Search form

D.C. Council Considering 16-Week Employee Paid Leave Bill

  • October 12, 2015

The Council of the District of Columbia is considering legislation that would give all D.C. residents and those employed in the District up to 16 weeks of paid family and medical leave every 24 months for certain qualifying life events, including bonding with a new child, recuperating from a military deployment, and caring for an ill family member. If passed, the bill would offer D.C. residents and workers the most generous paid leave in the country.

The Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015, introduced on October 6, 2015, amends the D.C. Family Leave Act. It would require nonfederal employers to pay a new tax into a city-managed Family and Medical Leave Fund to cover the paid leave benefit. Contributions are based upon the salaries of the employer’s workers, with the employer paying between 0.5% and 1% of each worker’s salary into the Fund on an annual basis. D.C. residents who work outside the District or who work for the federal government also would contribute to the fund based upon their annual income. Self-employed residents may opt out of the Fund.

An eligible individual taking leave would file a claim with the Fund for wage replacement using an online web portal. To be eligible for benefits, the individual (1) must be a D.C. resident or (2) must have been employed by a covered employer for some or all of the year immediately preceding the qualifying event and spent at least 50% of his or her working time in the District. Unemployed individuals who meet the above criteria also are eligible for the benefits. Weekly benefits paid will be from $1,000 to $3,000, depending on the employee’s average weekly wages. Individuals also can seek payment from the Fund for intermittent and reduced schedule leave. The D.C. Office of Administrative Hearings will oversee the determination of claims.

Should the bill pass, D.C., Virginia, and Maryland employers will need to carefully review and likely revamp their leave policies as the bill covers D.C. residents, not just employees working in the District. Virginia and Maryland employers who employ D.C. residents will need to consider whether to create two sets of leave policies: unpaid or partially paid leave for D.C. residents who have access to Fund payments and more generous paid leave policies for all other employees. Virginia and Maryland employers who have no presence in the District, but who employ D.C. residents, may consider whether to assert any legal challenges against the application of Universal Paid Leave Act. Employers offering short-term disability insurance are not exempt from coverage; meaning, employers will need to coordinate paid time off under the proposed bill with any applicable insurance requirements or other company leave programs.

Paid leave under the Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015 will run concurrently with absences under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act and D.C. FMLA; however, the bill is silent on the applicability of other leave laws, such as the D.C. Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act of 2008 (“SSLA”). Under the SSLA, employers of any size with any employees in D.C. must provide three, five, or seven days of paid sick and safe leave each year to eligible employees who work in the District, depending on the number of employees working for the company. Should the Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015 pass, it is unclear how the two statutes will interact when leave is taken for an absence that qualifies for coverage under both statutes (i.e., whether employees have a choice to be paid for such time off through an employer’s SSLA policy or apply to the Fund for payment).

Federal contractors in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia will have the added challenge of determining how to administer the Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015 requirements in light of President Obama’s recent executive order requiring contractors to provide seven days of paid sick leave to employees each year. (For more, please see our article, Workers of Federal Contractors to Get Paid Sick Leave under Obama Executive Order.)

Like most D.C. employment legislation, the bill requires all covered D.C. employers to post a notice of rights at its worksite and to provide a copy of the notice to employees upon hire, annually, and at the time a leave is requested. Covered D.C. employers are subject to civil penalties for non-compliance.

The bill was sponsored by seven Council members (a majority of the Council). It has received enthusiastic support from the Obama administration and was developed based, in part, from a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Labor for studying paid leave proposals. The bill been assigned to a Council committee for a hearing.

©2015 Jackson Lewis P.C. This material is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice nor does it create a client-lawyer relationship between Jackson Lewis and any recipient. Recipients should consult with counsel before taking any actions based on the information contained within this material. This material may be considered attorney advertising in some jurisdictions. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

Reproduction of this material in whole or in part is prohibited without the express prior written consent of Jackson Lewis P.C., a law firm with more than 900 attorneys in major cities nationwide serving clients across a wide range of practices and industries. Having built its reputation on providing premier workplace law representation to management, the firm has grown to include leading practices in the areas of government relations, healthcare and sports law. For more information, visit

See AllRelated Articles You May Like

March 18, 2019

New York City Releases Model Policies for Lactation Room Law

March 18, 2019

The New York City Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) has released model policies for the City’s lactation room law, effective March 18, 2019. The CCHR’s dedicated lactation accommodations page contains model policies for: 1) Workplaces with Dedicated Lactation Room(s); 2) Workplaces with Multi-Purpose Space; and 3) Workplaces... Read More

March 14, 2019

New Jersey Expands State Leave Laws

March 14, 2019

New Jersey has enacted an omnibus law that expands significantly protections and benefits for employees under the state’s laws providing unpaid family leave, domestic or sexual violence safety leave, and temporary paid family leave insurance. Prior to the law’s passage, the New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA) required employers with... Read More

January 28, 2019

Massachusetts Releases Draft Regulations, Contribution Rates for State Paid Family and Medical Leave

January 28, 2019

The Massachusetts Department of Family and Medical Leave has released draft regulations for the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (G.L. c. 175M). The proposed regulations, released on January 23, 2019, track many of the statute’s requirements. In addition to the draft regulations, the Department provided information on the... Read More