On December 20, 2016, the Council of the District of Columbia passed the Universal Paid Leave Amendment Act of 2016 by a 9-4 vote. The bill mandates that employers provide workers eight weeks paid leave to care for a new child, six weeks paid leave to care for a sick family member, and two weeks paid leave for personal sick leave.
The bill now goes to the mayor. If the mayor vetoes the bill, the Council will reconsider and may override the veto with a two-thirds vote; the Act passed by the necessary majority in the December 20 vote. Thereafter, the bill would be sent to Congress for approval.
The D.C. government would be in charge of overseeing the program and paying out the funds. The bill calls for a 0.62 percent employer payroll tax to fund the measure, generating approximately $250 million in revenue. The Council rejected a late amendment that would have eliminated the payroll tax and left employers to decide how to pay for the associated benefits. Benefits could be offered beginning in 2019.
Both full-time and part-time private sector employees will be eligible for the paid family leave. To be eligible, workers need only to be employed in D.C., regardless of their place of residence. Low income workers who make up to 1.5 times the minimum wage can receive benefits totaling 90 percent of their salary. Employees earning more than that will receive 90 percent of their earnings up to $46,000 and 50 percent of their earnings above that. Benefits will be capped at $1,000 per week. Federal employees are excluded from coverage by this Act.
Anti-retaliation provisions within the Act will allow for legal action by employees who contend that they have been retaliated against by employers for exercising their rights.
Should the Universal Paid Leave Amendment Act become law in Washington, D.C. as expected, employers in D.C. should revisit their sick leave policies.