D.C. employers have several leave laws with which they must comply. Here is a summary of the requirements under the Universal Paid Leave Act (UPLA), D.C. Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act (ASSLA) and D.C. FMLA.
Universal Paid Leave Act (UPLA)
Effective July 1, 2019, D.C. began collecting the payroll tax from D.C. employers to fund the benefit, and employees have been eligible to receive the benefit since July 1, 2020.
Who is Covered?
All employers that directly or indirectly employ or exercise control over the terms and conditions of employees working in D.C. and that are required to pay unemployment insurance on behalf of their employees are covered by the Act regardless of whether the employer has a physical location in D.C.
Who is Eligible?
To be eligible, employees must:
- experience a “qualifying event”;
- not be able to work (“perform his or her regular and customary work because of the occurrence of a qualifying event”); and
- satisfy the following criteria:
- is employed by a covered employer when the employee applies for benefits;
- earned wages during at least one of the past five completed quarters immediately preceding a qualifying event;
- the employee’s wages were reportable to the DOES pursuant to the UPLA’s tax regulations.I
What is a Qualifying Event?
The three events that may qualify an employee for UPLA leave are:
- Parental leave of up to eight weeks within a 52-workweek period may be taken for the birth of a child, placement of a child for adoption or foster care, or placement of a child where the eligible individual legally assumes and discharges parental responsibility. This leave must be taken within one year of the occurrence of the qualifying event (e.g., the birth of a child).
- Employees are entitled to up to six weeks within a 52-workweek period of paid family leave so the employee can provide “care or companionship” to a family member who has a diagnosis or occurrence of a serious health condition.
- Employees are entitled to up to two weeks within a 52-workweek period of paid medical leave following the diagnosis or occurrence of their own serious health condition.
How Much is the Benefit?
Benefits are determined using an average weekly wage calculation and are capped at $1,000 weekly. If an employee earns a wage equal to or less than 150% of the D.C. minimum wage, the employee will receive a benefit equal to 90% of his or her average weekly wage. Employees who earn wages in excess of 150% of the D.C. minimum wage are entitled to 90% of the 150% amount, plus 50% of the amount by which the average weekly wage exceeds 150% of the D.C. minimum wage.
Who Pays for the Benefit?
Covered employers have been contributing an amount equal to .62% of the wages of each of their covered employees to the Universal Paid Leave Implementation Fund since July 1, 2019.
What are the Employer Notification Requirements?
D.C. employers must post the employee UPLA notice, which is available in English, Spanish, French, Amharic, Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese, in all work locations. Additionally, the notice must be provided in electronic or physical form to:
- All employees at least once between February 1, 2020 and February 1, 2021, and at least annually thereafter;
- All new employees hired after February 1, 2020 within 30 days of hiring; and
- Any individual employee who asks the employer after February 1, 2020, for leave that could qualify for benefits under the UPLA.
What are the Recordkeeping Requirements?
The following records must be retained for three years:
- The name and social security number, or, if the social security number is unavailable, tax identification number, of each covered employee;
- The beginning and ending dates of each pay period;
- Wages paid for each pay period, including the cash value of other remuneration, gratuities, and tips and expenses incurred by each covered employee for which a deduction from wages is claimed;
- Method of payment;
- Earnings of employees;
- The dates on which wages were paid;
- Dates of parental, medical, and family leave taken by employees;
- Copies of employee notices of UPLA leave furnished to the employer;
- Copies of all UPLA written notices given to employees as required;
- Documents describing employee benefits, including short- and long-term disability policies, sick leave, vacation leave, and other employer paid and unpaid leave policies and practices; and
- Records of UPLA-related disputes between the employer and the employee.
Is the Employee’s Job Protected During UPLA Leave?
No, but there is a retaliatory clause stating employees may not be retaliated against for requesting or taking UPLA leave. Also, keep in mind other types of leave that may run concurrently with UPLA leave, such as FMLA, do have job protection clauses.
The Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act (ASSLA)
ASSLA requires employers to provide covered employees with paid leave for certain purposes, primarily to care for themselves and their family members in the event of a sickness, stalking, domestic violence or sexual assault.
Who is Covered?
Full-time and part-time employees who spend more than 50% of their time working in D.C. If an employee spends less than 50% of their time in D.C., but doesn’t work in any other state for more than 50% of their time and D.C. is their primary place of employment, then they are also eligible.
What is the Benefit?
- Employer with 100 or more employees – Employees accrue one hour for every 37 worked, not to exceed seven days per calendar year.
- Employer with 25 to 99 employees – Employees accrue one hour per every 43 hours worked, not to exceed five days per calendar year.
