Your Right to Time Off Work in District of Columbia

Your employer must give you leave for certain purposes in Washington D.C.

Does your employer give you vacation or paid time off (PTO)? In addition to these policies, which are voluntary for employers in the District of Columbia, you may have a legal right to take leave from work for medical, family, and caretaking responsibilities. For example, if you are temporarily unable to work due to a serious illness or you need time off to care for a family member who was injured in active military service, you may have a right to leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The laws of the District of Columbia give you additional rights to time off, including paid sick and family leave.

This article provides general information on your right to take leave from work in Washington, D.C. For more information, see our page on employee leave rights.

Family and Medical Leave Laws in Washington, D.C.

In addition to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which applies to employers in Washington, D.C. and all 50 states, the District of Columbia has its own family and medical leave laws.

The Federal FMLA

Under the federal FMLA, employers must allow eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of leave per year to care for a seriously ill family member (parent, child, or spouse), to recuperate from their own serious health conditions, to bond with a new child, or to handle certain urgent matters relating to a family member’s military service. The FMLA also requires employers to give employees up to 26 weeks off to care for a family member who has suffered or exacerbated a serious illness or injury while serving in the military. (For purposes of this military caregiver provision only, employees may take leave to care for a broader range of family members, including siblings, grandparents, and cousins, if they are next of kin to an injured service member.)

The FMLA applies only to employers with at least 50 employees. To take FMLA leave, employees must have worked for the employer for 12 months and have worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months before taking leave. FMLA leave is unpaid, although you may use accrued paid leave during your time off in some cases. (Find out more at our Taking Family and Medical Leave page.)

District of Columbia Family and Medical Leave Laws

Washington, D.C. has several family and medical leave laws of its own, including those requiring employers to offer paid family and medical leave.

DC Family Medical Leave

In the District of Columbia, employers with at least 20 employees must let eligible employees take unpaid time off for:

  • Medical leave: Employees may take leave for their own serious health conditions.
  • Family leave: Employees may take time off for the birth, adoption, or foster placement of a child; for the permanent placement of a child with an employee who assumes and discharges permanent parental responsibility; and to care for a family member with a serious health condition. (Family members include anyone who is related to the employee by law, blood, or marriage, as well as anyone with whom the employee shares a home and has a committed relationship.)

Eligible employees may take up to 16 weeks of medical leave, and another 16 weeks of family leave, per 24-month period.

DC Paid Sick and Family Leave

Employers in DC must provide paid time off for:

  • the employee to recover from an illness, injury, or medical condition
  • the employee to care for a family member with an illness, injury, or medical condition
  • the employee to receive (or take a family member to receive) medical treatment, diagnosis, or care (including preventative care), or
  • the employee or a family member who has been a victim of domestic violence, stalking, or abuse to get medical attention, seek counseling, relocate, use services, take legal action, or take steps to improve health and safety.

The size of the employer and how many hours the employee works determines how much time off employees get. Employers with at least 100 employees must provide up to seven days off per year; employers with 25 to 99 employees must provide up to five days off per year; and smaller employers must provide up to three days off per year.

Leave for School Activities

Washington, D.C. also has a “small necessities” law, which gives parents the right to take time off work to participate in their children’s school events and activities. Parents can take up to 24 hours of unpaid leave per year.

Laws on Military Leave in Washington, D.C.

The federal Unformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) requires employers to allow eligible employees to take leave, with reinstatement to their jobs, for up to five years of service in the U.S. military. Under USERRA, employees may be fired only for good cause for a period of up to one year after they return from service. And, employers may not discriminate against employees based on their military service. (Find out all about USERRA in Taking Military Leave.)

District of Columbia Laws on Time Off for Jury Duty

Washington, D.C. law also gives employees the right to take time off work, without fear of retaliation, for the civic responsibility of serving on a jury. For the first five days of jury service, employees are entitled to their regular pay, less any juror fees paid by the court.

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