Like employers throughout the country, employers in the District of Columbia must comply with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which allows eligible employees to take unpaid leave, with the right to reinstatement, for certain reasons.
In addition, the District of Columbia has laws that give employees the right to take leave for family and health reasons. Employees who are covered by more than one of these laws are entitled to the rights set out in the most protective law.
Federal FMLA Rights
Eligible employees in the District may take up to 12 weeks of leave for serious health conditions, bonding with a new child, or preparation for a family member's military service; more leave is available for employees who need to care for a family member who was seriously injured on active military duty. For detailed information on FMLA leave, see Taking Family and Medical Leave.
Who Is Covered?
DC employers must comply with the FMLA if they have at least 50 employees for at least 20 weeks in the current or previous year.
Employees are eligible for FMLA leave if:
- they have worked for the company for at least a year
- they worked at least 1,250 hours during the previous year, and
- they work at a location with at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius.
Reasons for Leave
FMLA leave is available if an employee needs time off to:
- bond with a new child
- recuperate from a serious health condition
- care for a family member with a serious health condition
- handle qualifying exigencies arising out of a family member’s military service, or
- care for a family member who suffered a serious injury during active duty in the military. (You can find more information on these last two types of leave in Military Family Leave for Employees.)
How Much Leave Is Available?
Employees in DC may take up to 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month period for a serious health condition, bonding with a new child, or qualifying exigencies. This leave renews every 12 months, as long as the employee continues to meet the eligibility requirements explained above.
Employees who need military caregiver leave may take up to 26 weeks of leave in a single 12-month period. However, this leave is a per-injury, per-service member entitlement. Unless the same family member is injured again, or another family member suffers an injury while on active duty, an employee may not take an additional leave for this purpose.
Leave and Reinstatement Rights
Employees are entitled to continue their health insurance while on leave, at the same cost they must pay while working. Although FMLA leave is unpaid, employees may be allowed (or required) to use their accrued paid leave during FMLA leave.
When an employee’s FMLA leave ends, the employee is entitled to be reinstated to the same or an equivalent position, with a few exceptions.
DC Family and Medical Leave Laws
In addition to the rights granted by the FMLA, DC employees have the right to take time off work under several District laws. Together, these laws create some of the most generous leave provisions in the nation.
DC Family and Medical Leave
Employers with at least 20 employees must allow eligible employees to take up to 16 weeks of family leave plus 16 weeks of medical leave in any 24-month period:
- Family leave can be taken for the birth, adoption, or foster placement of a child; for the permanent placement of a child for whom the employee permanently assumes and discharges parental responsibility, or to care for a family member with a serious health condition. Family members include anyone related to the employee by blood custody or marriage, and anyone with whom the employee shares a residence and has a committed relationship.
- Medical leave can be taken for the employee’s own serious health condition.
Paid Sick, Family, and Domestic Violence Leave
Employers must provide eligible employees with paid leave that can be used for:
- the employee’s or a family member’s physical or mental illness, injury, or medical condition
- the employee’s or a family member’s medical care, diagnosis, or preventive medical care, or
- the employee or a family member who is a victim of stalking, domestic violence, or abuse to get medical attention, use services, seek counseling, relocate, take legal action, or take steps to enhance health and safety.
Family members include parents, spouses, children, domestic partners, parents-in-law, grandchildren, children’s spouses, siblings, siblings’ spouses, children with whom the employee lives and whom the employee has responsibility for, and a person with whom the employee shares a residence and committed relationship.
The amount of leave depends on the size of the employer:
- Employers with at least 10-0 employees must provide at least one hour of paid leave for every 37 hours worked, up to a total of seven days per year.
- Employees with 25 to 99 employees must provide at least one hour of paid leave for every 43 hours worked, up to five days per year.
- Employees with fewer than 25 employees must provide at least one hour of paid leave for every 87 hours worked, up to three days of leave per year.
Small Necessities Law
Employers must give eligible employees up to 24 hours of unpaid leave in any 12-month period to participate in school related events, including activities sponsored by either a school or an associated organization, such as a parent-teacher association.
For More Information
You can get more information on these laws at the District’s Department of Employment Services.