Finalized Paid Family Leave Law – Washington, D.C.

Posted February 15, 2017 by Megan DiMartino in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The D.C. Universal Paid Leave Amendment Act of 2016 (UPLAA) was passed in December 2016 by the District of Columbia City Council and goes into effect as of July 1, 2020. This will guarantee certain periods of paid family and medical leave to private-sector employees. Beginning exactly a year before the effective date, payments will be funded by an additional .62% employer payroll tax that the city will collect from private-sector employees.

As of now the law applies only to D.C., but will have wide-ranging implications. The D.C. experience will serve as a model to a nationwide effort to seek passage of state and local paid-leave laws.

The D.C. Chamber of Commerce was opposed to the UPLAA and Mayor Muriel Bowser argued that many of the Maryland and Virginia residents who work in the city would reap the benefits of the $250 million tax increase on D.C. employers. However, Bowser did not veto the bill.

Shorter Paid-Leave Periods
The D.C. Family and Medical Leave Act (DCFMLA) is much more generous than the federal FMLA, allowing eligible employees of D.C. to take 16 weeks of unpaid leave for qualifying family and medical reasons compared to the typical 12 weeks.

However, UPLAA’s paid leave will provide shorter periods:

  • Eight weeks within a 52-week period to new parents
  • Six weeks for the care of a family member with a serious health condition
  • Two weeks for an employee’s own medical leave

In total, no more than eight weeks of paid leave is allowed within the 52-week period under the UPLAA.

Expanded Rights
The new UPLAA leave entitlement will apply to more private-sector employees than the DCFMLA:

  1. New employees will be entitled to take paid family or medical leave in circumstances in which they currently have no entitlement to take even unpaid leave.
    To currently qualify for unpaid leave, an employee must have worked for the employer at least one year before the leave request. But for the UPLAA, no such conditions apply. The UPLAA considers an individual eligible as long as they are a covered employee “during some or all of the 52 calendar weeks immediately preceding the qualifying event.”
  2. The UPLAA provides paid-leave rights to part-time employees, as long as they worked for the employer at some point in the prior year.
    The current local law only provides a right to unpaid leave to employees who have worked at least 1,000 hours during the 12-months prior to the request for family or medical leave, as opposed to the FMLA’s 1,250 hours in a 12-month period.
  3. The UPLAA applies to all private-sector employers regardless of size, except for those that are exempt from taxes in D.C. by federal law or treaty.
    This now allows employees of small businesses with fewer than 20 employees the right to take leave for qualifying family and medical reasons. Although, a clause in the law suggests that employees who work for small businesses with fewer than 20 employees are not entitled to “job protection” when returning from paid leave.
  4. The UPLAA broadens – although slightly – the class of family members for whom leave can be taken.
    The DCFMLA requires covered employers to allow unpaid leave to employees to care for family members with a serious health condition to also include:
    – A person to whom the employee is related by blood, legal custody or marriage
    – A child who lives with an employee who exercises parental responsibility
    – An individual with whom the employee lives and is in a “committed relationship”
    The UPLAA adds the following:
    – A legal ward
    – A son or daughter of a domestic partner
    – A person “who stood in loco parentis” to the employee when her or she was a
    The UPLAA also includes provisions prohibiting retaliation against employees who exercise their right to paid leave. One provision goes as far as forbidding employers from retaliating by reporting, or threatening to report, an employee’s “actual suspected citizenship or immigration status” to federal, state or local agencies.

Sources: SHRM | Washington, D.C., Finalizes Paid-Family-Leave Law

For more information contact The information contained in this post, and any attachments, is not intended and should not be misconstrued as legal advice. You should contact your employment, benefits or ERISA attorney for legal direction.

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