DC Area Businesses Still Sorting Out New Sick and Safe Leave Law Requirements

Date: Mar 17, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C – Last November, the District of Columbia became only the second municipality in the U.S. to require employers of all sizes to provide their employees with paid time off. At the time, it was estimated that the D.C. Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act of 2008 could affect 200,000 employees in the District who were not already offered time off for illness or to care for sick family members. Critics said that while the legislation was well-intentioned, the act placed area employers, particularly small business owners, at a competitive disadvantage with those in neighboring areas, and added significant costs and expenses to already tight bottom lines.

"The law added significant compliance and reporting requirements to DC area companies, and added new layers of potential liabilities and risk," said Manesh K. Rath, an employment and labor attorney with Washington, D.C.'s Keller and Heckman, LLP, who is currently advising companies and trade associations on the act. "Not only are employers still working out the new rules, but they are also in some cases facing financial hardships as a result.

Rath noted that employers in the District must place notices required by the Department of Employment Services informing employees of their new rights under the act – violations that carry with them fines and penalties. Also, employers who do not provide time off for employees as prescribed by the act could also face penalties for each offense. Likewise, employers can be penalized for discharging employees who attempt to take advantage of the act.

"Businesses are still trying to make sense of the new requirements and avoid problems associated with non-compliance," said Rath, who represents employers in employment litigation, as well as agency enforcement actions and internal audits. "There are many aspects of this new law that are ambiguous, so employers run the risk of facing enforcement actions simply because the Act and its regulations failed to clearly outline what is required of them."

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