will come in the wake of the aforementioned $570 million effort to expand illness-related special leave for federal employees. The bill would represent a significant change for federal employees, particularly those suffering from a chronic illness or who have a family member with a similar condition.

In conjunction, these stories indicate renewed efforts by the new administration to provide federal employees with increased wages and expanded leave opportunities.

If you're a federal employee and believe your employee may be violating the terms of your workplace or your rights as a citizen, we can help. Contact our office online or via phone at (202) 350-3881 to schedule a consultation with an experienced federal employment law firm.