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Finance & Innovation

Thanks, Obama! Government Workers Now Get 7 Paid Sick Days

By Bea Spirakis, Global Citizen intern

Government workers now have seven days of paid sick leave a year, after President Obama announced a new rule on Sep. 29.

It’s not the first time Obama has improved working conditions for federal employees — last year, he required federal contractors to provide paid sick leave. The new rule also mandates that laborers working in positions related to federal contracts be granted one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours they work, with a 56 hours of paid sick leave cap.

The Labor Department estimates that this new rule will affect up to 1.1 million people once it is fully in place.

The provisions of this rule address the working conditions of American workers today, many of whom live paycheck to paycheck. They are forced to work on days that they are sick to keep their wages steady, putting themselves at risk of getting sicker or infecting customers or fellow employees.

Additionally, many households in America are now dual-earners, meaning that if a child is sick, a parent will often have to take the day off to care for their child. With the implementation of this new rule, parents will not have to sacrifice money to take care of themselves or their dependents and they do not have to fear losing their jobs.

In addition to this rule, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is enhancing how it enforces equal pay laws by collecting pay data by race, ethnicity, and gender from businesses with 100 or more employees. This is estimated to cover some 63 million employees and 60,000 employers.

This data will help employers and the federal government evaluate, and improve, pay practices to prevent discrimination in the workplace; it will also help employers measure their own practices in relation to the practices of other companies in the same industry and geographic area.

It is unfair that women, especially women of color, get paid between 54 cents (Latina women) to 80 cents (white women) for every dollar a white man earns. To say that gender and race do not play a role in current pay practices, even if it is an unconscious bias held by employers, goes against all data and is simply incorrect.

It is time to level the law, and last week, the Obama Administration took vital steps toward doing so. With the release of this new data, in addition to the implementation of the paid sick days rule, current pay practices will be modified and employers will more easily and effectively be held accountable for the way they pay their workers.