It’s important to stay up to date on all of the employment laws in your state so that you can maintain compliance in your business. We did some of the hard work for you and put some of the most important District of Columbia statutes in one place so you can either learn them for the first time or give yourself a refresher. 

However, remember that our summary is not qualified legal advice, laws are always subject to change, and they can vary from municipality to municipality. 

It’s up to you to make sure you’re compliant with all laws and statutes in your area. Consult with a qualified lawyer and/or your local government agencies if you have questions or concerns. 

Here are a few employment laws every District of Columbia small business owner should know.

Resources

First, here are a few helpful links and resources for you to bookmark and refer back to:

Appearances and Grooming

Employers must pay the cost of purchase, maintenance, and cleaning of uniforms and protective clothing (including hats and shoes) required by the employer or by law, unless:

  • The employer pays 15 cents per hour in addition to the employee’s regular wages with a weekly maximum of $6 for the responsibility of purchasing, maintaining and cleaning a plain and washable uniform
  • The employer pays 10 cents per hour in addition to the employee’s regular wages for the responsibility of maintaining and cleaning a plain and washable uniform
  • The employer pays 8 cents per hour in addition to the employee’s regular wages for the responsibility of purchasing a plain and washable uniform

Leave

  • Sick Days: Employers are required to provide paid sick leave to employees. The requirements based on business size are as follows: 
    • Employers with 24 or fewer employees: Not less than one hour of paid sick leave for ever 87 hours worked
      • The annual sick leave accrual can be capped at three days.
    • Employers with 25-99 employees: Not less than one hour of paid sick leave for every 43 hours worked 
      • The annual sick leave accrual can be capped at five days.
    • Employers with 100+ employees: Not less than one hour of paid sick leave for every 37 hours worked 
      • The annual sick leave accrual can be capped at seven days. 
  • Medical Leave: DC employers with 50 or more employees must comply with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which gives eligible employees the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for a serious health condition, a new child, or to prepare for a family member’s call to active military duty. 
  • Vacation Days: Employers are not required to provide vacation leave, but if they choose to do so, they must comply with their established policies. 
  • Jury Duty: Employers are required to provide leave to respond to a jury summons and serve on a jury, but it does not have to be paid. 
    • An employee may not be terminated, disciplined or threatened due to time taken off for jury duty. 
  • Holiday Leave: Employers must allow employees to take an unpaid vacation day on April 16, District of Columbia Emancipation Day, unless it would disrupt the employer’s operations. 
    • If any employee wishes to take April 16 off, they must provide notification of their desire to do so at least 10 days beforehand. 
    • No other laws require private employers to provide paid or unpaid holiday leave. 
  • School Leave: Employers in the District of Columbia must allow their employees who are parents, guardians, aunts, uncles, or grandparents to take 24 hours of leave during a 12-month period to attend school-related activities.
    • The employee must notify the employer 10 days before the requested leave unless the school-related activity was not reasonably foreseeable.
    • The leave can be unpaid or paid family, vacation, personal, compensatory, or leave bank leave.
    • Voting Leave: No statute
  • Military Leave: The District of Columbia does not have its own military leave law, but the federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) is applicable to all employers in the United States.
  • Bereavement Leave: No statute

Final Paycheck

  • If an employee is discharged (fired, terminated, laid off), the employer must pay all due wages no later than the first work day after the discharge. 
  • If the discharged employee is in charge of any of the employer’s monies, the employer has four days from the date of the discharge to verify the monies the employee was in charge of is accurate. 
  • If an employee quits or resigns, an employer must pay all due wages by the next regular payday or within seven days from the resignation date, whichever comes first. 
  • If an employee is suspended due to a labor dispute, the employer must pay all due wages no later than the next payday. 

Minimum Wage

  • The current minimum wage in Washington D.C. is $14. 
  • The minimum wage will increase to $15 on July 1, 2020. 
  • Starting July 1, 2021, the minimum wage will be increased annually in proportion to the annual average increase in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers in the Washington Metropolitan Statistical Area. 

Tipped Wages

  • The current minimum wage for tipped employees is $4.45.
  • The tip minimum wage will increase on July 20, 2020, to $5.00.
  • The tip minimum wage, like the regular minimum wage, will be increased annually in proportion to the annual average increase in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers in the Washington Metropolitan Statistical Area starting July 1, 2021. 
  • Employers may pay tipped employees the tip minimum wage if the employees actually receive tips in an amount that is at least equal to the difference between the tipped wage paid and the standard minimum wage. 
  • Employees are allowed to participate in tip pooling or sharing arrangements, but there are no laws specifying whether or not an employer may require tip pooling or sharing. 

Child Labor

  • Minors 14 and 15 years of age are not allowed to work more than six consecutive days a week, no more than 48 hours a week, and no more than 8 hours a day between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m, except when school is not in session– then they may work until 9 p.m. 
    • They may not work at jobs involving machinery. 
  • Minors 16 and 17 years of age may work no more than six consecutive days a week, no more than 48 hours a week, and no more than 8 hours a day between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. 
    • They may not work any jobs involving the operation of any freight or non-automatic elevator or in a quarry, tunnel or excavation. 

