Every year, the Office of Wage-Hour (OWH), a division of the District of Columbia Department of Employment Services, provides an information session and open forum for employers, employees, and other stakeholders to discuss DC’s two major sick and safe leave laws—the Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act of 2008 and the Earned Sick and Safe Leave Amendment Act of 2013. This year, the conversation focused on the specific rules governing accrual of sick and safe leave.
What employees should know:
Who is covered?
Full-time and part-time employees who spend 51% or more of their time working in DC are entitled to receive paid leave for absences resulting from: (1) a medical condition or to care for ill family members; (2) receiving medical care for themselves or their family members; and (3) issues pertaining to domestic violence or sexual abuse. It is important to note that independent contractors, students, volunteers, healthcare workers in premium pay programs and construction-industry employees covered by a bona fide collective bargaining agreement are not covered under this law.
How does the law work?
Accrual of leave time depends on two factors: how many employees an employer has, and how many hours are worked in each pay period. Employees begin accruing leave on their first day of employment but may not begin to use their leave until 90 days of employment. Employees can use their leave in one-hour increments.
If an employer has 100 or more employees, the employee accrues 1 hour per every 37 hours worked, not to exceed 7 days per calendar year. If an employer has 25 to 99 employees or if you are at tipped restaurant employee, the employee accrues 1 hour per every 43 hours worked, not to exceed 5 days per calendar year. Finally, if an employer has 1 to 24 employees, the employee accrues 1 hour per 87 hours worked, not to exceed 3 days per calendar year.
What do I do if I need to take sick or safe leave?
When an employee needs to use an accrued sick and safe leave day, if the paid leave is foreseeable, the request should be provided in writing at least 10 days prior. However, if the leave is unforeseeable or an emergency, an oral request provided prior to the start of the work shift is acceptable. If the requested leave is more than 3 days, the employer is allowed to require reasonable documentation of the reason for the leave.
What if I need to take leave but have not accrued enough yet?
Employers can, but do not have to, allow employees to take unaccrued leave with the expectation that the employer will accrue it in the future.
What if I don’t use all of my accrued leave in the same year it is accrued?
Employers must make any accrued leave from the previous year available to the employee at the beginning of the next year. These accrued days will count toward the employer’s maximum number of accrual days for the next calendar year.
What if I am terminated based on my request for sick or safe leave?
You may have a case for retaliation. Generally, if an employer terminates an employee within a certain number of days after that employee requests to take leave that they have accrued, there is a presumption of retaliation on the part of the employer.
Additionally, if you are terminated for another reason, your employer must pay you your final pay check, plus any vacation pay according to the employer’s policy. However, the employer does not have to pay out accrued sick or safe leave.
Have you been fired because you requested to take accrued sick or safe leave? Do you believe you have been wrongfully denied leave? The lawyers at Alan Lescht & Associates, P.C., may be able to help. To learn more about your rights, call us at (202) 463-6036, send us an email, or visit our website.