In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, on August 13, 2020, the D.C. City Council enacted the Protecting Businesses and Workers from COVID-19 Emergency Amendment Act of 2020. The new law requires all D.C. employers to implement worker protection policies related to social distancing and face coverings by August 20, 2020, through November 10, 2020. Although many D.C. employers have already implementing safety protocols and policies recommended by the CDC and OSHA, employers should ensure they are compliant with the mandatory requirements in the Act.
What Are D.C. Employers Required To Do?
Workplace Protections Provisions
The Act states employers must “adopt and implement social distancing and worker protection policies” to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in their workplaces. The policies must adhere to the Mayor’s Order 2020-080. On July 22, 2020, the D.C. mayor enacted an order titled “Wearing of Masks in the District of Columbia to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19” (the mask order). The main provisions of the Order required people to wear masks in the common areas of apartments and condominiums, while driving or riding in a taxi or other form of transportation and when leaving a residence if likely to come within six feet of another person “for more than a fleeting time.” The Order required businesses to post signage on exterior doors stating all who enter must wear a mask or be ejected. The Order also required employers to provide masks to their employees.
Exceptions to Mask Requirements
The Act does not require masks when: (1) an employee is in an enclosed office that no one else is permitted to enter; (2) a person is unable to wear a mask due to a medical condition or disability; (3) an employee is physically unable to remove a mask; or (4) required job equipment precludes wearing a mask.
Positive COVID-19 Test Reporting
The Act allows employers to require employees to report to them positive COVID-19 test results. If employers adopt such a policy, they cannot disclose the identity of employees who test positive except to the D.C. Department of Health (DOH) or other D.C. or federal agencies responsible for contact tracing and containment of COVID-19. Additionally, employers may restrict employees who test positive from entering the workplace until given clearance by a medical professional or until completing a quarantine period recommended by DOH or the CDC.
The Act requires employers enact policies regarding maintaining social distancing in workplaces. However, the Act doesn’t provide specifics on compliance.
The Act prohibits retaliation against employees for the following reasons:
- An employee refuses to serve a customer or client, or to work within six feet of an individual, who is not complying with the workplace protections established pursuant to section 102 of the Order.
- An employee testing positive for COVID-19 providing the employee did not physically report to the workplace after receiving a positive test result.
- An employee exposed to someone with COVID-19 and needs to quarantine.
- An employee is sick and awaiting a COVID-19 test result.
- An employee caring for or seeking to care for someone who is sick with COVID-19 symptoms or who is quarantined.
D.C. Employers failing to comply with the Act may be subject to the following fines:
- Up to $50 per violation for PPE and safety requirements if repeated or willful violation.
- Up to $500 per violation for retaliation against employees exercising their rights under the Act.
Stay Abreast Of COVID-19 Laws
Laws in the D.C. metro area continue to evolve in response to the changing situations surrounding COVID-19, and its effect on the workplace. Additionally, there are federal laws, such as the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), with which all employers must comply. To ensure your company is in compliance with all local, state and federal laws pertaining to COVID-19 and employment laws enacted prior to the pandemic, contact Smart HR today for a workplace compliance audit. Leave compliance issues to the experts and call Smart HR today.