D.C. Enacts Paid COVID-19 Vaccine Leave and Extends Public Health Emergency Leave Under DC FMLA
On November 18, 2021, District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser signed the “COVID Vaccination Leave Emergency Amendment Act of 2021” (the “Act”). The Act applies to nearly all private employers with employees in the District. The Act (1) establishes new paid COVID-19 vaccine leave requirements and (2) extends the public health emergency leave available under the DC Family Medical Leave Act (“DCFMLA”), which expired November 5, 2021. The Act will remain in effect until February 16, 2022.
New Paid COVID-19 Vaccine Leave
The Act requires employers provide up to two (2) hours of paid leave for employees to obtain each dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, including boosters. This leave is also available for employees to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine for their child.
Additionally, the Act requires employers provide up to eight (8) hours of paid vaccine recovery leave, per dose and during the 24 hour period following the vaccine dose, for employees to recover from the vaccine or to care for their child recovering from the vaccine. This leave is in addition to the two (2) hours of paid leave for employees to obtain vaccinations.
Extension of Public Health Emergency Leave
The Act also extends D.C.’s declared public health emergency for COVID-19. Under the previously-enacted Coronavirus Support Temporary Amendment Act of 2021, employees were entitled to an additional 16 weeks of unpaid public health emergency leave for COVID-19 related-reasons. However, the public health emergency declaration expired on November 5, 2021. The Act extends the expanded DCFMLA COVID-19 leave until February 16, 2022. Reasons an employee may use the unpaid public health emergency leave include:
(1) to care for themselves or a family member after testing positive for COVID-19,
(2) the employee is required to quarantine/isolate or care for a family member who is required to quarantine/isolate, or
(3) the employee must care for a child whose school/place of care is closed due to COVID-19.
Below are answers to questions employers may have regarding compliance with the new paid vaccine leave requirements of the Act:
1. May employers require employees to provide documentation supporting their need for paid vaccine leave?
Answer: Yes. Employers can require employees, after they return from their leave, to provide their vaccine record or documentation showing the date and time of their (or their child’s) vaccination.
2. Is there a limit to how much paid COVID-19 vaccine leave an employee can use?
Answer: Yes. Employees are only entitled to up to 48 hours of paid vaccine leave (including vaccine recovery leave) in a year.
3. Can employers require employees to provide notice prior to taking leave?
Answer: Yes. An employer can require employees provide up to 48 hours’ notice prior to taking any vaccine leave. However, in the case of an emergency, employees need only to provide reasonable notice.
4. If employees are subject to a collective bargaining agreement, can they waive the paid vaccine leave requirements of the Act?
Answer: No. The Act explicitly prohibits waiver of the paid vaccine leave requirements through collective bargaining agreements.
5. Are employers required to give new employees paid vaccine leave immediately after hire?
Answer: No. Employees are not entitled to paid vaccine leave until they have been employed for 15 days.
6. Do these new leave laws expand the amount of leave available to employees under DC and federal law?
Answer: Yes. DC’s new vaccine leave, public health emergency leave, and expanded DC FMLA COVID-19 leave are in addition to leave available under DC FMLA, DC Safe and Sick Leave law, and the federal FMLA. For example, under the DC FMLA, employees are now entitled to up to 16 weeks of family leave, 16 weeks of medical leave, and 16 weeks of COVID-19 leave, in addition to the 12 weeks available under federal FMLA.