The Most Generous Paid Leave Act Is Pending Before The District of Columbia Council

Randi Klein Hyatt
Randi Klein Hyatt

Last week, Eric Paltell posted on this very same legislation.  I promise I do read the posts on our own blog, but clearly “forgot” for a minute when I posted this entry yesterday.  While there is some duplication, our presentations come from a different angle.  So I leave this up for your reading pleasure, openly acknowledging the “already done that” aspect of the base topic.

The D.C. Council has pending before it one of the most generous paid leave bills in the country.  The Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015, if passed, would amend the D.C. Family Leave Act and provide all D.C. residents and those who work in the District up to sixteen weeks of paid family and medical leave, every 24 months, for qualifying events similar to those under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, such as bonding with a new child, recovery post military deployment, and caring for an ill family member.

How is this leave to be funded?  Non-federal employers would be required to pay a new tax into a city-managed Family and Medical Leave Fund to cover the paid leave; contributions based upon employees’ salaries.  There are mechanisms in place for D.C. residents who work in another state or the federal government.  Self-employed residents may opt out of the Fund.

How is the paid leave granted?  An eligible person seeking leave would file a claim with the Fund for wage replacement with an online portal.  Eligible people are either D.C. residents or an individual employed by a covered employer for some or all of the year immediately preceding the qualifying event and who spends at least 50% of his or her work time in the District.  Interestingly, unemployed individuals who meet either of these criteria are also benefit eligible.  Individuals may seek payment for reduced or intermittent leave.  Weekly benefits would range from $1000 to $3000, depending on the individual’s average weekly wage.

Paid leave under the Universal Paid Leave Act would run concurrently with absences under the FMLA and D.C. FMLA.  It is not yet clear how this legislation would marry with the D.C. Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act of 2008, which requires employers of any size with any employees in D.C. to provide three, five or seven days of paid sick and safe leave each year to eligible employees who work in the District, depending on the number of employees who work for the employer.  There are workplace posting requirements, along with notice to employees upon hire, annually, and when the leave is requested.

Should this bill pass, any employer with D.C. residents as employees will need to ensure their policies are compliant. Any Maryland or Virginia employers that employ D.C. residents will need to take note and determine how to revamp their leave policies.  Further, federal contractors in D.C., Maryland and Virginia will also need to wrestle this legislation along with the recent Executive Order requiring contractors to provide 56 hours (or 8 days) of paid sick leave to employees each year for eligible reasons, effective January 1, 2017.

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