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D.C. Family and Sick Leave Law

Washington D.C. has passed its own paid sick leave law that provides accrued sick leave benefits to many employees in the capital. Unfortunately, the law is somewhat complicated in the details. Below is a summary of key provisions, including who qualifies for leave, the various benefits that apply to different sizes of employers, and more.

Covered employers:

The law defines "employer" as "any entity that directly or indirectly employs or exercises control over a worker's wages, hours, or working conditions." This means temporary and contract workers are also covered, not just those permanently employed by the company. 

Eligible employees:

An "employee" means anyone whose wages, hours, or working conditions are controlled by another entity. This other entity typically is an "employer," but even contractors and temporary workers -- who are not technically employees of the company -- are considered "employees" under D.C.'s leave law.

The 12-month and/or 1,000-hour threshold for family and medical leave coverage was eliminated through a 2014 amendment, which means employees begin accruing leave on their first day of work. In addition, the amendment expands coverage to tipped workers (such as bartenders and wait staff). 

D.C.'s sick leave law, however, specifically excludes the following types of workers:

    1) An independent contractor who chooses to participate in a premium pay program;
    2) A student who chooses to participate in a premium pay program;
    3) Health care workers who choose to participate in a premium pay program; or
    4) Employees in the construction industry who are covered by a bona fide collective bargaining agreement that clearly and unambiguously waives the paid leave requirements.

Benefits provided:

The Act requires all employers to provide each employee with some amount of paid sick and/or safe leave depending on the employer's size. Employees begin accruing sick leave on their hire date, and may begin using it after 90 days. Sick leave for employees accrues as follows:

  • Employers with 100 or more employees must provide each employee at least 1 hour of paid leave for every 37 hours worked, capped at 7 days of leave per year.
  • Employers with 25 to 99 employees must provide each employee at least 1 hour of paid leave for every 43 hours worked, capped at 5 days of leave per year.
  • Employers with 24 or less employees must provide each employee at least 1 hour of paid leave for every 87 hours worked, capped at 3 days of leave per year.

Qualifying Reasons for Leave:

An employee may use such leave for the following situations:

    1) physical or mental illness, injury, or medical condition of the employee; or

    2) to obtain a medical diagnosis or preventative care for the employee; or

    3) any of the needs listed in (1) and/or (2) for a child, parent, spouse, domestic partner, or other family member of the employee; or

    4) to obtain care or services related to stalking, domestic violence, or sexual abuse of the employee or their family member.

Under D.C.'s sick leave law, "family member" includes: a spouse or domestic partner, parents, parents-in-law, children (foster or grandchildren included), children's spouses, siblings, siblings' spouses, children living with the employee and for whom the employee permanently assumes and discharges parental responsibility, or a person who has shared a mutual residence and committed relationship with the employee for at least the preceding 12 months.

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