The District of Columbia has enacted the COVID-19 Response Emergency Amendment Act of 2020 (the “Act”), which temporarily expands the D.C. Family and Medical Leave Act (DCFMLA) and temporarily expands eligibility for unemployment benefits for employees impacted by COVID-19. The law is effective immediately and is set to expire on June 15, 2020, but it could be extended through further legislation.
The DCFMLA requires employers with 20 or more employees to provide eligible employees with 16 weeks of unpaid family leave and 16 weeks of unpaid medical leave during a 24-month period. To be eligible, an employee must:
- Have been employed by the employer for at least one year without a break in service; and
- Worked at least 1,000 hours during the 12-month period immediately preceding the requested leave.
The Act amends the DCFMLA to add a new category of leave called declaration of emergency (DOE) leave. Unlike with the other types of DCFMLA leave, all employers with employees in the District of Columbia must provide DOE leave. Additionally, all employees who work in the District of Columbia are eligible for DOE leave, regardless of their length of service and number of hours worked during the 12-month period prior to the leave.
Employers must provide DOE leave to an employee who is unable to work because:
- A public health emergency has been declared by the mayor and the Department of Health, any other District or federal agency, or a medical professional has recommended the employee self-quarantine or self-isolate; or
- The government mandates that the employee be in quarantine or isolation.
The leave may be unpaid, but employees may be entitled to paid leave under the recently enacted federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), once it takes effect. If they aren’t eligible for paid leave under FFCRA, employees may be eligible for unemployment benefits (see below).
Eligibility for Unemployment Benefits Expanded:
The Act expands coverage for unemployment benefits to employees who have become partially or fully unemployed because of a public health emergency, including when:
- They have been quarantined or isolated by the Department of Health or any other applicable district or federal agency;
- They have self-quarantined or self-isolated in a manner consistent with the recommendations or guidance of the Department of Health, any other applicable district or federal agency, or a medical professional; or
- Their employer ceased or reduced operations due to an order or guidance from the mayor or the Department of Health or a reduction in business revenue resulting from the circumstances giving rise to the public health emergency.
In such cases, any otherwise eligible employee may receive unemployment benefits regardless of whether the:
- Employer has provided a definitive date for the employee’s return to work; or
- Employee has a reasonable expectation of continued employment with the current employer.
The Act indicates that benefits paid pursuant to this expansion won’t be charged to the experience-rating accounts of employers, and there won’t be a work-search requirement for affected employees.
Employers with employees in the District of Columbia should ensure compliance with the DOE leave requirements and provide impacted employees information about expanded unemployment benefits. For details on the Act, go here. Keep in mind that the DCFMLA has existing notice and other requirements that may apply, barring further guidance or rules from the district. For details on the DCFMLA, go here.