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District of Columbia Enacts Mandatory Paid Sick Leave for All Employees

3/6/2008

On March 4, 2008, the D.C. City Council unanimously passed the "Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act of 2007," requiring employers in the District of Columbia to provide paid leave to employees. With paid sick leave now mandated in the District of Columbia, employers must take steps to ensure compliance with the Act's requirements when the Act takes effect, in approximately October 2008.

Background

The "Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act of 2007" was originally introduced by the City Council in May 2007, and passed an initial vote in February 2008. The final legislation included a number of amendments designed to lessen the financial impact on employers. The law, which is only the second of its kind behind San Francisco's paid sick leave ordinance, is due to become effective in 30 days, absent Congressional action to the contrary. The Act shall apply six months after the effective date.

Key Provisions of the Act

The Act requires employers to provide a number of paid "sick or safe" days per year, depending on the size of the employer. Leave may be taken by employees who have worked for the employer for at least one year, for a variety of reasons, including physical injury, mental illness, or preventative care. The leave can be used to care for one's self or one's child, parent, spouse or domestic partner. Significantly, it is also the first bill in the country to allow paid leave when the employee or the employee's family member is a victim of stalking, or domestic or sexual violence.

Under the Act, companies with 100 or more employees must provide seven (7) paid days of leave; companies with 25 – 99 employees must provide five (5) days; and companies with 24 or fewer employees must provide three (3) days. Leave is accrued throughout the year, and while unused accrued paid leave may be carried over annually, the paid leave is not payable upon termination or resignation of the employee. For leave that lasts for three (3) days or longer, an employer may require that the employee provide a reasonable certification of the need for leave, including a medical certification from a health care provider. The Act further includes anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation provisions against employees taking leave under the Act.

The Act was not without its controversy. Several concessions were reached by lawmakers, and amendments were added to the final legislation, including reducing the monetary penalties imposed on employers for not posting information about the leave requirements in the workplace. In addition, several groups of employees were specifically excluded from the bill's requirements, including wait staff, independent contractors and health care workers who participate in "premium pay" programs.

Significance

Under the Act, employers can be fined up to $1,000 per year for failing to post information about the law in the workplace. While many employers already voluntarily provide some type of paid time off, either through sick or vacation leave, all companies doing business in the District of Columbia should now take the time to review their leave policies and procedures, as well as necessary posting requirements. Small businesses that do not provide paid leave will be particularly impacted, both financially and operationally, by the mandated leave. Moreover, employers should take care to ensure that no employee suffers any adverse employment action as a result of taking protected leave under the Act.

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For additional information on the Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act of 2007, including the interaction between the new Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, please contact Kara Maciel at (202) 861-5328 or kmaciel@ebglaw.com, in the Washington, D.C. office.

This document has been provided for informational purposes only and is not intended and should not be construed to constitute legal advice. Please consult your attorneys in connection with any fact-specific situation under federal law and the applicable state or local laws that may impose additional obligations on you and your company.

© 2008 Epstein Becker & Green, P.C.

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