United States: D.C. Expands Paid Sick Leave Law

Last week, an amendment to the District of Columbia Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act of 2008 (the "ASSLA") came into effect. The amendment, called the Earned Sick and Safe Leave Amendment Act of 2013 (the "Amendment"), significantly broadens the scope of ASSLA by covering more employees, as well as imposing additional recordkeeping requirements. Though the Amendment is now effective, it will not apply to employers until a statement of its fiscal effect is included in an approved budget and financial plan, as published in the D.C. Register.

This alert summarizes employee rights and employer obligations under the amended version of ASSLA, including the law's recordkeeping and notice requirements, and its enforcement and remedy provisions.


One of the key changes to ASSLA concerns the definition of "employee." The Amendment broadens the term to include any individual employed by an employer, eliminating the length of employment and/or number of hours worked criteria under the original version of the law.1 The Amendment also expands the definition of an "employer" to include those legal entities who directly or indirectly or through an agent or any other person, including through a temporary services or staffing agency, employ or exercise control over wages, hours, or working conditions of an employee.

ASSLA continues to exempt independent contractors and students, as well as health care workers who choose to participate in premium pay programs. The Amendment, however, adds exemptions for volunteers of educational, charitable, religious, or nonprofit organizations; certain religious officials; and casual babysitters. Significantly, the Amendment removes the exemption for "tipped" restaurant employees.

Rights & Requirements

Accrual of Paid Sick Time

Under ASSLA, employees working for an employer with:

  • 100 or more employees2 accrue up to seven paid sick days per year, at a rate of not less than one hour of paid leave for every 37 hours worked;
  • 25 to 99 employees earn up to five days per year at a rate of not less than one hour of paid leave for every 43 hours worked; and
  • 24 or fewer employees earn up to three days per year, at a rate of not less than one hour of paid leave for every 87 hours worked.3

In the case of employees who are exempt from overtime payment under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employees do not accrue leave for hours worked beyond a 40-hour work week.

The Amendment now provides that employees of restaurants or bars who receive tips, commissions, or gratuities to supplement a base wage that is below the D.C. minimum wage accrue one hour of paid leave for every 43 hours worked, not to exceed five days per calendar year. Such leave is to be paid at the minimum wage rate.

Paid leave accrues in accordance with the employer's established pay period. Under the Amendment, however, employees are entitled to accrue leave at the commencement of employment and may use such leave 90 days after employment commences. The Amendment also permits employees to retain accrued leave under new circumstances. For instance, if an employee is transferred to a separate division, entity or location within D.C., or transferred out of D.C. and then transferred back to a division, entity, or location within D.C., but remains employed by the same employer, the employee retains all unused accrued sick time.

Moreover, the Amendment provides that, if an employee is separated from employment, but is then rehired within one year of separation by the same employer, previously accrued but unused paid leave must be reinstated and the employee is entitled to use such time immediately upon re-employment, provided the employee previously was eligible to use paid leave. Employees discharged after completing a probationary period of 90 days or more but rehired within 12 months may access paid leave immediately. If an employee is separated from employment for longer than one year, the employer does not have to reinstate previously accrued sick time.4

Use of Sick Time

An employee may use leave for his or her own physical or mental conditions or medical appointments, or for those of a family member,5 and/or to obtain social or legal services arising from domestic violence, stalking, or sexual abuse suffered by the employee or a family member. The Amendment leaves those rights intact.

The Amendment also did not change the way that employees must request leave under ASSLA. In most circumstances, paid leave is to be provided upon the written request of an employee, which must include a reason for the absence and the expected duration of the leave. If the leave is foreseeable, the request is to be made at least 10 days, or as early as possible, in advance of the leave. If the leave is unforeseeable, an oral request is to be made prior to the start of the work shift for which the leave is requested. In the case of an emergency, the employer must be notified prior to the start of the next work shift or within 24 hours of the onset of the emergency, whichever occurs sooner.

An employer also may require that paid leave for three or more consecutive days be supported by reasonable certification,6 and that the employee furnish a copy of the certification upon his or her return to work.

It is worth noting that employers with existing paid leave policies providing paid leave options (such as a paid time-off program or universal leave policy) do not have to modify that policy if it offers an employee the option, at the employee's discretion, to accrue and use leave under terms and conditions that are at least equivalent to the leave prescribed in ASSLA.

Anti-Retaliation Protections

Like the prior version of the law, the Amendment prohibits employers from interfering with the exercise of rights under ASSLA, and specifically enjoins employers from discharging or discriminating against employees for certain protected activities. Following the Amendment, the list of activities protected when undertaken pursuant to ASSLA include:

  1. complaining to the employer;
  2. filing a complaint with the Department of Employment Services ("DES");
  3. filing a civil complaint alleging a violation of ASSLA;
  4. informing any person about an employer's alleged violation of ASSLA;
  5. cooperating with the DES or other persons in the investigation or prosecution of any alleged violation of ASSLA;
  6. opposing any policy, practice, or act made unlawful by ASSLA; and
  7. informing any person of his or her rights under ASSLA.

The Amendment also creates a rebuttable presumption of retaliation for the exercise of paid sick leave rights if an employer takes an adverse action against an employee within 90 days of the employee engaging in any of the listed actions. Moreover, the Amendment provides that an employer may not take adverse action on the basis that sick time qualifies as an "absence" if such time is taken pursuant to ASSLA.

