DC Leave Laws

D.C. Family Medical Leave Act

Washington, D.C. has expansive Family and Medical Leave Act rights and The Erlich Law Office can help you exercise those rights. If you or a family member of yours are seriously ill, you shouldn’t have to choose between taking time off to care for yourself or your loved one and keeping your job.

You may be aware of the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), a federal law that provides for a period of job-guaranteed leave to eligible employees facing a serious health condition or caring for a loved one who is ill.

You should also know about how state and local family and medical leave laws affect your rights in the communities where you live and work. Although these laws are often modeled after the federal act, there are often some important differences.

If you are a qualified employee within the District of Columbia, your employer may be required to provide you with up to 16 weeks of unpaid, job-secure family leave, meaning that if you qualify for and take leave, you should still have a job upon your return.

More specifically, the D.C. Family Medical Leave Act (“DCFMLA”) requires employers with 20 or more employees to provide each of their eligible employees with up to 16 weeks’ leave for a 24-month period if the employee:

  1. gives birth to a child;
  2. adopts a child or becomes a foster parent;
  3. permanently assumes parental responsibility for a child; and
  4. must care for a family member with a serious health condition.

A separate provision in the DCFMLA requires D.C. employers with 20 or more employees to provide an eligible worker up to 16 weeks of unpaid, job-secure leave every 24 months for serious health conditions that impair the worker’s job performance. D.C. Municipal Regulations state that the guarantee of 16 weeks of leave to care for a family member is separate from the 16 weeks of leave guaranteed for an employee’s own serious health condition. Thus, the maximum leave a person can qualify for under DCFMLA is 32 weeks within a given 24-month period.

Unlike the federal FMLA, an employer generally may not require an employee to use paid leave while on DCFMLA leave. Under both the federal and D.C. Acts, leave may be taken intermittently where medically necessary.


Under D.C. law, an eligible employee for family or medical leave is one who has worked for the employer for at least one year without a break in service, and who has worked for at least 1,000 hours during the 12-month period preceding the request for leave.

Other Protections

Federal and D.C. family and medical leave laws do not just guarantee an eligible employee’s job upon return. If you qualify for and take, family or medical leave, both federal and DCFMLA require that an employer continue to pay for your group health insurance benefits during leave on the same terms that it did before you took leave.

If your employer violates the DCFMLA, he or she is responsible for any wages, salary, employment benefits and other compensation you lost due to the violation, plus interest. You may also be able to recover consequential damages, which can be as much as three times the amount of earnings you lost. Also, your employer may be on the line for medical expenses not covered by insurance as well as reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.

Your employer is responsible for keeping records of the hours each employee works and the paid leave each employee has taken within the past three (3) years. If an employer fails to maintain these records, or refuses to allow access to these records, there is a rebuttable presumption that the employer has violated the law.

Paid Sick Leave in D.C.

D.C. sick leave provisions apply to all employers in D.C., including those who employ temporary workers or tipped restaurant employees, as well as staffing agencies. The amount of leave a D.C. employer is required to provide varies based on an employer’s total number of employees.

Employers with 100 or more employees must provide each employee at least one hour of paid leave for every 37 hours worked, up to seven (7) days per calendar year.

Employers with 25 to 99 employees must provide each employee at least one hour of paid leave for every 43 hours worked, up to five (5) days per calendar year.

Employers with 24 or less employees must provide each employee at least one hour of paid leave for every 87 hours worked, up to three (3) days per calendar year.

Remedies for Violations of D.C.’s Paid Sick Leave Laws

An employee whose employer violates the D.C. sick leave provisions may be entitled to back pay for lost wages or other relief, such as reinstatement to his or her position. The employee may also be entitled to reasonable attorneys’ fees and the costs of the action.

If an employee is entitled to paid leave but the employer refuses to allow the employee to use it, the employer must pay an additional $500.00 in damages to the employee for each accrued day denied, regardless of whether the employee takes unpaid leave or reports to work on that day.

Actions for violation of D.C.’s sick leave law must be filed within three (3) years from the violation occurring, or within three (3) years from the final instance in a series of violations.

Paid Family Leave in D.C.

Employees in the District of Columbia may be eligible for D.C.’s paid family leave program. This program covers:

  • 8 weeks to bond with a new child
  • 6 weeks to care for a family member with a serious health condition
  • 2 weeks to care for your own serious health condition

Parental and Small Necessities Leave

Employees in the District of Columbia who are parents are eligible for 24 hours per year of leave to do things like participate in their children’s educational activities.

Pregnancy and Childbirth Leave

The Protecting Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (“PPWFA”) applies to all D.C. employers. Employees whose ability to perform their jobs is affected by pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, or a related medical condition may request a reasonable accommodation, which includes time off to recover from childbirth.

If you think your employer has violated leave law provisions in the District of Columbia, please contact us at (703)791-9087or visit our website at www.erlichlawoffice.com for a consultation.