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Important 2020 D.C. Employment Updates

Author: , Date: 07/16/2020

Categories: Employment Law & Litigation

Man's hands typing on keyboard on a crowded desk with a computer monitor that says 'employment contract' to symbolize employment law updates in DC. As everyone is adjusting to working and living with Covid-19, we must not forget that the governments are continuing to enact laws that affect employers.  While we have previously provided updates for Maryland and Virginia employers, the District of Columbia has also recently enacted several important updates to its employment laws:

  1. Time Off to Vote.  Effective June 30, 2020, employers must provide employees, upon request, with at least two hours of paid leave to vote in person in an election.  This law also applies to educational institutions, including independent schools, to give students a two-hour excused absence to vote. 
  2. DC Universal Paid Leave.  As we wrote last year, starting July 1, 2020, eligible employees may take paid leave under the District of Columbia’s Universal Paid Leave Amendment Act.   This Act essentially created a short term disability program for the District.    Employers have been paying and will continue to pay taxes on wages since last July 1st that will fund this program.

In a fifty-two week period, an employee may take up to eight weeks for parental leave, which includes the birth, adoption or placement of a foster child with the employee; up to six weeks for leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition; or up to two weeks for leave to care for the employee’s own serious health condition.  

When an employee requests this leave, the employer’s obligation is only to give the employee this time off.  The employer does not have to make any other payment.   However, there is no requirement that the employer protect the employee’s job during this time. If the employee also qualifies for D.C. Family and Medical Leave or the Federal Family and Medical Leave, then the Paid Family Leave will run concurrently and the employee will be entitled to job restoration.  

      3. Reproductive Health Decisions Discrimination.   The D.C. Council tackled a very controversial topic by passing the Strengthening Reproductive Health Protections Amendment Act of 2019.  This law strengthens protections of an individual to control her reproductive health decisions.  Reproductive health decisions include an employee, an employee’s dependent, or an employee’s spouse using or intending to use a particular drug, device, or medical service to initiate or terminate a pregnancy, or to plan a pregnancy.  The new law also prohibits an employer from retaliating against a health professional employee from aiding or performing an abortion.  This law will not be effective until it is funded.  

However, it is important to note that employees already have some protection nonetheless.  Under the current law, an employer cannot discriminate against an employee for reproductive health decisions (although the employer is not required to pay for the reproductive health decisions).  

        4. D.C. Transportation Benefits Equity Amendment Act of 2020.  D.C. also passed a new law that requires certain D.C. employers to reduce the number of employees who commute into the city by private vehicle. These measures include: (1) providing mass transportation for employees directly; (2) giving employees a transit pass (including passes for travel by bus, streetcar, Metro, Maryland Area Regional Commuter, Virginia Railway Express, or Amtrak); or (3) reimbursing employees for the purchase, maintenance and storage of a bicycle.  This Act has also not been funded yet, but the possibility is on the horizon.  We will continue to monitor and update you as necessary. 

Recommendations for Employers and Independent Schools:

  1. Revise Employee Handbooks to reflect new laws.
  2. Train supervisors and human resources professionals on these laws to ensure compliance. 
  3. Ensure all the required notices are posted.
  4. Ensure your company has been paying into the Universal Paid Leave fund. 

As you navigate these new laws, we are here to help with implementation and advise on policies to limit liability. Ginny Cascio Bonifacino can be reached at (240) 778-2315 or gcbonifacino@mcmillanmetro.comNatasha M. Nazareth can be reached at (240) 778-2310 or nnazareth@mcmillanmetro.com