Meal Breaks, Rest Periods, Overtime

  • The federal overtime rule stipulates that the minimum salary requirement for administrative, professional, and executive exemptions is $684 per week, or $35,568 per year.
    • District of Columbia law requires employers to pay non-exempt employees time and a half for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek. The Fair Labor Standards Act also requires that non-exempt employees be paid time and a half for all hours worked over 40 in the workweek.
  • Employers are required to pay non-exempt employees an overtime rate of 1 ½ times the regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours in one workweek. 
  • Reasonable paid or unpaid break time must be provided to employees to express breast milk as needed. The break time may run concurrently with any break already provided to the employee.
  • DC has no statute for meals and breaks, so federal rules apply. The federal rule doesn’t require breaks, but when employers do offer short breaks (usually at a 20-minute maximum), they must be paid. 

Required Posters

The District of Columbia requires that employers post the following notices in a prominent location:

  • DC Minimum Wage
  • Unemployment Compensation
  • Workers’ Compensation
  • Occupational Safety and Health
  • DC Child Labor Law
  • Equal Employment Opportunity
  • DC Family Medical Leave Act (employers with 20 or more employees)
  • DC Parental Leave Act
  • Protecting Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (in English and Spanish)
  • Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act of 2008 (in English and Spanish)
  • The Right to Breastfeed (or similar posting)

Hiring

  • Background Checks: Employers who run background checks should ensure they’re following the requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which are available here.
  • Credit and Investigative Checks: The District of Columbia does not expressly regulate employers’ obtaining credit checks on applicants or employees, but the Fair Credit Reporting Act almost certainly applies to employers’ obtaining credit checks. Additional information is available here.
  • Arrest and Conviction Checks: Employers may not ask about arrests, criminal accusations (that are not pending or did not result in a conviction), or criminal convictions on an application form or during the interview process.
    • Once a conditional job offer is made, an employer may ask about and look into criminal convictions (at no point can an employer ask about arrests or criminal accusations).
    • The job offer may be withdrawn only if there is a legitimate business reason to revoke the offer. A reasonable business purpose will be determined using six factors:
      • Specific duties and responsibilities necessarily related to the employment
      • Fitness or ability of the person to perform one or more job duties or responsibilities given the offense
      • Time elapsed since the occurrence of the offense
      • Age of the applicant when the offense occurred
      • Frequency and seriousness of the offense
      • Information provided by applicant or on their behalf that indicates rehabilitation or good conduct since the offense occurred
  • Mandatory Background Checks: The District of Columbia requires that employers conduct background checks on the following types of employees or applicants.
    • Those working for healthcare and community residence facilities, hospices, and home care facilities
    • Firefighters
    • Those working for a D.C. Public School
    • Those working for a D.C. agency that provides direct services to minors
    • Mortgage bankers, mortgage brokers, and loan officers
    • Department of Corrections personnel

Employment Discrimination

Federal law prohibits discrimination in employment or terms and conditions of employment based on the following:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Age
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender
  • Gender identity
  • Religion
  • National origin
  • Pregnancy
  • Physical or mental disability
  • Genetic information, including family medical history
  • Child or spousal support withholding
  • Military or veteran status
  • Citizenship and/or immigration status

Additionally, the District of Columbia Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on any of the following:

  • Matriculation
  • Marital/domestic partnership status
  • Family responsibilities
  • Wage garnishment for consumer debt
  • Personal appearance
  • Tobacco use
  • Political affiliation
  • Unemployment status

Click here to read our blog on what is acceptable and unacceptable to ask during an interview. 

Whistleblower Protection

Employers in the District of Columbia that have contracts with the District government may not discharge, discriminate, or retaliate against an employee (or former employee) because they refused to comply with an illegal order or reported any of the following:

  • Mismanagement of a public contract
  • Misuse or waste of public resources or funds
  • Abuse of authority
  • A violation of federal, state, or local law
  • A nontechnical violation of a contract
  • A substantial and specific danger to public health and safety

Termination

DC is an employment-at-will district, which means that without a written employee contract, employees can be terminated for any reason at any time, provided that the reason is not discriminatory. 

COBRA

  • COBRA is a federal law that allows many employees to continue their health insurance benefits after their employment ends. Because federal COBRA only applies to employers that have 20 or more employees, many states have adopted their own versions of the law, which are known as “mini-COBRAs.”
  • The District of Columbia’s mini-COBRA allows employees to continue their coverage for up to three months. Employers must provide an employee with a notice of their COBRA rights within 15 days of the triggering event.

Shift Scheduling

DC minimum wage laws require employers to pay employees for one additional hour at the applicable minimum wage rate for each day employees work a split shift, or a daily schedule where the hours worked are not worked consecutively (not including meal periods of one hour or less). 

Miscellaneous Laws

Discussing Wages

The District of Columbia prohibits employers from doing any of the following:

  • Requiring an employee to refrain from asking about, disclosing, or discussing their wages or another employee’s wages
  • Discharging, discriminating against, or interfering with an employee because they asked about, disclosed, or discussed their wages or another employee’s wages
  • Prohibiting or trying to prohibit an employee from asserting their rights or participating in a proceeding regarding wage transparency

Sexual Harassment Training

  • Employers of tipped employees to implement sexual harassment policies and prevention training.
  • The policy must outline how employees can report sexual harassment to management and the D.C. Office of Human Rights.
  • Employers must document instances of sexual harassment, noting if the harasser was an owner, operator, manager, or non-manager, and report these instances to the OHR.
    • Reporting must be done an an annual basis by July 1.

Expense Reimbursement and Travel Time

  • Employers in the District of Columbia are required to cover the costs of employee’s travel expenses, tools, and uniforms in addition to their regular wage or salary.
  • Travel time, except for the employee’s regular commute, is considered hours worked and therefore must be paid.

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