Labor and Employment Law Overview: District of Columbia

Labor and Employment Law Overview requirements for other states

Federal law and guidance on this subject should be reviewed together with this section.

Author: XpertHR Editorial Team

Summary

  • District of Columbia law prohibits an employer from discriminating against employees in a variety of protected classes. Employers must also provide pregnancy accommodations and allow wage discussions. See EEO, Diversity and Employee Relations.
  • The District of Columbia limits preemployment credit and criminal checks, and has passed a "ban the box" law. See Recruiting and Hiring.
  • In the District of Columbia, there are requirements relating to the minimum wage, overtime, breastfeeding breaks and child labor. See Wage and Hour.
  • The District of Columbia has laws that relate to employee pay and benefits, including health care continuation, payment of wages, pay frequency, wage deductions and wage notice requirements. See Pay and Benefits.
  • Under District of Columbia law, employees are entitled to certain leaves or time off, including family and medical leave, paid sick and safe leave, parental leave, jury duty leave and Emancipation Day leave. See Time Off and Leaves of Absence.
  • The District of Columbia prohibits smoking in the workplace and using a cell phone while driving. See Health and Safety.
  • When employment ends, District of Columbia employers must comply with applicable final pay requirements. See Organizational Exit.

Introduction to Employment Law in the District of Columbia

The District of Columbia has many laws that provide greater protections to employees than federal law, including broader discrimination protections, pregnancy accommodation rights, a higher minimum wage, health care continuation coverage obligations for smaller employers and paid sick leave, but generally follows federal law on topics such as overtime pay, jury duty leave, military leave and occupational safety and health.

Select District of Columbia employment requirements are summarized below to help an employer understand the range of employment laws affecting the employer-employee relationship in the state. An employer must comply with both federal and state law.

An employer must also comply with applicable municipal law obligations affecting the employment relationship, in addition to complying with state and federal requirements.

EEO, Diversity and Employee Relations

Key District of Columbia requirements impacting EEO, diversity and employee relations are:

Fair Employment Practices

The District of Columbia Human Rights Act (DCHRA) applies to employers with one or more employees. In addition to the federally protected classes (race, religion, color, sex, age, national origin, ancestry and disability), the DCHRA prohibits discrimination based on factors such as:

  • Marital status;
  • Personal appearance;
  • Sexual orientation;
  • Gender identity or expression;
  • Family responsibilities;
  • Genetic information;
  • Educational status;
  • Political affiliation;
  • Unemployment status;
  • Place of residence or business;
  • Source of income; and
  • Reproductive health decision making.

Harassment is a form of illegal discrimination and is prohibited under the DCHRA. The DCHRA also prohibits retaliation against a person who opposes, reports or assists another person in opposing unlawful discrimination.

Discussion of Wages

The Wage Transparency Act prohibits District of Columbia employers from:

  • Requiring, as a condition of employment, that an employee refrain from disclosing or discussing his or her own wages or the wages of another employee;
  • Terminating, disciplining, interfering with or otherwise retaliating against an employee who asks about, discloses or otherwise discusses the wages of the employee or another employee, or is believed by the employer to have done so; and
  • Prohibiting, or attempting to prohibit, an employee from making a complaint or participating in an investigation or proceeding related to a violation of the law.

Pregnancy Accommodation

The Protecting Pregnant Workers Fairness Act requires an employer to provide reasonable workplace accommodations for employees whose ability to perform the functions of their jobs is limited by pregnancy, childbirth, a related medical condition or breastfeeding. A reasonable accommodation may include:

  • More frequent or longer breaks;
  • Time off;
  • Acquisition or modification of equipment or seating;
  • Temporary transfer, light duty or a modified work schedule;
  • Refraining from heavy lifting;
  • Relocating the employee's work area; or
  • Private space (not a bathroom) for expressing breast milk.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on EEO, diversity and employee relations practices in the District of Columbia can be found in the District of Columbia Employee Handbook Table of Contents, EEO - Discrimination: District of Columbia, EEO - Harassment: District of Columbia, EEO - Retaliation: District of Columbia, Disabilities (ADA): District of Columbia, District of Columbia Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in the District of Columbia? Federal requirements can be found in EEO - Discrimination: Federal, EEO - Harassment: Federal, EEO - Retaliation: Federal and Disabilities (ADA): Federal.

