The District of Columbia Employment Law Guide

The labor laws every business owner should know

Businesses must post all applicable local and federal labor law posters in the workplace.

District of Columbia labor law posters guide

Federal labor law posters to download

Wages and Breaks

Minimum wage
$14

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 min wage
$4.45

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.

Overtime
1.5X

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.

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.

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).

Breaks
None

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.

Lactation breaks
Yes

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.

Final Paychecks

For employees who are fired or laid off

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.

For employees who quit or resign

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.

For employees who are suspended due to a labor dispute

If an employee is suspended due to a labor dispute, the employer must pay all due wages no later than the next payday.

Child labor

Minors 14 and 15 years of age

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

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.

Leave Requirements

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 every 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 and Family 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.

Bereavement Leave

The District of Columbia does not require employers to provide leave.

Vacation time

Employers are not required to provide vacation leave, but if they choose to do so, they must comply with their established policies.

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.

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.

Voting time

The District of Columbia does not require employers to provide leave for employees to vote.

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.

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.

Hiring, firing, and more

Discrimination

Federal law makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of: Race, Color, Age, Sex, Sexual orientation, Gender, Gender identity, Religion, National origin, Pregnancy, Genetic information, including family medical history, Physical or mental disability, 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.

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.

Record Keeping

Regarding employment and payroll data, under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and others, you must:

For at least 3 years: keep payroll records, certificates, agreements, notices, collective bargaining agreements, employment contracts, and sales and purchase records. Also keep completed copies of each employee’s I-9 for three years after they are hired. If the employee works longer than three years, hold on to the form for at least one year after the employee leaves. 

For at least 2 years: Keep basic employment and earning records like timecards, wage-rate tables, shipping and billing records, and records of additions to or deductions from wages. Also keep the records that show why you may pay different wages to employees of different sexes, such as wage rates, job evaluations, seniority and merit systems, and collective bargaining agreements.

For at least 1 year: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says employers should keep all employment records for at least one year from the employee’s date of termination. 

Other record-keeping laws that may apply to you: 

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, you need to keep records of job-related injuries and illnesses for five years. But some records, like those covering toxic substance exposure, have to be kept for 30 years.

You must keep files of benefit plans and seniority and merit systems while they are in effect and for at least a year after they end. You must also retain summary descriptions and annual reports of benefits plans for six years.

If your company is covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act, you must also retain relevant records of leaves, notices, policies, and more for three years.

Additional laws that may apply to you

Uniforms

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.

Background checks

Employers who run background checks should ensure they’re following the requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which are available here.

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.

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.

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

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).

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 on 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.

Compliance Calendar

Get our Compliance Calendar to stay on top of deadlines throughout the year: View it on your computer. Click + Google Calendar in the lower right to add it to your Google Calendar and subscribe to all updates. You can also download a calendar (.ics) file that you can import into iCal or Outlook, or download a PDF to your computer.  

COVID-19 Resources

View the resources available to District of Columbia business owners and workers impacted by the coronavirus outbreak in our state-by-state COVID-19 Resource Center.

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 Remember

This 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. If you need more compliance help, we recommend consulting with a qualified lawyer, checking with your local government agencies, or signing up for Homebase to get help from our certified HR Pros. 

Additional Resources

Affected by coronavirus? We’ve got real-time data and resources in our back-to-business toolkit.

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