United States: District Of Columbia Greatly Expands Paid Sick Leave Coverage, Enforcement, And Penalties With Amendments To The Accrued Sick And Safe Leave Act

Last Updated: February 17 2014
Article by Nancy N. Delogu, S. Libby Henninger and Ashley Sims

The District of Columbia is poised to implement sweeping new amendments to the Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act of 2008.  The amendment, entitled the Earned Sick and Safe Leave Amendment Act of 2013 (the "Act"), has been signed by D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and is projected to take effect at the end of February 2014 absent an unlikely veto or amendment by the U.S. Congress as permitted by the D.C. Home Rule Act.  However, the Act will not apply fully until a fiscal impact statement is incorporated into the D.C. budget and published in the D.C. Register.

Once fully effective, the law will permit all workers who have worked at least 90 days to use accrued leave, allow former temporary workers to claim credit for time worked with their employer on a trial basis, and require employers to reinstate accrued leave banks for individuals who transfer out of the District and return within one year.  The law will also dramatically increase the penalties for noncompliance, create a private right of action to enforce the law (in addition to the existing administrative remedy), and create a rebuttable presumption that any employee who experiences an adverse employment action within 90 days of taking leave or protesting an employer's administration of the leave policy has been the victim of retaliation.

Existing Paid Sick and Safe Leave Coverage Is Expanded and Will Be Available Sooner

Currently, the Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act requires employers to provide, at a minimum, paid leave to qualifying employees for the purpose of caring for their own or a family member's illness, or taking legal steps to seek protection in the event of domestic violence or sexual abuse.  Employers must grant covered employees paid leave on an annual basis, with larger employers to offer more generous amounts of leave:

  •  an employer with 100 or more employees must provide one hour of paid leave for every 37 hours an employee works, not to exceed 7 days a year;
  • an employer with 25 to 99 employees must provide one hour of paid leave for every 43 hours an employee works, not to exceed 5 days a year; and
  • an employer with 24 or fewer employees must provide one hour of paid leave for every 87 hours an employee works, not to exceed 3 days a year.1

The Act does not amend these standard provisions.  However, the new law expands the group of covered workers to include tipped restaurant employees, regardless of the employer's size.  Restaurant employees, who are currently excluded from the law's coverage, will be eligible to earn one hour of paid leave for every 43 hours worked, not to exceed five days per year.  Leave for tipped employees will be paid at the current D.C. minimum wage.

Significantly, especially for employers with substantial turnover, the Act eliminates the existing 12 month and 1,000 hours of service threshold for leave eligibility.  Instead, the Act provides that workers begin accruing leave on their date of hire and are eligible to take paid leave after 90 days of employment.  The Act also expands the definition of "employer" to include any entity that directly or indirectly employs or exercises control over the wages, hours, or working conditions of employment, including through use of temporary workers or a staffing agency.

Once effective, the Act will require employers to reinstate workers' leave in two circumstances: (1) when a District-based employee is transferred out of the District and later is transferred back to a position with any "division, entity, or location" of that employer within the District; and (2) when an employee is rehired by the same employer within one year of separation from employment.  In both cases, all previously accrued and unused paid leave is reinstated and can be used immediately upon the employee's re-commencement of employment (or as soon as the employee has completed a total of 90 days' employment, considering both employment periods).

Existing law makes it plain that, although an employee may accrue leave indefinitely, he or she is not entitled to take more paid leave in a year than he or she could accrue while working for that employer.  This provision has been removed by the Act.  In addition, provisions stating that accrued, unused leave must be carried over from year to year, and that unused leave is not "wages" due and payable at the termination of employment, have been deleted by the amendments.  Although not specifically addressed in the Act, there appears to be no bar to an employer policy denying payout of unused time on termination, particularly as accrued and unused leave must be reinstated if an employee is rehired within one year of separation.  It remains to be seen whether the existing regulations limiting the amount of paid leave that can be used in a year will be revised.

Who Is Not an "Employee" Covered By the Act

While the Act expands the definition of an "employee," certain individuals are not covered, including:

  • Volunteers for educational, charitable, religious or nonprofit organizations;
  • Certain elected or appointed officers of religious organizations;
  • Casual babysitters;
  • Independent contractors;
  • Students; and
  • Healthcare workers who choose to participate in a premium pay program.

In addition, the Act amends the prior provision regarding collective bargaining agreements (which provides that CBAs must afford at least three paid leave days per calendar year to avoid the paid leave requirements) to exclude from coverage employees in the building and construction industry covered by a bona fide CBA that expressly waives the requirements in "clear and unambiguous terms."  This provision clearly favors union shops over non-union construction employers.

