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DC passes law to protect employees affected by COVID-19

If you feel sick, the best thing you can do for yourself, your family, and your community is to stay home and get medical treatment.  You shouldn’t have to worry about losing your job.  On March 16, 2020, the DC Council passed the COVID-19 Response Emergency Amendment Act of 2020, which is intended to help protect workers and businesses during the novel coronavirus outbreak.  These protections apply to DC private-sector employees and DC government employees when the mayor declares a “public health emergency.”  Here are a few highlights:

Your employer can’t fire you for being quarantined.

Normally, you’re only eligible for DC Family and Medical Leave Act (DCFMLA) leave if you’ve worked for your DC employer for one year and 1,000 hours.  However, the bill eliminates those requirements during a public health emergency.  You may be eligible for DCFMLA leave if you’ve been ordered or recommended to quarantine or isolate by:

  • The DC Department of Health,
  • Any other District of federal government agency, or
  • A medical professional.

This means your employer probably can’t fire you for missing work if you’ve been ordered or recommended to quarantine.

You may be eligible for unemployment benefits.

The bill also expands eligibility for unemployment benefits.  You can apply for unemployment if you have “become unemployed or partially unemployed” due to the pandemic.  In other words, you may be able to get unemployment benefits if you were laid off or have fewer hours because:

  • Your employer stopped or reduced operations due to coronavirus, or
  • You are quarantined based on a recommendation or order of a government agency or medical provider.

If either of these situations applies to you, you can apply for unemployment, even if you don’t know if or when you’ll be able to return to full employment.

The bill helps employers, too.

The bill also provides support to employers, in an effort to decrease layoffs and closings.  Businesses may receive extensions to file taxes and grants to help cover salaries, operating costs, and loan repayments.

The bill includes other protections for DC residents that aren’t directly related to employment.  For example, the bill prohibits evictions and utility shut-offs during the public health emergency.  You can review the complete act or a summary provided by the DC Council.

Did you get fired because you’re quarantined?

If your DC employer fired you because you’re quarantined, Alan Lescht and Associates can help.  Our attorneys represent DC government employees and private-sector employees in the District.  We handle administrative complaints with the DC Office of Human Rights, the DC Office of Employee Appeals, and similar agencies, and we litigate employment cases in federal and DC courts.

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