Recruiting and Hiring

Key District of Columbia requirements impacting recruiting and hiring are:

Ban the Box

The Fair Criminal Record Screening Act prohibits employers with more than 10 employees in the District of Columbia from asking applicants about their criminal history on an initial job application, subject to very limited exceptions, until after making a conditional job offer.

The Act also bans inquiries at any point in the selection process into arrests or criminal accusations against an applicant that are not pending or did not result in a conviction. After extending a conditional offer, employers may not withdraw that offer or take other actions based on a criminal record except for a legitimate business reason.

Credit Checks

The Fair Credit in Employment Amendment Act restricts employers from asking about a job applicant's credit history and from refusing to hire based on that information. It also prohibits employers from printing or publishing any job advertisement that indicates any preferences or limitations based on an applicant's credit information.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on recruiting and hiring practices in the District of Columbia can be found in Preemployment Screening and Testing: District of Columbia and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in the District of Columbia? Federal requirements can be found in Preemployment Screening and Testing: Federal.

Wage and Hour

Key District of Columbia requirements impacting wages and hours are:

Minimum Wage

The District of Columbia's minimum wage is currently $13.25 per hour. Annual increases will bring the minimum wage to $15.00 by July 1, 2020. Every year thereafter, it will be adjusted to keep pace with the rate of inflation. A separate minimum wage rate exists for certain employees (e.g., tipped employees).

Overtime

District of Columbia employers are required pay employees one and one-half times their regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week. Premium pay, including but not limited to pay for hours worked over eight in a day and hours worked on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, is counted toward overtime compensation.

Breastfeeding Breaks

Unless doing so would pose an undue hardship, an employer must provide reasonable daily unpaid break periods for an employee to express breast milk for her child. The breastfeeding break may run concurrently with any other break period that the employer provides to the employee.

Child Labor

Child labor laws in the District of Columbia restrict the occupations in which minors may be employed and the number of hours and times during which they may work.

All minors are generally prohibited from working in hazardous occupations. Minors under the age of 18 are prohibited from working in any quarry, tunnel or excavation and generally may not work in any establishment where alcoholic beverages are manufactured or sold for consumption. District of Columbia law lists a number of other occupations from which minors under the age of 16 are prohibited from working.

With some exceptions, children under the age of 18 may not work:

  • More than six consecutive days in any one week;
  • More than 48 hours in any one week; or
  • More than eight hours in any one day.

Minors 16 or 17 years of age may not work before 6:00 a.m. or after 10:00 p.m. on any day. Additionally, minors under 16 years of age may not work before 7:00 a.m. or after 7:00 p.m. on any day, except during the summer (June 1 through Labor Day) when the evening hour can be 9:00 p.m.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on wage and hour practices in the District of Columbia can be found in the District of Columbia Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Minimum Wage: District of Columbia, Overtime: District of Columbia, Hours Worked: District of Columbia, Child Labor: District of Columbia, District of Columbia Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in the District of Columbia? Federal requirements can be found in Minimum Wage: Federal, Overtime: Federal, Hours Worked: Federal and Child Labor: Federal.

Pay and Benefits

Key District of Columbia requirements impacting pay and benefits are:

Health Care Continuation

Employers with fewer than 20 employees must comply with the District of Columbia's health care continuation law, which generally provides for continuation coverage for up to three months for employees and their dependents.

Within 15 days of termination of coverage, an employer must notify the employee of his or her continuation rights in writing.

Payment of Wages

Wages may be paid in cash, by check or by direct deposit.

Pay Statements

On every regular payday, each employee must receive a pay statement that includes the following information:

  • The date of the wage payment;
  • The gross wages paid;
  • Deductions from and additions to wages;
  • The net wages paid;
  • Hours worked during the pay period; and
  • Any other information required by regulation.

Pay Frequency

Nonexempt employees generally must be paid at least twice a month on regularly scheduled paydays designated in advance. If an employer has customarily paid wages at least once a month, or has done so pursuant to a contract, it may continue to do so.

Exempt employees must be paid at least once a month.

Employees must be paid no later than 10 working days after the end of the regularly scheduled pay period, unless a collective bargaining agreement provides otherwise.

