I hope that each of you is healthy and safe. This is a time of great uncertainty and many of us feel anxious. Having sources of reliable information is critical to our survival and can go a long way toward reducing our anxiety. Knowledge is power. I am sending out updates on employment-related legislation and articles. I trust you will find them useful as we navigate these unchartered waters.
Here is a brief description of emergency legislation that the D.C. Council just passed this week to protect workers in the District of Columbia.
On March 17, 2020, the D.C. Council enacted the COVID-19 Response Emergency Amendment Act of 2020. This new legislation expanded unemployment compensation benefits and job-protected leave for D.C. workers. Here is a summary:
Unemployment Compensation Benefits Expanded in D.C.
- D.C. employees can apply for unemployment compensation benefits if:
- they have been quarantined or isolated by the Department of Health or any other applicable District or federal agency; or
- they have self-quarantined or self-isolated in a manner consistent with the recommendations or guidance of the Department of Health or any applicable District or federal agency or a medical professional; or
- their employer ceased or reduced operations due to COVID-19 or as a result of an order or guidance from the Mayor or the Department of Health; or
- they quit their job for "good cause," which includes
- (1) an employer failing to timely comply with a written directive from they Mayor or the Department of Health in relation to public safety measures necessary to protect employees or the public from COVID-19; or
- (2) an employer demanding that an employee be physically present at the workplace despite the employee having been quarantined or isolated by governmental authorities or self-quarantined or self-isolated based on the recommendations or guidance of governmental authorities or medical professionals.
- DC Employees that meet the above requirements and are otherwise eligible for unemployment compensation can apply for unemployment benefits regardless of whether the employer has provided a date certain for the employee's return to work or whether the employee continues to be employed by the current employer.
- Finally, this new legislation has removed the "search for work" requirement, so long as the employee meets the above requirements.
Job-Protected Leave Expanded in D.C.
- D.C. employees can take unpaid, job-protected leave if they have been directed to quarantine or isolate by the federal or D.C. government or a medical provider. In this circumstance, the typical one-year employment requirement and 1,000 hour-work requirement does not apply in order for the employee to be eligible to take this leave.
- The D.C. employee can take leave for the duration of the public health emergency and a note from the employee's medical provider or a recommendation from a D.C. or federal government agency can serve as medical certification to take this leave.
All D.C. employers are covered by this law, regardless of size.
You can click here to read, in its entirety, the legislation passed by the D.C. Council:
Other highlights of the legislation:
- Extends the real property tax payment for hotels from March 31 to June 30.
- Allows other business to remit sales taxes from February and March but not actually make payment until Sept. 20.
- Establishes a small business grant program to include grants to nonprofits and independent contractors, if they can't qualify for Unemployment Insurance. It may be administered by a third party.
- Allows for residents to pick up beer and wine or have it delivered (in a sealed container) from a restaurant if ordered with food to be consumed at home.
- Extends public benefit programs such as Alliance, TANF, and SNAP.
- Places limits on price gouging and stockpiling.
- Prohibits the disconnecting of electric power, gas, and water for all customers.
- Prohibits the eviction for residential and non-residential tenants.
- Allows prescription drugs to be refilled before the end of the waiting period.
- Extends the TOPA and Tenant Organization rights deadlines.
- Adds flexibility to the D.C. Public Schools summer school calendar.
- Suspends the meetings of all other boards and commissions.
- Extends the Freedom of Information Act deadline, so that the clock will not toll while the heath emergency lasts.
- Provides flexibility to open meetings act compliance when meeting remotely.
- Allows for the Council to meet remotely.