On March 4, 2008, the District of Columbia City Council unanimously approved legislation to make Washington, D.C. the second city in the United States to require employers to provide paid sick leave to employees. The Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act of 2008 (“the Act”) will become effective upon approval by the Mayor (or in the event of a veto by the Mayor, action by the Council to override the veto), a 30-day Congressional review period, and publication in the District of Columbia Register, and the Act will apply six (6) months after it becomes effective.

To be eligible for paid sick leave under the Act, an employee needs to have been employed by the same employer for at least 12 months without a break in service and have worked for at least 1,000 hours (an average of 19 hours per week) during the 12-month period immediately preceding the requested paid sick or safe leave. The Act does not apply to independent contractors, health care workers who choose to participate in a premium pay program, and wait staff.

Under the Act, employees in the District will accrue paid sick leave for hours worked at varying rates depending on the size of the employer. For employers with 100 or more employees, eligible employees will accrue one hour of paid sick or safe leave per every 37 hours worked, which equates to 7 calendar days per year for full-time employees. For employees with 25 to 99 employees, eligible employees will accrue one hour of paid sick or safe leave per every 43 hours worked, 5 calendar days per year for full-time employees. For employees with 24 or fewer employees, eligible employees will accrue one hour of paid sick or safe leave per every 87 hours worked, 3 calendar days per year for full-time employees.

Statutory sick and safe leave may be used for:

  • Absence due to physical or mental illness, injury or medical condition of the employee;
  • Absence while the employee obtains professional medical diagnosis, care or preventative medial care;
  • Absence while caring for a child, parent, spouse, domestic partner or any other family member needing care described above; and
  • Absence where employee or employee's family member is a victim of stalking, domestic violence, sexual violence, if absence is directly related to seeking social, or legal services pertaining to stalking, domestic violence or sexual violence.

Unused paid sick or safe leave is carried over from year to year but an employee cannot use more than the annual accrual in a given year unless the employer agrees otherwise. Paid sick or safe leave does not have to be paid to an employee upon either voluntary or involuntary termination of employment.

The Act imposes notice obligations on both employers and employees. In particular, an employer must post a notice of rights under the Act in a conspicuous place. To the extent possible, an employee needs to give the employer at least 10 days advance notice of the intent to use paid sick or safe leave.

Where notice is not possible, the employee may provide an oral request prior to the start of the work shift for which the paid leave is requested. In the case of an emergency, the employer is to be notified prior to the start of the next work shift or within 24 hours of the onset of the emergency, whichever occurs sooner. An employer may request “reasonable” certification for any use of paid sick or safe leave exceeding 3 consecutive days.

An employer with a paid leave policy providing options such as paid-time off or universal leave is not required to modify the policy if the policy offers an employee the option, at the employee’s discretion, to accrue and use leave under terms and conditions that are at least as equivalent to the paid leave available under the Act. The Act does not change any obligation of an employer subject to an existing contract, collective bargaining agreement or employment benefit program that provides greater paid leave rights to employees than those provided under the Act. The paid leave requirements under the Act may not be waived for less than three paid and sick safe leave days by the written terms of a bona fide collective bargaining agreement.

The Act prohibits an employer from discouraging an employee from using the paid sick or safe leave or retaliating against the employee for using paid sick or safe leave. Offenses are subject to fines ranging from $500 to $1,000 per offense.