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Legal Updates

Washington, D.C. Becomes Second City In Nation To Require Employers To Provide Paid Sick Leave

Washington, D.C. recently followed San Francisco’s lead and became the second city in the country to require employers to provide paid sick leave to their employees.  D.C.’s City Council passed the measure, known as the “Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act of 2008,” in March.  Congress has thirty legislative days to review the measure.   Assuming Congress does not intervene, the measure is expected to become law on May 13, 2008, with an effective date six months later.   This six-month waiting period provides D.C. employers with an opportunity to review their leave policies to ensure full compliance with the new law.

D.C.’s sick leave law (the “Law”) provides for three levels of benefits, depending on the size of the employer.  Employers with one hundred or more employees are required to provide employees with one hour of paid leave for every thirty-seven hours worked, up to seven paid sick days per calendar year.  Employers with at least twenty-five but no more than ninety-nine employees are required to provide employees with one hour of paid leave for every forty-three hours worked, up to five paid sick days per calendar year.  Finally, employers with twenty-four or fewer employees are required to provide employees with one hour of paid leave for every eighty-seven hours worked, up to three paid sick days per calendar year.

Number of Employees in D.C.

Paid Sick Days

100 or more






The Law applies to all employers with at least one employee.  However, the following individuals are not covered:

  • Independent contractors;
  • Students;
  • Health care workers who choose to participate in a premium pay program (a plan offered by an employer under which an employee may elect to receive extra pay in lieu of benefits); and
  • Restaurant wait staff and bartenders who work for a combination of wages and tips.

The Law allows employees to use paid leave for their own physical or mental illness or injury, to obtain preventive heath care, or to care for an ill child, parent, spouse, domestic partner or any family member.  The Law also provides paid leave if the employee or the employee’s family member is a victim of stalking, domestic violence or sexual violence.   In such cases, the employee may use paid sick days to take legal action; obtain psychological, medical, legal or victim’s rights counseling; or temporarily or permanently relocate, if necessitated by the stalking, domestic violence or sexual violence.

Paid leave will accrue under the Law in accordance with the employer’s established pay period.  An employee shall start to accrue paid leave at the beginning of his or her employment; however, an employee must work for ninety days before using this benefit.   The Law provides that accrued but unused leave will carry over annually, but another provision of the Law states, somewhat inconsistently, that an employee may not use in one year more than the maximum hours that may accrue in a single year.  Employers are not required to pay accrued but unused sick leave upon termination of employment.

The Law allows employers to require appropriate certification if an employee’s leave is for three or more consecutive days.  Such certification may take the form of a doctor’s note; a police report indicating that the employee or the employee’s family member was the victim of stalking, domestic violence, or sexual abuse; a court order; or a signed statement from a victim and witness advocate or domestic violence counselor affirming that the employee is involved in legal action related to stalking, domestic violence, or sexual abuse.

Employers that currently provide paid leave options will not be required to modify their policies as long as one of the options provides benefits equal to or greater than those required by the Law.  An option will be considered to satisfy this standard only if it allows an employee to access and accrue paid leave at least as quickly as under the Law and for the same purposes set forth in the Law.

The Mayor of D.C. will issue a posting that all employers will be required to display prominently in the workplace.  Employers that do not make the required posting or provide employees with required leave will be fined $500 for the first offense, $750 for the second offense, and $1,000 for the third and each subsequent offense.  The Mayor will also establish rules to exempt certain businesses from the Law if they can prove “hardship” as a result of this Law.

Employers with offices in D.C. should review their sick leave policies to ensure that they satisfy the Law when it goes into effect.  The Firm is available to assist with updating employee handbooks and leave policies to ensure compliance with the Law, as well as with other federal and state requirements.