Am I Entitled to Paid Sick Leave, Family Leave, or Vacation Time in the District of Columbia?
Employees in the District of Columbia are entitled to paid sick and safe leave and universal paid leave under D.C. law.
The rules for paid sick and family leave have changed rapidly in response to COVID-19. In March of 2020, Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which required many employers to start providing some paid time off to employees affected by COVID-19 by the beginning of April. The leave provisions of the law expired at the end of 2020, however.
Employers in most states are not legally required to offer paid time off to employees, although many choose to do so.
Paid Sick Leave: Federal Law
The federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act required covered employers to provide up to ten days of emergency paid sick leave for reasons related to COVID-19. However, this law expired at the end of 2020. Although Congress extended a tax credit for employers who choose to continue offering this leave for a few months, it did not extend the requirement that employers provide this leave.
Paid Sick Leave: the District of Columbia and Local Law
More than a dozen states require employers to give employees paid sick time to use for their own illnesses or to care for a family member.
Washington, D.C. employers must give employees paid sick leave. The amount of leave required depends on the size of the employer:
- If you work for an employer with fewer than 25 employees, you are entitled to one hour of paid sick leave for every 87 hours you work, up to 24 hours a year.
- If you work for an employer with 25 to 99 employees, you are entitled to one hour of paid sick leave for every 43 hours you work, up to 40 hours a year.
- If you work for an employer with at least 100 employees, you are entitled to one hour of paid sick leave for every 37 hours you work, up to 56 hours per year.
You may use this time off for your own illness, to care for a family member, or to seek help or handle practical matters arising from domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault against the employee or a family member. To learn more about the District of Columbia's Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act, see the workplace poster on sick leave available from the D.C. Department of Employment Services.
In addition, a handful of local governments require employers doing business in the area to give employees a certain amount of paid sick leave. To find out if you are covered by this type of law, consult the frequently updated list of city and county paid sick leave laws at the website of the National Partnership for Women & Families.
Paid Family Leave: Federal Law
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act also required employers to offer public health emergency leave, a form of paid family leave. Eligible employees were eligible to take this leave if they were unable to work or telework because their child's school or care provider was closed or unavailable due to a COVID-19 public health emergency. This leave was available for up to 12 total weeks, the first two unpaid and the remaining ten paid.
However, this leave entitlement also expired at the end of 2020. Like the paid sick leave provision, Congress extended the tax credit for employers who choose to continue providing this leave for a few months, but did not extend the requirement to provide leave.
Paid Family and Disability Leave: State Law
Some states allow employees to collect benefits for disability leave, family and medical leave, or both. Employers may also choose to make such benefits available voluntarily.
A handful of states require employers to provide short-term disability insurance to employees who are temporarily unable to work due to disability, including pregnancy. Typically, employers pay into a state insurance fund to provide this coverage.
the District of Columbia does not have its own short-term disability program, however. You are limited to any discretionary benefits your employer chooses to provide.
Some companies provide disability insurance as an employee benefit. This coverage may be short-term, long-term, or both. If you meet your employer’s requirements for taking this type of leave, you can make a claim for benefits under your employer’s plan.
Family and Medical Leave
A growing number of states have made paid family and medical leave benefits available to employees, typically through an insurance program that is funded by payroll withholding and/or employer contributions. In some states, this is part of the disability program; other states don't provide disability benefits, but have a standalone paid family leave benefit program.
The District of Columbia gives employees the right to paid family leave. Employees may take up to a total of eight weeks of combined leave per year for the following reasons:
- up to two weeks for the employee's own serious health condition
- up to six weeks to care for a family member with a serious health condition, and
- up to eight weeks to bond with a new child.
The paid family leave program is funded through a tax on employers. The benefit you receive is based on your wages; the maximum weekly benefit you can receive is $1,000.
To learn more about the District of Columbia's paid family leave program, check out the Paid Family Leave page at the website of DC's Department of Employment Services.
Unpaid Time Off for Illness or Family Leave
Even if you aren’t entitled to paid time off when you are sick or need to care for a family member, you may be entitled to unpaid leave. Under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), for example, eligible employees may take up to 12 weeks off per year, unpaid, for their own serious health condition or to care for a family member with a serious health condition (among other reasons). Only employers with at least 50 employees must comply with this law, and employees are eligible for leave only if they have worked for at least a year, and at least 1,250 hours during the past year, for the employer.
Some states also require employers to provide unpaid time off for family and medical reasons, including illness. To find out the rules in the District of Columbia, contact the District of Columbia Department of Employment Services.
Currently, only Nevada and Maine require employers to provide paid vacation or personal leave to employees (in the form of paid time off).
the District of Columbia does not require employers to provide paid time off -- leave that can be used for any reason the employee chooses, like vacation time or personal leave -- to employees. If you have an employment agreement that promises you a certain number of paid vacation or personal leave days, then you may have a contract claim against your employer if it doesn't provide them. Otherwise, however, almost all employers may choose whether or not to offer vacation time or similar paid time off.
If your employer does provide vacation time, state law determines whether your employer must pay out your accrued, unused vacation time when your employment relationship ends.
Under the District of Columbia law, your final paycheck must include pay for accrued vacation time if required by your employer’s policy
If You Have Already Lost Your Job
Under all of these federal and state laws, leave is available only to those who are still employed. If you have already been laid off or otherwise lost your job, you should apply for unemployment benefits. You can find lots of information, articles, resources, and links -- including information on how the District of Columbia is handling unemployment claims in the coronavirus pandemic -- at our unemployment benefits learning center.