D.C. employers have continuing COVID-19 leave obligations in 2021

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As we explained in a recent post, as of January 1, 2021, COVID-19 leave is no longer mandated under the federal Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA), although covered employers who voluntarily provide paid leave outlined in the FFCRA may take advantage of the FFCRA tax credit through March 31, 2021. Notwithstanding this change in federal law, District of Columbia employers should be aware of their continuing obligations to provide leave to eligible employees for COVID-19 related reasons at least through the first quarter of 2021 under D.C. law.

In March 2020 the D.C. Council passed temporary emergency laws creating two “buckets” of COVID-19 leave, paid and unpaid, for District employees. D.C.’s COVID-19 leave laws last for the duration of the Mayor’s declared COVID-19 public health emergency, which the Mayor recently extended through March 31, 2021. Broadly speaking, the two D.C. laws provide that:

  • All employers with one or more employees in D.C. must provide eligible employees with up to 16 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave if the employee is unable to work because (a) a healthcare provider has recommended the employee isolate or quarantine, including because the employee or a household member of the employee “is at high risk from serious illness from COVID-19”; (b) the employee is caring for a family or household member under quarantine or isolation; or (c) the employee needs to care for a child whose school or place of care is closed or childcare provider is unavailable due to the pandemic.
  • Employers with between 50 and 499 employees (other than healthcare providers) must provide up to 2 weeks of paid sick leave for “any of the reasons for which federal paid leave is available” under the FFCRA’s six qualifying reasons for paid sick leave. Because paid federal leave is no longer mandatory, there may be some uncertainty whether the D.C. paid leave provision still applies. We will be watching for additional guidance on this.

We discuss both D.C. laws in more detail in this post. Guidance on the unpaid leave law, issued by the Office of Human Rights (OHR) on November 5, 2020, is available here.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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