- Employer with 1 to 24 employees – Employees accrue one hour per 87 hours worked, not to exceed three days per calendar year.
When Can Employees Take ASSLA Leave?
Employees start accruing leave on the first day of employment and are allowed to use accrued leave after 90 days. For a period of 12 months, if an employee leaves a D.C. employer and is reinstated, the employee is immediately eligible for previously accrued and unused sick and safe leave. However, the employee must have been previously eligible to use the leave when they left the employer. Leave may be used in any of the following situations:
- An absence resulting from a physical or mental illness, injury, or medical condition of the employee or of a family member.
- An absence resulting from obtaining a professional medical diagnosis or care, or preventive medical care, for the employee or a family member.
- An absence if the employee or the employee’s family member is a victim of stalking, domestic violence, or sexual abuse, if the absence is directly related to social or legal services pertaining to the stalking, domestic violence, or sexual abuse, in order to:
- Seek medical attention for the employee or the employee’s family member to recover from physical or psychological injury or disability caused by domestic violence or sexual abuse;
- Obtain services from a victim services organization;
- Obtain psychological or other counseling;
- Temporarily or permanently relocate;
- Take legal action, including preparing for or participating in any civil or criminal legal proceeding related to or resulting from the domestic violence or sexual abuse; or
- Take other actions to enhance the physical, psychological, or economic health or safety of the employee or the employee’s family member or to enhance the safety of those who associate or work with the employee.
What are the Employer Notification Requirements?
Employers are required to post a notice for employees in English of their rights under ASSLA. Employers are also required to post notices in any other language in which one or more employee who has limited command of English speaks.
What are Recordkeeping Requirements?
Employers must keep records of hours worked by the employee and accrued and used leave for three years.
D.C. Family and Medical Leave Act (DCFMLA)
D.C. employers with at least 20 employees must allow eligible employees to take up to 16 weeks of unpaid family leave plus 16 weeks of unpaid medical leave in any 24-month period:
- Family leave can be taken for the birth, adoption, or foster placement of a child; for the permanent placement of a child for whom the employee permanently assumes and discharges parental responsibility, or to care for a family member with a serious health condition. Family members include anyone related to the employee by blood custody or marriage, and anyone with whom the employee shares a residence and has a committed relationship.
- Medical leave can be taken for the employee’s own serious health condition.
What are the Eligibility Requirements?
To qualify for DCFMLA Leave, an employee must:
- Have been employed by the employer for at least one year without a break in service, and
- Have worked for at least 1,000 hours during the 12-month period immediately preceding the requested medical leave.
Is DCFMLA Paid or Unpaid?
Employees may take leave without pay or use any type of paid leave they have available including sick and/or vacation.
How is “Family Member” Defined?
A family member is anyone who is related to the employee by blood, custody or marriage; a foster child; a child who lives with the employee and for whom the employee has permanently assumed parental responsibility; and someone who has lived with the employee in the last year and who shares a committed relationship with the employee. This definition is considerably broader than that found in the federal FMLA.
COVID-19 Response Emergency Amendment Act of 2020
On March 17, 2020, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser signed the Covid-19 Response Emergency Amendment Act of 2020 which created a new category of DCFMLA leave called “Declaration of Emergency” leave, or “DOE leave.” Some highlights of the Act are:
- DOE leave is available, during a public health emergency declared by the mayor, to employees who are unable to work as a result of the circumstances giving rise to the public health emergency.
- The one-year-of-service and 1,000-hour requirements that apply to family leave and medical leave under the DCFMLA do not apply to any employee who has been ordered or recommended to quarantine or isolate by the Department of Health, any other D.C. or federal agency, or a medical professional.
- Whereas the DCFMLA applies only to employers of 20 or more employees in DC, DOE leave applies to any employer, regardless of the number of people it employs in D.C.
- The amount of DOE leave is not specified; rather, DOE leave is available during a period of time for which the mayor has declared a public health emergency.
- Certification of the need for DOE leave is established by a recommendation from the mayor, Department of Health, any other D.C. or federal agency or a medical professional that the employee self-quarantine or self-isolate. .
- In the case of a government-mandated quarantine or isolation, the declaration of a public health emergency serves as certification of the need for such leave.
Let Smart HR Handle Your Leave Needs
If you are a D.C. employer, you must comply with several leave laws, some of which have been amended in the past year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Administering leave policies in D.C. gets tricky especially when coordinating them with federal leave laws like the FMLA. You must be clear on your obligations to your employees and ensure you have well-written and communicated leave policies in place. Smart HR can audit your leave policies and procedures to ensure legal compliance on a state and federal level and ease of administration. Call today.