DC Has Implemented its Paid Leave Act.

DC Paid Family Leave logo with the DC flag

The District of Columbia’s Universal Paid Leave Act of 2016 (“Paid Leave Act” or “Act”) went into effect on July 1, 2020. The newly enacted law, first passed by the D.C. Council in 2017, provides paid leave benefits for private-sector employees who work 50% or more of their time in the District for a covered employer. Below is an explanation of the new law and how it might apply to you.

Who is covered?

  • “Covered Employee”
    • The Paid Leave Act applies to employees of a “covered employer,” who spend more than 50% of their work time in the District for that employer. “Work time” includes teleworking or telecommuting.
    • Work spent outside the District is still covered if it is incidental in nature, temporary or transitory in nature, or consists of isolated transactions. For example, employees who regularly telework in another jurisdiction for a District employer are still covered as their work is considered incidental.
    • Covered employees can include part-time, full-time, temporary, and seasonal workers.
    • Employees must have performed this work during the year prior to requesting the paid leave benefits.
    • A covered employee need not live in the District to qualify.
    • Generally, if a covered employer pays or has paid unemployment insurance tax on an employee for a quarter of a calendar year, the employee will automatically qualify for benefits under the Paid Leave Act.
  • “Covered Employer”
    • A “covered employer” is any private-sector employer within D.C. who “employs or exercises control over the wages, hours, or working conditions of an employee and is required to pay unemployment insurance on behalf of its employees.”
      • Unfortunately, public-sector employers, such as the Federal government and the District of Columbia government, are not covered employees under the Paid Leave Act, and thus, are not required to extend these benefits to their employees*

What is covered?

  • Family Leave
    • Up to 6 weeks, if an eligible employee’s family member is diagnosed with or experiences a serious health condition AND that family member requires care or companionship from the eligible individual.
      • Employees who apply for Family Leave will be requested to provide a medical certification from their family’s medical provider to confirm that the care or companionship is needed from the employee.
  • Personal Medical Leave
    • Up to 2 weeks
      • The employee must have a serious health condition. To learn more about what the District considers a serious health condition, see below. A more in-depth description is found in the DOES (Department of Employment Services) Employee Handbook.
      • When applying, the employee will be required to submit a medical certification from their doctor
  • Parental Leave
    • Up to 8 weeks to bond with a new child.
      • Employees do not need to show in what ways they are bonding with their child, but they must prove that their child was born or placed in their care within the past year.
  • For each of these qualifying events, an eligible individual can receive up to $1,000 per week as a payment every two weeks from the District (and not your employer). The actual amount paid is based on each individual’s total average wages from the past year.
      • Note: These paid leave benefits are paid by the District based on taxes collected from the District’s private-sector employers.
  • Approved paid leave can be taken intermittently, in increments of no less than one day.
  • No matter how many types of events might occur to an eligible individual within one year, that individual may only receive a total of 8 weeks of paid benefits under the Act. Thus, if an employee uses 2 weeks of Personal Health Leave under the Act, they will only be eligible for up to 6 weeks of Parental Leave under the Act.
  • Note: Receiving paid leave under the Act does not guarantee job protection (However, leave from work for a qualifying event under this Act may be covered by another law that does ensure you can return to your job after leave, such as the federal FMLA and the DCFMLA).

How do I receive these benefits?

  • Benefits under the Paid Leave Act are triggered when an employee experiences or anticipates experiencing what is called a “qualifying event.” The Act breaks down qualifying events into three categories, corresponding to the types of leave covered under the Act:
    • Qualifying family leave event
      • “The diagnosis or occurrence of a serious health condition of a family member”
        • A serious health condition is generally described as:
          • A physical or mental illness, injury, or impairment that necessitates inpatient care in a hospital, hospice, or residential health care facility, or continuing treatment at home by a health care provider or other individual.
        • A family member is considered:
          • A biological, adopted, or foster son or daughter, a step-child, a child of a domestic partner, or a person to whom an eligible individual stands in loco parentis.
    • Qualifying medical leave event
          • “The diagnosis or occurrence of a serious health condition of an eligible individual”
    • Qualifying parental leave event
        • Events associated with:
          • The birth of a child of an eligible employee
          • The placement of a child with an individual for adoption or foster care
  • Application Process
    • An eligible employee who is aware of an upcoming qualifying event for which they will request paid leave, such as the birth of a child, should notify their employer sooner than later
    • Regardless, if the leave is foreseeable, the law requires that an individual inform their employer of their intent to apply for paid time off at least 10 days in advance of the start of the intended leave (note that other leave laws, such as Federal FMLA and DCFMLA require employees to provide at least 30 days’ notice to employers of the need for leave).
      • It is best for an individual to inform their employer in writing, and to include details on the type of paid leave benefits sought, how long the individual expects to be on leave, the expected start and end dates of leave, and the intended leave schedule (i.e. whether the individual will be taking continuous or intermittent leave)
      • If an individual is unable to provide notice at least 10 days in advance due to an emergency, the individual, or someone acting on their behalf, must provide notice no more than 2 days (or 48 hours) after the emergency occurs.
      • The Paid Leave Act runs concurrently with any leave approved under Federal FMLA or DCFMLA. In other words, if an employee has been approved for 16 weeks to care for a family member under DCFMLA, 6 weeks of that leave can be paid if the employee requested and was granted paid leave under the Paid Leave Act.
    • Although an employee should notify their employer of intended leave as soon as possible (and at least 10 days in advance of foreseeable events, or within 48 days of an emergency), an employee cannot submit an application to DOES until the qualifying event occurs.
    • Once an individual has experienced a qualifying event and is ready to apply for benefits, he or she can do so either by visiting: dcpaidfamilyleave.dc.gov, or by calling 202-899-3700.
    • Note: There is a 7-day waiting period after experiencing a qualifying event before the paid leave will begin

What if my employer has its own plan?

The Paid Leave Act provides baseline coverage for covered employees within the District. An employer is permitted to provide additional paid benefits to supplement the Paid Leave Act but is not permitted to reduce the benefits conferred by the Act.


*Although federal and D.C. government employees are not covered by the Paid Leave Act, there is hope on the horizon.