Wage Deductions

Employers may make deductions that are authorized or required by law or a court order (e.g., child support), for employer-provided lodging and for meals up to certain limits.

Employers may not deduct from an employee's wages for losses due to breakage, damage and acceptance of bad checks; cash shortages; and walkouts, if such deductions would reduce the employee's wages below the minimum wage.

Wage Notices

The Wage Theft Prevention Amendment Act requires an employer to provide specific pay-related information in writing to each employee at the time of hire. The required information includes, but is not limited to, the employer's name, address and phone number; the employee's rate of pay and the basis for the rate; and the employee's regular payday designated by the employer. An employer must also provide an updated notice to an employee anytime information in the employee's notice changes.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on pay and benefits practices in the District of Columbia can be found in Health Care Continuation (COBRA): District of Columbia, Payment of Wages: District of Columbia, New Hire Paperwork: District of Columbia, District of Columbia Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in the District of Columbia? Federal requirements can be found in Health Care Continuation (COBRA): Federal, Payment of Wages: Federal and New Hire Paperwork: Federal.

Time Off and Leaves of Absence

Key District of Columbia requirements impacting time off and leaves of absence are:

Family and Medical Leave

The District of Columbia Family and Medical Leave Act (DC FMLA) requires employers with 20 or more employees in the District of Columbia to allow an eligible employee to take up to 16 workweeks of unpaid leave during any 24-month period for the:

  • Birth of a child of the employee;
  • Placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care;
  • Placement of a child with the employee for whom the employee permanently assumes and discharges parental responsibility;
  • Care of a family member of the employee who has a serious health condition; or
  • Employee's own serious health condition that leaves the employee unable to perform the functions of his or her job.

The Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act (ASSLA) requires employers with employees working in the District of Columbia to provide paid sick and safe leave to be used for:

  • The employee's or a family member's physical or mental illness, injury or medical condition; need for professional medical diagnosis or care; or need for preventive medical care; and
  • Reasons related to stalking, domestic violence or sexual abuse of the employee or a family member.

The amount of leave required depends on the employer's size:

  • Employers with 100 or more employees: Up to seven days;
  • Employers with 25-99 employees: Up to five days; and
  • Employers with 24 or fewer employees: Up to three days.

Other Time Off Requirements Affecting District of Columbia Employers

In addition to the DC FMLA and ASSLA, a District of Columbia employer is also required to comply with other leave and time off laws, such as:

  • Parental leave;
  • Jury duty leave;
  • Witness leave;
  • Student leave; and
  • Emancipation Day leave.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on time off and leave of absence practices in the District of Columbia can be found in the District of Columbia Employee Handbook Table of Contents, FMLA: District of Columbia, Other Leaves: District of Columbia, Jury Duty: District of Columbia, District of Columbia Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in the District of Columbia? Federal requirements can be found in FMLA: Federal, Other Leaves: Federal and Jury Duty: Federal.

Health and Safety

Key District of Columbia requirements impacting health and safety are:

Smoke-Free Workplace

The District of Columbia prohibits smoking in public and private workplaces, but an employer may designate an area in the workplace where smoking is permitted as long as that area is physically separated and properly ventilated. The employer must maintain a written smoking policy and notify employees of that policy.

Signs must be posted in areas where smoking is prohibited.

Safe Driving Practices

The District of Columbia prohibits using a handheld cell phone or texting while driving.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on health and safety practices in the District of Columbia can be found in the District of Columbia Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Employee Health: District of Columbia, HR and Workplace Safety: District of Columbia and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in the District of Columbia? Federal requirements can be found in Employee Health: Federal and HR and Workplace Safety (OSHA Compliance): Federal.

Organizational Exit

Final paychecks must be provided to employees as follows:

  • Employees who are fired must be paid on the next working day (excluding Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays). If an employee was responsible for money, the employer has four calendar days from the date of the employee's termination to pay wages owed to the employee.
  • Employees who quit or resign must be paid by the earlier of the next regular payday or within seven days from the employee's termination date.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on organizational exit practices in the District of Columbia can be found in Payment of Wages: District of Columbia and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in the District of Columbia? Federal requirements can be found in Payment of Wages: Federal.