Enforcement Provisions and Penalties

Implementation of the Act will greatly expand enforcement provisions and penalties for noncompliance.  New recordkeeping requirements will obligate employers to maintain records documenting hours worked by employees and accrued and paid leave taken pursuant to the statute for a period of three years.

Currently, an employee who believes he or she has been denied paid leave in violation of the law may file a complaint with the District's Department of Employment Services (DOES) within 60 days of the violation.  The Act will allow employees to continue to bring claims through the administrative process, but also permits employees to challenge their employer's actions by bringing a civil lawsuit.  The statute of limitations for filing a civil complaint is three years, which will be tolled by the period in which 1 an administrative complaint is pending, or (2) an employer does not post the required notice.

Penalties include $500 per day in damages for each accrued day of leave denied, regardless of whether the employee took unpaid leave, or even reported to work on that day, and a potential daily penalty of $1,000 for the first offense, $1,500 for the second offense, and $2,000 for the third and each subsequent offense if the violation is deemed willful.  These penalties can be triggered not only by failures to grant employees' leave in accordance with the law, but also by willful violations of the Act's posting requirement, which previously carried a maximum penalty of $500. In addition, an aggrieved worker may be awarded back pay, reinstatement or other injunctive relief, compensatory damages, and punitive damages, including a penalty of at least $500 for every day an employee was denied access to paid leave and was required to work. Attorneys' fees and costs can be awarded to the District or a prevailing plaintiff in a civil action.  The Mayor may also take further measures to ensure compliance, including revoking or suspending registration certificates, permits, or licenses until a violation has been remedied.

Retaliation Presumed

The revised law further creates an incredibly broad presumption that an employer has violated the law if an employee suffers an adverse employment action within 90 days of engaging in protected activity, including by taking paid leave.  Among the many protected acts that can support a retaliation claim are: making a complaint to the employer; filing a complaint with the DOES; filing a civil complaint; cooperating in an investigation or prosecution of a complaint; opposing any policy, practice, or act made unlawful under the statute; informing any employee of his rights under the law; or informing any person – related to the employer or otherwise – of an alleged violation. 

"Effective" Versus "Applicable" Date

Although the Act is slated to take effect by the end of February 2014 – once the Congressional review period has elapsed – the law will not actually be "applicable" until a budget statement regarding the impact of the law is inserted into an approved District of Columbia budget, which may occur as late as 2015.  Nonetheless, employers should waste no time moving to bring employee leave tracking and recordkeeping into compliance because, regardless of when the District begins to enforce the law, it appears that employers must begin tracking leave for the expanded group of covered employees as soon as the Act takes effect.

Guidance from the DOES

The DOES has yet to issue guidance on when it believes the Act will take effect, but preliminarily it has said:

  • The D.C. revised budget will not be submitted until 2015, and it does not appear at this time as though the Act's requirements will take effect until then;
  • It will likely promulgate regulations interpreting the Act, although it has yet to develop a timetable for doing so; and
  • It will create and publish a new poster advising employees of their rights.

What Should Employers Do?

Although the effective date of the Act is still in question, the District's intent to expand access to paid sick and safe leave and ramp up enforcement is clear.  Accordingly, employers with employees in the District should take affirmative steps to ensure compliance with the new requirements sooner rather than later.  It is important to ensure that your policy complies with the current law, and it is likely that penalties for noncompliance will expand considerably and may reach back for some purposes – for example, it is not clear whether court actions challenging an employer's application of the law may consider facts about compliance prior to the law's expansion, or whether employers will be held responsible for calculating paid leave from the date the law fully takes effect, or from the date the amendment becomes law.  Steps employers should take include:

  • Review and revise existing sick and universal leave policies, particularly to address groups not previously covered (temporary workers, tipped workers, etc.);
  • Ensure the current Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act poster is posted in a prominent place in the workplace;
  • Implement accrual tracking procedures for employees in preparation for future transfers and rehires;
  • Take steps to document legitimate non-retaliatory reasons for imposing discipline on employees who have taken leave under the Act or engaged in other protected activity;
  • Ensure any paid leave policy includes anti-retaliation provisions conforming to the Act and a mechanism for addressing concerns raised about compliance;
  • Develop policies and procedures for creating and retaining records of leave taken under the Act; and
  • Conduct training on requirements for managers/human resource professionals.


1. D.C. Code Ann. § 32-131.02.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Nancy N. Delogu
S. Libby Henninger
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

*** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.