Family and Medical Leave Laws in the District of Columbia

Employees in D.C. enjoy some of the most generous leave laws in the nation.

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, to attend to certain health and family matters.

In addition, the District of Columbia has its own comprehensive family and medical leave laws, which provide for both paid and unpaid leave. D.C. law also provides for paid sick and safe leave, as well as unpaid leave to attend a child's school activities.

Federal FMLA Rights

Eligible employees in the District of Columbia may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for a serious health condition, to bond with a new child, or to prepare for a family member's call to active military duty. Up to 26 weeks of leave are available for employees to care for a family member who sustained a serious injury or illness while on active military duty. The FMLA applies to employers with 50 or more employees. Employees are eligible for leave if they:

  • have worked for the company for at least a year
  • have worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months before taking leave, and
  • work at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius.

Employees are entitled to continued health insurance coverage while on leave, at the same cost as if they were working. Employees are typically entitled to reinstatement after their FMLA leave to the same or an equivalent position. For a more detailed overview of the FMLA, see our article on taking family and medical leave.

D.C. Family and Medical Leave Laws

The District of Columbia has its own family and medical leave laws that apply to more employers, and provide more leave, than the federal FMLA. D.C. also provides for paid leave under the Universal Paid Leave Act.

D.C. Unpaid Family & Medical Leave

In D.C., employers with 20 or more employees must allow eligible employees to take up to 16 weeks of unpaid family leave plus 16 weeks of unpaid medical leave in any 24-month period. Medical leave is for the employee's own serious health condition. Family leave may be taken for any of the following reasons:

  • for the birth, adoption, or foster placement of a child
  • for the 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.

D.C.'s law also applies to a broader category of family members than the FMLA. While the FMLA defines "family member" as a spouse, child, or parent for most types of leave, D.C.'s law includes: anyone who is related to the employee by blood, custody or marriage; a foster child; a child who lives with the employee and for whom the employee has permanently assumed parental responsibility; and someone who has lived with the employee in the last year and who shares a committed relationship with the employee.

The eligibility requirements under D.C.'s family leave law are also more relaxed than the FMLA. Employees are eligible under D.C.'s law if they have worked 1,000 hours during 12 months of employment with the employer, which may be non-consecutive months, as long as all periods of employment occurred within the past seven years.

D.C. Paid Family & Medical Leave

In addition to unpaid leave, D.C. also offers employees paid leave as follows:

  • up to eight weeks to bond with a new child
  • up to six weeks to care for the employee's or a family member's serious health condition, and
  • up to two weeks to receive prenatal care.

An eligible employee can take the maximum amount of both prenatal leave and parental leave. However, an employee cannot take a combination of prenatal leave and medical leave that exceeds the number of weeks of medical leave available for that year. Medical leave may be used in the event of miscarriage or stillbirth.

D.C. Paid Sick & Safe Leave

All employers in D.C. 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
  • for the employee's or a family member's medical care, diagnosis, or preventive medical care, or
  • to seek social, medical, or legal services for the employee or a family member who is a victim of stalking, domestic violence, or sexual abuse.

The amount of paid leave provided to employees is between three and seven days each year, depending on the size of the employer.

D.C. Small Necessities Law

Employers must give employees who are parents up to 24 hours of unpaid leave in any 12-month period to participate in a child's school-related events, including activities sponsored by either a school or an associated organization, such as a parent-teacher association. For example, an employee could use this time off to attend a child's school play, sporting event, or parent-teacher conference. However, the child must be a participant in, or the subject of, the school-related activity (rather than a spectator).

For More Information

You can get more information on these laws at the District's Department of Employment Services.

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