May 28, 2020

May 28, 2020

Subscribe to Latest Legal News and Analysis

May 27, 2020

Subscribe to Latest Legal News and Analysis

May 26, 2020

Subscribe to Latest Legal News and Analysis

D.C.’s COVID-19 Emergency Legislation Impacts Unemployment Benefits and D.C. FMLA

On March 17, 2020, the District of Columbia unanimously passed the COVID-19 Response Emergency Amendment Act of 2020. The act affects both unemployment benefits and the D.C. Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

With respect to unemployment benefits, the act extends unemployment eligibility to “affected employees,” defined as employees who otherwise are eligible for unemployment and who have become “unemployed or partially unemployed” as a result of the circumstances giving rise to the public health emergency. This term specifically includes:

  • An employee who has been quarantined or isolated by the Department of Health or any other applicable D.C. or federal agency

  • An employee who has self-quarantined or self-isolated in a manner consistent with the recommendations or guidance of the Department of Health, any other applicable D.C. or federal agency, or a medical professional

  • An employee of an employer that 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, as determined by the mayor

Affected employees are entitled to unemployment benefits (with no work search requirement) regardless of whether the employer has provided a date certain for return to work and regardless of whether the employee has a reasonable expectation of continued employment. Benefits paid to affected employees pursuant to the emergency legislation will not be charged to the employer’s experience rating. The legislation also authorizes payment of such benefits from other available sources of District funding in the event that federal law or regulation would preclude payment of such benefits from the District of Columbia’s unemployment fund.

The act also specifically includes the following within the definition of “good cause” for an employee to voluntarily leave a job without being disqualified from benefits:

  1. An employer’s failure to timely comply with a written directive from the mayor or the Department of Health in relation to public safety measures necessary to protect its employees or the public during the public health emergency

  2. An employer’s requirements that an employee be physically present in the workplace despite the employee having:

    • Been quarantined or isolated by the Department of Health or any other applicable D.C. or federal agency

    • Self-quarantined or self-isolated in a manner consistent with the recommendations or guidance of the Department of Health, any other applicable D.C. or federal agency, or a medical professional

Additionally, the act extends protections of the D.C. FMLA, which applies to employers with 20 or more employees and provides that covered employees (i.e., those with at least one year and 1,000 hours of service) up to 16 weeks of medical and 16 weeks of family leave (unpaid) in a two-year period. The act provides that during a period of public health emergency declared by the mayor, these employee eligibility requirements do not apply to an employee who has been ordered or recommended to quarantine or isolate by the Department of Health, any other D.C. or federal agency, or a medical professional.

The act also creates a new “declaration of emergency leave” that applies to all employers irrespective of size, and extends leave to an employee who is unable to work as a result of the public health emergency. A recommendation from the mayor, Department of Health, any other D.C. or federal agency, or a medical professional that the employee self-quarantine or self-isolate shall serve as certification of the need for such leave, and, in the case of a government-mandated quarantine or isolation, the declaration of public health emergency shall serve as certification of the need for such leave.

The act applies as of March 11, 2020, and as emergency legislation, will remain in effect for a period of 90 days. D.C. may enact further legislation to extend it if circumstances warrant.

© 2020 BARNES & THORNBURG LLP

TRENDING LEGAL ANALYSIS


About this Author

Teresa Jakubowski, Barnes Thornburg Law Firm, Washington DC, Labor and Employment  and Ltitgation Law Attorney
Partner

Teresa L. Jakubowski is a partner in Barnes & Thornburg LLP's Washington, D.C. office where she practices labor and employment law and is a member of the firm’s Disability Law Practice. Her practice includes providing legal counsel and representing clients in litigation and administrative proceedings in the areas of employment law, particularly discrimination/equal employment matters; the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA); the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA); wrongful discharge; state employment laws; fair housing; and accessibility for individuals...

202-371-6366
Norma W. Zeitler, Barnes Thornburg Law Firm, Chicago, Employment Law Attorney
Partner

Norma W. Zeitler is a partner in the Chicago office of Barnes & Thornburg LLP and a member of the Labor and Employment Department and the Associations and Foundations Practice Group. She concentrates her practice on employment law, and represents employers in the defense of employment discrimination, retaliatory discharge, breach-of-contract, workplace tort, and restrictive covenant cases in federal and state courts and administrative agencies. She also provides day-to-day counseling for employers on all matters that impact the employment relationship.

Prior to becoming a lawyer, Ms. Zeitler was an officer in the United States Army. While in the Army, she served as a communications platoon leader and intelligence officer in Germany, as a company commander in Turkey during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and as an intern to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Office of Legislative Affairs.

Since 2014, Ms. Zeitler has been recognized on the Illinois Super Lawyers list by the Illinois Super Lawyers Magazine. Since 2017, Ms. Zeitler has been recognized in The Best Lawyers in America for labor and employment.

312-214-8312