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Complying with the District of Columbia's Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Policy

Washington DCFor employers located in the greater Washington, DC metro area, keeping up with multiple states’ employment law requirements can be challenging. Virginia and Maryland closely track the federal laws that govern employers on issues such as the Family Medical Leave Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, with only some minor variations.

However, the District of Columbia has implemented more stringent requirements for employers to comply with under several employment laws. In this month’s article, I will focus specifically on one law the District of Columbia has passed that Virginia and Maryland do not have and how employers can comply with it.

The District of Columbia’s “Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act” (the “Act”) requires employers who have employees working in the District of Columbia (regardless of where the employer’s other offices or headquarters are located) to provide paid sick days for their employees who work in DC (regardless of what state the employee resides in).

The Act applies to all private and government employers. It does not apply to independent contractors, students, health care workers who choose to participate in a premium pay program or restaurant wait staff and bartenders who work for a combination of wages and tips.

Eligible employees must have worked for the employer for at least one year without a break in service and have worked at least 1,000 hours of service during the previous 12 month period. This definition of employee includes employees who are employed by the employer in more than one location and spend more than 50 percent of his or her working time for the employer in the District of Columbia.

The amount of paid leave required will depend on the number of employees that are employed by the employer in the District of Columbia.

If you employ:

  • 24 or fewer employees in the District of Columbia, you must provide 1 hour of paid leave for every 87 hours worked for each employee, not to exceed 3 days of paid leave per calendar year.
  • 25 to 99 employees in the District of Columbia, you must provide 1 hour of paid leave for every 43 hours worked for each employee, not to exceed 5 days of paid leave per calendar year.
  • 100 or more employees in the District of Columbia, you must provide 1 hour of paid leave for every 37 hours worked for each employee, not to exceed 7 days of paid leave per calendar year.

The employee may use the paid leave for physical or mental illness, injury or medical condition or to assist with the medical care of a family member. The Act also allows for the employee to use the paid leave if the employee or the employee’s family member is the victim of stalking, domestic violence or sexual abuse.

The Act defines “family member” to include children, grandchildren, foster children, spouses, siblings, siblings’ spouses, children’s spouses, parents, grandparents and domestic partners (defined as anyone with whom the employee maintains a committed relationship and with whom the employee has lived with for the past year).

The employee may “roll over” any unused sick and safe days into the following year. However, paid leave accrued under the Act that is unused at the termination or resignation of the employee will not be reimbursed by the employer.

The employee should provide 10 days prior written notice to the employer of the employee’s intent to use the paid leave if the employee is aware of the need to use the paid leave ahead of time. Otherwise, notice must be given to the employer on the business day following the date on which the employee becomes aware of the need to use the paid leave.

The employer can create a form that the employee can use to request the leave that requires the employee to provide the employee’s name, identification number (if any), the type of leave, and the reason for the leave and the dates the paid leave to be taken.

If the employee requests paid leave for 3 or more consecutive days, the employer can require that the request be supported by a reasonable certification that must be provided upon the employee’s return to work or within one business day thereafter.

A reasonable certification includes:

  • A signed document from a health care provider affirming the illness of the employee or the employee’s family member;
  • A police report indicating that the employee or the employee’s family member was the victim of stalking, domestic violence or sexual abuse;
  • A court order indicating that the employee or employee’s family member was the victim of stalking, domestic violence or sexual abuse; or
  • A signed written statement from a victim or witness advocate affirming that the employee or employee’s family member is involved in legal action or proceedings related to stalking, domestic violence or sexual abuse.

If you already have a paid leave policy for your employees (for example, paid time off or universal leave) that gives the employee paid leave options to utilize at the employee’s discretion and which allows the accrual and usage of leave that is at least equivalent to the paid leave required under the Act, you are not required to modify your existing policy.

The employer must post the Official Notice in a conspicuous location in the employer’s places of employment. The notice is available in English and Spanish on the District of Columbia government website.

Failure to post the notice may result in a $100 per day fine, not to exceed $500 per violation. Claims filed by an employee alleging a violation of the Act by the Employer are investigated by the District of Columbia Department of Employment Services. If an employer willfully violates the Act, it will be assessed a civil penalty of $500 for the first violation, $750 for the second violation and $1,000 for the third and any subsequent violations.

If you have employees working in the District of Columbia who meet the requirements for the paid leave under the Act, you should review your current leave policies to determine if you need to modify your existing policy in order to comply with the Act.