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D.C. Family and Sick Leave Law

Washington, D.C., has several leave laws — paid sick leave, paid family leave, and unpaid family and medical leave. Below is a summary of the key provisions of the District of Columbia's leave policies.

Paid Sick Leave

Washington, D.C.'s paid sick leave law was approved in 2008. It provides accrued sick leave and safe time benefits to employees in the nation's capital.

Eligible Employees

Workers employed within Washington, D.C., are covered. But there are exemptions:

  • Independent contractors
  • Students
  • Healthcare workers choosing to participate in a premium pay program
  • Casual babysitters

Employees in the construction industry covered by a bona fide collective bargaining agreement that clearly and unambiguously waives the paid leave requirements

Employees begin accruing sick leave on their first day of work. You can begin taking leave after 90 days.

Benefits Provided

Employers must provide each employee with sick and safe leave, depending on the number of employees in the company. Sick leave accrues as follows:

Employers with 100 or more employees must provide each employee with at least one hour of paid leave for every 37 hours worked, capped at seven days of leave per calendar year.

Employers with 25 to 99 employees must provide each employee with at least one hour of paid leave for every 43 hours worked, capped at five days of leave per calendar  year.

Employers with 24 or fewer employees must provide each employee with at least one hour of paid leave for every 87 hours worked, capped at three days of leave per calendar year.

Qualifying Reasons for Leave

You may use paid sick leave for the following situations:

  1. An employee's own serious health condition (physical and mental illness) or injury
  2. To obtain a medical diagnosis or preventative medical care
  3. Any of the needs listed in (1) or (2) for your child, parent, spouse, domestic partner, or other family member
  4. To obtain care or services related to stalking, domestic violence, or sexual abuse for yourself or a family member

“Family member" under D.C.'s sick leave law has a wide definition. It includes:

  • Spouse or domestic partner
  • Parents
  • Parents-in-law
  • Children (foster and grandchildren)
  • Children living with you for whom you have permanently assumed parental responsibility
  • Children's spouses
  • Siblings
  • Siblings' spouses
  • A person who has shared your residence and with whom you are in a committed relationship for the preceding 12 months

Paid Family Leave

The District of Columbia began administering paid leave benefits under its family leave law in 2020. In general, D.C. employers who must pay unemployment insurance, regardless of size, must comply with the paid family leave law.

Depending on the reason for the leave, workers are eligible for two to 12 weeks of leave for the following reasons:

  • Their own serious health condition
  • A family member's serious health condition
  • Pregnancy
  • To bond with a child

The D.C. Department of Employment Services (DOES) processes and pays paid family leave benefits. Employers don't pre-approve leave requests but are entitled to notice when time off under the family leave law is foreseeable.

D.C. paid family leave doesn't provide 100% wage replacement.

D.C. Unpaid Family Leave

D.C. law also provides workers with unpaid leave. Under the District of Columbia Family and Medical Leave Act (DCFMLA), workers in D.C. are entitled to 16 weeks of unpaid family leave and another 16 weeks of unpaid medical leave within a 24-month period. It's the D.C. equivalent to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. Employers with a workforce of 20 or more must follow this regulation. The leave is job-protected.

You can take the leave for several reasons, including:

  • The birth of a child
  • After adoption or foster care placement of a child with your family
  • Your own serious health condition
  • The care of a family member with a serious health condition

Employees must have at least 1,000 service hours in the 12-month period preceding the leave.

Learn More About D.C.'s Family and Sick Leave Law

Misunderstandings about sick leave laws can result in conflicts and sometimes lawsuits. If you are concerned about how sick leave laws apply to you or your employees, you could benefit from some legal advice. Contact a local employment law attorney to discuss the details of your situation and what protections apply.

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