As sophisticated employers know, an employer must track and comply with developments not only in federal law, but also state and local law. This blog post details key changes in employment laws in the District of Columbia in 2019, as well as upcoming changes in 2020, including changes to paid family leave and minimum wages.

D.C.’s Universal Paid Leave Act Approaches Full Implementation on July 1, 2020

As discussed in our prior blog post, D.C. employers began paying payroll taxes in July 2019 to fund paid family and medical leave benefits, which will become available to eligible employees under D.C.’s Universal Paid Leave Act (“UPLA”) starting July 1, 2020. See D.C. Code § 32-541.  UPLA benefits, which will be administered by the D.C. Government, include up to 8 weeks of paid leave benefits for new child bonding, 6 weeks to care for a family member with a serious health condition, and 2 weeks for the employee’s own serious health condition. In total, employees can receive up to 8 weeks of paid leave benefits under the UPLA per year.  Additional information about the new program, including a required Paid Family Leave Employee Notice that employers must provide to employees about UPLA benefits by February 1, 2020, can be found in our blog posts here and here.

Victims of Domestic and Sexual Violence are Now Covered under the D.C. Human Rights Act

Effective February 8, 2019, the District of Columbia’s Human Rights Act (“DCHRA”) prohibits discrimination against employees on the basis that they or their family members are victims of domestic violence, sexual offenses, or stalking.  See D.C. Code § 2-1402.11.  Additionally, employers must make reasonable accommodations for such employees when accommodation is necessary to ensure the employee’s (or the employee’s family member’s) security and safety, as long as the accommodation would not cause the employer undue hardship.  With certain exceptions, employers must maintain as confidential any information provided from such employees that is related to an employee’s or employee’s family member’s status as a victim of domestic violence, a sexual offense, or stalking.

D.C.’s Minimum Wage Will Increase to $15.00 per Hour

On July 1, 2019, the D.C. minimum wage rose to $14.00 per hour, and on July 1, 2020, it will increase to $15.00 per hour. See D.C. Code § 32-1003. Thereafter, it will be adjusted each year based on changes in the cost of living.  The upcoming increase to the minimum wage is part of a series of increases originating from the District’s “Fair Shot Minimum Wage Amendment Act of 2016.”  Additionally, tipped workers must be paid $5.00 per hour beginning July 1, 2020.  For information on last year’s minimum wage increase, please see our blog post on the topic.

D.C.’s Wage Garnishment Fairness Amendment Act Exempts Many Lower-Wage Workers from Garnishment

On April 11, 2019, the protections provided under the Wage Garnishment Fairness Amendment Act of 2018 went into effect.  Employees whose disposable wages in a given week do not exceed 40 times the District of Columbia minimum wage (40 times the current minimum wage of $14.00 per hour equals $560) are exempt from garnishment for that week altogether.  The Act also requires notice to debtors when a writ of attachment is served on their employer and allows debtors to file a motion in Superior Court to exempt certain wages from garnishment due to financial hardship.  See D.C. Law 22-296; D.C. Code § 16-572 to -573.

New Sexual Harassment Training and Payroll Reporting Requirements for Employers of Tipped Workers

The Tipped Wage Workers Fairness Act of 2018, which went into effect December 13, 2018, among other things, imposes sexual harassment training requirements on employers of tipped workers and requires certain such employers to submit payroll data through a third-party payroll provider.  Specifically, employees of such employers must receive sexual harassment training from the D.C. Office of Human Rights (“OHR”) or an OHR-certified provider every two years.  Managers, owners, and operators must also be trained every two years, and training for managers must be in-person.  New employees must be trained within 90 days of hire.  Employers have until December 12, 2020 to complete the training for employees hired before the Act’s effective date.  Additionally, as of January 1, 2020, employers of tipped employees (except for hotel employers) must use a third-party payroll provider that submits quarterly reports through the Department of Employment Services (“DOES”) self-service portal, no later than 30 days after the end of each quarter, certifying that each employee was paid at least the required minimum wage, including gratuities.  See D.C. Law 22-196.

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For more details about these legal developments or other employment law questions, ask one of the authors of this blog post or the Hogan Lovells lawyer with whom you work.