DC Laws on Taking Leave From Work Due to Domestic Violence

D.C. requires employers to give time off to victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse, or stalking.

If you work in the District of Columbia and are a victim of domestic violence, sexual abuse, or stalking, you may have the right to take some time off work to seek medical care, get legal help, and meet other needs relating to the abuse. In fact, D.C requires employers to make paid leave available for employees to get help or assist their family members in dealing with these crimes. Below, we explain who is covered by the law, how much leave you can take, notice requirements, and more.

Who Must Comply with D.C.’s Domestic Violence Leave Law

In the District of Columbia, all employers must provide paid sick leave for employees to use in a variety of circumstances, including for reasons relating to sexual abuse, domestic violence, or stalking. How much leave an employer must provide depends on its size, as explained below.

All employees are entitled to accrue paid sick leave, starting on their first day of employment. However, employers may prohibit employees from using their leave until they have been employed for 90 days.

Taking Time Off for Domestic or Sexual Violence or Stalking

You may take leave from work for reasons directly related to receiving social or legal services relating to domestic violence, sexual abuse, or stalking against you or a family member. The District defines “family member” broadly, to include your spouse or domestic partner, your parents and parents-in-law, your children (including foster children and grandchildren) and their spouses, your siblings, and your siblings’ spouses.

If you or a family member have suffered domestic violence, sexual abuse, or stalking, you may use your paid leave for these reasons:

  • to seek medical attention for physical or psychological injury or disability caused by the abuse
  • to get services from a victim services organization
  • for psychological or other counseling
  • to relocate, temporarily or permanently
  • to prepare for, participate in, or take legal action, or
  • to take other steps to enhance the physical, psychological, or economic health or safety of yourself, your family members, or others you associate with (such as coworkers or associates).

D.C.’s paid sick leave law gives employees the right to use their paid time off for other purposes too, including caring for an ill or injured family member, recovering from their own illness, injury or medical condition, or getting routine or preventative medical care. Learn more about D.C’s paid sick leave law.

Amount of Time Off for Domestic/Sexual Violence or Stalking

How much paid time off you accrue depends on the size of your employer. Employers with at least 100 employees must allow employees to accrue at least one hour of paid leave for every 37 hours worked, up to seven days per year. Employers that have 25 to 99 employees must provide at least one hour of paid leave for every 43 hours worked, up to five days of leave per year. Employers 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.

Note that these figures are your total paid leave allotment for all of the purposes covered by the law, including sick leave, family leave, and domestic violence leave.

Notice Requirements for Domestic or Sexual Violence Leave

When you want to take paid domestic or sexual violence leave, you must make a request to your employer, including the reason why you need leave and how long you expect to be out. If your need for leave is foreseeable (for instance, because your abuser’s trial has been set for a certain date or your child will be having surgery), you must give your employer notice, in writing, at least ten days in advance. If your need for leave is not foreseeable, you must give notice prior to the start of the work shift you need off. Oral notice is fine in this circumstance, which might include a hastily scheduled doctor’s appointment or having to stay home with your child who is suffering from PTSD.

In case of an emergency, you must notify your employer either before the next work shift or within 24 hours of the emergency’s onset, whichever is sooner. This would apply if, for example, you had to take your sibling to the emergency room following a violent incident.

If you will need three or more days off work, your employer can ask you for reasonable certification regarding the purpose of your absence. This might include a court order, police report, or signed statement from a victim’s advocate or counselor.

Confidentiality Rules

Employees often worry that their employer might retaliate against them for requesting time off. However, the law prohibits employers from firing, demoting, harassing, threatening, or otherwise taking action against employees because they request or take domestic or sexual violence leave.

You may also be concerned that your coworkers will learn painful personal details about your private life, or worse, that your abuser will learn you are taking time off to seek legal protection or relocate. The law requires your employer to keep all records and information about your leave, including your certification documents, in the strictest confidence. They may disclose these documents only if required by state or federal law, you request or consent to it, or a court or administrative agency orders them to disclose.

Remember, keep your safety planning confidential from your abuser. Do you share a phone plan or a computer with your abuser? If so, keep in mind that your calls and search history may not be private. As you plan to keep yourself and your children safe, consider using a work phone or computer (if allowed) or a friend’s communications equipment for confidential research and calls.

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