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Sick leave rule is too broad, too punitive, PSC says

The Professional Services Council doesn't' have a problem with the paid sick leave for contractors proposed in the Department of Labor's latest rule, but it has a few ideas about how to enforce it.

In an April 12 letter to the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division compliance specialist, Robert Waterman, the contracting industry group outlined where it says the proposed rule is both too broad in scope and too punitive in its compliance.

Related: Read the letter.

The rule enacts a September 2015 executive order that requires an hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours a federal contractor works for up to seven days of leave a year, but PSC officials said many contractors who already provide the leave will be burdened by onerous enforcement issues.

"The Proposed Rule in particular seeks to dictate minutiae of compliance without regard for variations in covered contractors' businesses and business systems," the letter, from PSC executive vice president and counsel Alan Chvotkin, said.

"A commonsense requirement such as 'let employees know how much leave they have' is transformed into a detailed regulation of when, where, and how contractors provide these communications, as well as how they retain records of those communications."

PSC offers a number of recommendations for the rule, including:

  • An exemption for contractors from having to provide 56 hours in paid sick leave if their paid-leave plans are "more generous and flexible than the EO and Proposed Rule require." Also, PSC said that contractor leave records should be limited to certain circumstances since the policies don’t require employees to provide a reason for the leave.
  • The rule should provide contractors with more latitude for granting non-urgent leave. PSC officials said the rule should match the congressional intent of the McNamara-O'Hara Service Contract Act, which governs wages and benefits for contractors, by having an employee advise the contractor when a leave situation is an emergency that the contractor is required to grant.
  • The rule should provide for reasonable policing of sick leave, such requiring employee supporting documentation of sick leave if the contractor had documented a pattern of absences to suggest leave abuse.
  • To allow contractors to offer either the required sick leave laid out in the executive order or the option of granting more generous or flexible leave plans, which could count toward the contractor’s required health & welfare benefits.

The Department of Labor gave stakeholders until April 12 to provide comments on the proposed rule, which was extended from an original March 28 deadline. The final rule is expected to by Sept. 30, 2016.

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