The DC Council recently passed the Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act (“SSLA,” or “the Act”), requiring employers based in the District to provide paid leave to eligible employees. The proposed law has been sent to DC Mayor Adrian Fenty for his approval. Mayor Fenty has previously expressed concern about the impact the proposed legislation would have on the District of Columbia business community, so passage of the bill is not a foregone conclusion.
If enacted, the SSLA will apply only to companies based in the District that spend a substantial amount of their time conducting business in the District. Employees who spend more than 50% of their working time in the District will be eligible for leave under the SSLA after they have been with their employer for at least 90 days. Employees who do not suffer loss of income due to absence from work, however, are not entitled to SSLA leave under the Act.
DC employers with 100 or more employees will be required to provide each employee with no less than one hour of paid leave for every 37 hours worked, up to a maximum of seven days of leave per year. Employers with between 25 and 99 employees shall provide one hour of leave for every 43 hours worked, up to a maximum of five days of leave per year. Employers with 24 or fewer employees must provide one hour of paid leave for every 87 hours worked, up to a maximum of three days of leave per year. Employees will accrue leave in accordance with the employer’s standard pay period, beginning on the first day of employment.
Use of Leave
Employees will be able to apply to use SSLA leave for absences due to: 1) physical or mental illness or injury, 2) obtaining professional medical diagnosis or care, 3) care for a child, parent, spouse, domestic partner or other family member, 4) addressing the employee or the employee’s family member being the victim of domestic or sexual violence, or stalking, provided the leave is directly related to responsive social, medical, or legal services, and 5) leave under the Parental Leave Act.
Employees will be permitted to carry all unused SSLA leave to the next year, but shall not be permitted to use more leave in one year than is the maximum amount that can be accrued over the course of one year unless permitted by the employer. Unused accrued sick leave shall not be reimbursed upon the termination of any employee.
Employees will be able to use SSLA leave upon providing a written request to the employer outlining a reason for the absence and the expected duration. If the leave is foreseeable, the request must be provided at least ten days in advance, or in the alternative as early as possible. In the event that the leave is unforeseeable, an employee may make an oral request for leave as soon as possible before the work shift when the employee is aware of the need. In case of an emergency, the employee shall notify the employer within 36 hours of the onset of the emergency.
When SSLA leave is taken for three or more consecutive days, employers may request that the reason for the leave be certified by: 1) a signed note from the employee’s healthcare provider, 2) a police report indicating that the employee was the victim of a domestic or sexual assault, or stalking, 3) a court order, or 4) a signed statement from a counselor or other advocate affirming that the employee is involved in a legal action related to an incident of domestic or sexual assault, or stalking. If an employer requires certification, the employee shall provide it upon returning to work.
Modifying Current Paid Leave Policies
Employers with paid leave policies currently in place will not need to modify their policy if it offers employees the option, at the employee’s discretion, to accrue and use leave under terms that are at least equivalent to those set forth in the SSLA. Paid leave policies will be deemed equivalent if they permit accrual of leave at a rate that is the same or better than those set forth in the SSLA and permit the use of leave for the same purposes as those set forth in the Act.
Enforcement and Penalties
Employers are required to post a notice in a conspicuous place in the workplace setting forth the pertinent provisions of the SSLA and instructions on filing a complaint under the Act. Employers who willfully violate the posting requirement will be subject to civil penalty of up to $100 per day the employer fails to post notice.
The SSLA prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for taking leave, opposing an employer practice forbidden by the statute, filing a charge, or in any way initiating or facilitating the institution of a proceeding pursuant to the Act. An employer found to have willfully violated any provision of this Act, other than the posting of notice requirements previously discussed, shall be subject to civil penalty of $500 for the first offense, $750 for the second offense, and $1,000 for the third and any subsequent offense. The SSLA does not include a provision providing for a private right of action.