Two New Employment Laws Take Effect this Month in the District of Columbia

Kollman & Saucier
Kollman & Saucier

The Protecting Pregnant Workers Fairness Act of 2014 took effect January 6, 2015. The Act requires all employers in the District of Columbia, regardless of size, to make reasonable accommodations for employees affected by childbirth, pregnancy, and related medical conditions, unless the employer can show that doing so would cause an undue hardship (significant difficulty or expense to the employer’s business.) An employer’s duty to engage in an interactive process to determine a reasonable accommodation is triggered when an employee requests an accommodation or “otherwise needs one.”

Examples of reasonable accommodations include:

  • More frequent or longer breaks;
  • Time off to recover from childbirth;
  • Equipment modification;
  • Job restructuring;
  • Having the employee refrain from heavy lifting;
  • Relocation of the employee’s work area; and
  • Private, non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk.

If an employer requires medical certification for temporarily disabled employees, it may do so for pregnant employees. Employers must also post a notice of employee rights, in English and Spanish, within 120 days of the Act’s effective date.

In addition to the requirement to provide reasonable accommodations, employers are prohibited from retaliating against an employee who requests or uses a reasonable accommodation; from requiring a covered employee to accept an accommodation that the employee does not need to perform her duties; and from requiring an employee to take leave if a reasonable accommodation can be provided instead.

D.C. Wage Theft Prevention Amendment Act of 2014

The D.C. Wage Theft Prevention Amendment Act, set to take effect January 14, 2015, alters the District of Columbia’s wage and hour laws, greatly increasing employer obligations and penalties for non-compliance. Specifically, the Act requires that within 90 days of the law’s effective date, employers must provide employees with written notice of their wages. Such notice must include:

  • the employer’s name, address and phone number;
  • the employee’s regular pay day;
  • the employee’s regular rate of pay; and
  • any other information “the Mayor considers material and necessary.”

Employers must retain signed and dated copies of the notice as proof of compliance. Following the initial 90 day period, employers must continue to provide notice to each new hire, and to update employees if any information changes. The Mayor’s office will provide a sample notice template within 60 days of the Act’s effective date.

Under the Act, employers must also comply with strict record keeping requirements, documenting the “precise time” an employee works each day, not just the total hours worked each day. Additionally, records of all paid leave taken by employees (both exempt and non-exempt) must be kept and maintained for a three year period. Failure to comply with these record keeping requirements tolls the statute of limitations, so that there is no time limit on when an employee can file a lawsuit for unpaid wages.

The Act also includes a broad retaliation provision that protects anyone who makes a good faith complaint regarding a violation of the Act; initiates a proceeding under the Act; provides information regarding a violation, investigation or proceeding; or who testifies or otherwise exercises rights under the Act. Retaliation is presumed to have occurred if an employer takes an adverse action against an employee within 90 days of the alleged protected activity.

Penalties for violations of wage and hour laws addressed by the Act are harsh. In addition to criminal and civil penalties, employers can face administrative penalties which include notice postings, steep fines and the suspension/denial of a business license.


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