District of Columbia Passes Paid Family Leave Law

Beginning in 2020, D.C. employees can receive benefits when they take time off for certain medical and caretaking reasons.

In April of 2017, the District of Columbia joined the ranks of a handful of states that provide paid family leave benefits to employees. D.C.’s paid family leave law is scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2020. The program will be run by the city and funded through employer payroll taxes.

Eligible employees. Employees of nearly all private employers in D.C. are eligible for paid family leave benefits, if during some or all of the 52 weeks prior to the leave:

  • they spend more than 50% of their work time for a covered employer in D.C., or
  • their work for a covered employer is based in D.C., they spend a substantial amount of their work time in D.C., and they spend no more than 50% of their work time for the employer in another location.

Qualifying reasons for leave. Employees may receive paid family leave benefits when taking time off for any of the following reasons:

  • to care for a new child arriving by birth, adoption, or foster placement
  • to care for a family member with a serious health condition, or
  • to recover from their own serious health conditions.

The definition of “family member” includes: a child, stepchild, or child of a domestic partner; a parent, parent-in-law, stepparent, or legal guardian; a spouse or domestic partner; a grandparent; or a sibling.

Amount of benefits. The weekly amount of paid family leave benefits depends on the employee’s earnings. Employees with relatively low earnings—those earning 1.5 times the minimum wage (based on a 40-hour workweek)— will receive 90% of their average weekly wages. By July of 2020, when D.C.’s minimum wage will be $15 per hour, employees will fall within this category if they earn $900 per week or less ($15 x 40 hours = $600; 150% of $600 = $900). If they earn more than this amount, they will receive 90% of 150% of D.C.’s minimum wage, plus half of the amount by which their wages exceed 150% of D.C.’s minimum wage, but no more than $1,000 per week total.

Duration of benefits. The duration of benefits depends on the reason for the leave. Employees will receive eight weeks of paid leave to bond with a new child, six weeks of paid leave to care for an ill family member, and two weeks of paid leave to recover from their own illnesses. For all types of leave, there is a one-week waiting period during which no benefits are paid.

No job protection. D.C.’s paid family leave law does not require your employer to reinstate you to your job once your leave is over. However, other federal and D.C. laws may give you that right. To learn more, see our article on family and medical leave laws in D.C.

Effective date: July 1, 2020

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