Notice Requirements

ASSLA requires that each employer post in a conspicuous place a notice of rights and obligations under the law (in the form issued by the Mayor of D.C.) in English and in all languages spoken by its eligible employees with limited or no-English proficiency.7 Under the prior version of ASSLA, the civil penalty for willfully failing to comply with the notice requirement could not exceed $100 per day and $500 in total. The Amendment, however, permits imposition of the same civil penalties for all violations (willful or otherwise), and maintains the $500 cap for non-willful violations only.

Recordkeeping Requirements

The Amendment codifies a requirement that employers retain records documenting hours worked and paid leave taken by employees for a period of three years. These records must be made accessible for compliance audits upon reasonable notice. Further, if an issue arises as to an employee's entitlement to paid sick leave, the failure to maintain or retain adequate records, or the refusal to allow access to those records, creates a rebuttable presumption that the employer has committed a violation.

Enforcement & Remedy

Under the Amendment, an aggrieved employee (or a group of similarly situated employees) has a private right of civil or administrative action for any violation of ASSLA.8 Civil complaints are subject to a three-year statute of limitations running from the date of the event on which the complaint is based. The limitations period is tolled (i) when an administrative complaint is filed (within 60 days of the incident) or (ii) during any period that the employer failed to post the required notice.

As for remedies, there are many. An employer who fails to permit an employee to use leave as required by ASSLA is liable to the employee for $500 in additional damage for each accrued day denied, regardless of whether the employee takes unpaid leave or reports to work on that day. Although the prior version of ASSLA had imposed civil penalties for willful violations of the law, the Amendment increased the civil penalties (other than for violation of the notice requirement) to $1,000 for the first offense, $1,500 for the second offense, and $2,000 for the third and each subsequent offense.

Moreover, under the Amendment, if a court or the Mayor finds an employer has violated any provision of ASSLA, additional remedies are available, including:

  1. back pay;
  2. reinstatement or other injunctive relief;
  3. compensatory or punitive damages, including at least $500 for every day an employee was denied access to paid leave and required to work;
  4. reasonable attorney's fees and costs.

All such sums awarded civilly or administratively are subject to interest. The Amendment also authorizes D.C. to collect any debt owed to an aggrieved employee under ASSLA. On top of all other penalties, the DES may order an employer to pay a sum of not more than $500 for each day and for each employee as to whom a violation occurred or continued.


D.C. employers should familiarize themselves with the Amendment and comply with its requirements. These include:

  • determining whether existing paid leave policies and/or attendance policies are consistent with the Amendment including, but not limited to, with respect to amount of sick leave provided, accrual rates, purposes for which time may be taken, and sick time afforded to all employees, including tipped restaurant workers;
  • updating, revising or issuing new policies as appropriate;
  • assessing the interplay of the rights and requirements provided under other existing leave laws;
  • monitoring for possible issuance of a new poster incorporating the changes of the Amendment;
  • establishing procedures to comply with the new recordkeeping obligations of the Amendment; and
  • training managers and supervisors regarding the new rights and requirements of the Amendment.


1. The prior version of ASSLA defined "employee" as an individual who has been employed by the same employer for one year without a break in service, and has worked at least 1,000 hours during the twelve month period immediately preceding the request for leave.

2. The number of employees is determined by the average monthly number of full-time equivalent employees for the prior calendar year. The average monthly number is calculated by adding the total monthly full-time equivalent employees for each month and dividing by 12.

3. ASSLA already prohibits waiver of its paid leave requirements for less than three paid leave days per calendar year under a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA"). The Amendment further provides that the paid leave requirements will not apply to any employee in the building and construction industry covered by a CBA that expressly waives the requirements in clear and unambiguous terms.

4. It is worth mentioning that, under the prior version of ASSLA, accrued but unused leave was to carry over annually (regardless of total leave accrued, an employee could not exceed the paid sick leave maximums set forth above in any twelve-month period unless the employer otherwise permitted the employee to do so). Employees also were not entitled to payment or reimbursement for accrued but unused sick leave upon termination of employment. The Amendment has removed these two provisions from the text of ASSLA.

5. ASSLA defines "family member" to include (i) a spouse (including domestic partners); (ii) the parents of a spouse; (iii) children (including foster children and grandchildren); (iv) the spouses of children; (v) parents; (vi) siblings; (vii) the spouses of siblings; (viii) a child who lives with an employee and for whom the employee permanently assumes and discharges parental responsibility; and (ix) a person with whom the employee shares or has shared, for not less than the preceding 12 months, a mutual residence and with whom the employee maintains a committed relationship.

6. Under ASSLA, reasonable certification may include: (1) a signed document from a health care provider affirming the illness; (2) a police report indicating the employee was a victim of stalking, domestic violence, or sexual abuse; (3) a court order; or (4) a signed statement from a victim and witness advocate, or domestic violence counselor, affirming that the employee is involved in legal action relating to stalking, domestic violence, or sexual abuse. Employers are not to disclose such information except where the employee consents, pursuant to a court or administrative order, or if otherwise required by law.

7. Employers should keep in mind that, given the significant modifications to ASSLA through the Amendment, a revised poster may be forthcoming from the Mayor's Office or the DES.

8. The Mayor also may commence a civil action and take other steps to secure compliance from employers when compliance is not forthcoming.

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.

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
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 you may opt out by clicking here

    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.

    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.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions