Executive Order Increases the Minimum Wage for Federal Contractors to $15
On April 27, 2021, President Biden signed Executive Order 14026, which increases the minimum wage for workers on or in connection with a federal government contract to $15.00 as of January 30, 2022. This Executive Order increases the minimum wage level set by President Obama’s 2014 Executive Order 13658, which has been set at $10.95 per hour since January 1, 2021.
The new minimum wage applies to most new federal contracts, contract-like instruments, solicitations, extensions or renewals of existing contracts or contract-like instruments, and exercises of options on existing contracts or contract-like instruments that are entered into or exercised on or after January 30, 2022. However, the Executive Order “strongly encourage[s]” agencies to ensure, to the extent permitted by law, that the wages paid under existing contracts are consistent with the Executive Order’s requirements. The Executive Order provides that compliance with the increased minimum wage will be a condition of payment on the government contract, raising the potential for False Claims Act liability if a government contractor accepts payment on a federal contract while failing to pay covered workers the required wage. The Executive Order’s requirements must, in many circumstances, be included in subcontracts.
Although the Executive Order does not elaborate on which employees work “on or in connection” with a federal contract, it is likely that the Department of Labor’s forthcoming regulations implementing the Executive Order will follow the lead of its previous regulations implementing Executive Order 13658. Under those regulations, workers perform services “on” a contract if they directly perform the services called for by the contract’s terms, and they perform services “in connection with” a contract if they perform work activities that, although not specifically called for by the contract, are necessary to the contract’s performance.
The Executive Order also addresses the cash portion of the tipped minimum wage for covered workers. The cash wage for covered workers who qualify as tipped employees will increase to $10.50 as of January 30, 2022. The wage will then increase as of 85% of the general minimum wage as of January 30, 2023, and 100% of the general minimum wage as of January 30, 2024, at which point the tip credit will be eliminated.
The Department of Labor is required to issue regulations implementing the Executive Order by November 24, 2021. Federal contractors and subcontractors should consider beginning preparations for the increased minimum wage now, in advance of the regulations, by identifying potentially covered workers whose wages may require adjustment. Polsinelli will continue to update the contractor community when regulations are issued.