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The District of Columbia Responds to COVID-19 Pandemic with New Workforce Protections

On March 18, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser signed into law the COVID-19 Response Emergency Amendment Act of 2020. The statute, which the City Council passed unanimously, contains two major workforce protections applicable to employers in the District of Columbia.  

First, the statute amends the City’s unemployment compensation law to permit otherwise eligible employees to collect unemployment compensation if they are unemployed or partially unemployed due to circumstances that have led to a public health emergency. That includes employees who:

  • The City’s Department of Public Health or any other applicable City or federal agency have quarantined or isolated;
  • Have self-quarantined or self-isolated consistent with the City’s Department of Health or other applicable DC or federal agency recommendation or guidance; or 
  • Are unemployed because their employer has (1) ceased or reduced operations due to a City order or guidance; or (2) experienced reduced revenue due to circumstances that have led to a City-declared public health emergency.

The statute also amends the City’s Family and Medical Leave Act, to enable otherwise eligible employees who fall short of the DCFMLA’s one-year of employment and 1,000-hour work eligibility requirements to take protected leave if the Department of Health, another City or federal agency, or a medical professional has ordered or recommended their quarantine or isolation during a City-declared public health emergency. That protection applies without regard to how many employees in the District of Columbia the employer employs.

The new protections are effective immediately and shall remain in effect for no longer than 90 days

This is part of a series of Alerts that address the employment and labor issues implicated by the COVID-19 pandemic. A link to Arent Fox's Coronavirus Task Force is here.

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