Yesterday (October 6, 2015), 7 of the 13 members of the Council of the District of Columbia introduced the Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015 (the “Act”). If passed, the Act would significantly impact employers and workers in D.C., as the legislation proposes to provide D.C. employees with the most generous statutorily-mandated paid leave benefits in the country.

The bill would establish a universal paid leave system for D.C. residents and workers who are employed in D.C. Under the proposed law, qualified individuals would be eligible to receive up to 16 weeks of paid family and medical leave for certain qualifying events. Qualifying events include the birth or adoption of a child as well as caring for oneself or for a family member with a serious health condition. As proposed, workers earning up to $1,000 per week would be entitled to receive 100% of their average weekly wages. Employees earning over $1,000 per week would be entitled to receive $1,000 per week plus 50% of their income above that amount, up to a maximum benefit of $3,000 per week.

Employees covered under the proposed law include those individuals who have spent over 50% of their work time in D.C. during the year preceding the qualifying event. The Act applies to all private employers in D.C. Although federal government employees and employees who work outside of D.C. are not covered, the Act’s drafters have proposed a plan for those employees to pay a fee to participate in the program.

To fund this benefit, all D.C. employers would be required to pay a scaled percentage of their employees’ wage into a city-managed fund depending on their employees’ earnings. D.C. employers would pay:

  • 1% of their employees’ salary for those earning over $150,000/year;
  • 0.8% of their employees’ salary for those earning between $50,000-$150,000/year;
  • 0.6% of their employees’ salary for those earning between $20,000-$50,000/year; or
  • 0.5% of their employees’ salary for those earning between $10,000-$20,000/year.

If enacted, the Act would obviously place a heavy burden on D.C. employers. Of course, the Act will be subject to much scrutiny and debate before it becomes law.