DC Doing Business Guide

Employment & Labor Laws

The District of Columbia has specific laws concerning the hiring, firing, and treatment of employees. Several agencies and nonprofit organizations offer assistance to understanding employment and labor laws in DC:

The Small Business Administration, a federal agency devoted to helping small businesses, offers a counseling service (SCORE) and can provide guidance on a range of human resource topics.
(202) 272-0390 · washingtondc.score.org

The DC Chamber of Commerce Business Resource Center provides technical assistance to small business owners on many issues, including employment laws.
(202) 545-0220 · dcsbdc.org

Labor Standards/Worker’s Protection

The Department of Employment Services plans, develops, and administers employment-related services to all segments of the District of Columbia population.

DOES houses up-to-date information on a broad range of labor topics including:

Wage Hour Laws

Minimum Wage On July 1, 2016, the District’s minimum wage increased to $11.50 per hour. Beginning July 1, 2017, the District’s minimum wage will be increased in proportion to the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers in the Washington Metropolitan Statistical Area for the preceding 12 months. Employers must pay a “service rate” of $2.77 per hour to “tipped employees.” If an employee’s hourly tip earnings (averaged weekly) added to the service rate do not equal the minimum wage, the employer must pay the difference.

Living Wage The Living Wage for contractors of the District of Columbia government is now $13.85, retroactive to January 1, 2016. As authorized by the Living Wage Act of 2006, all recipients of government contracts or assistance of $100,000 or more are required to pay their affiliated employees no less than the living wage authorized by the District. All subcontractors of $15,000 contracts or more must also pay their affiliated employees the living wage.

Other wage-hour laws to take note of include the Wage Payment and Wage Collection Law, the Wage Garnishment Law, the Seats Law, and the Wage Hours Rules.

Beginning December 1, 2016 all salaried, full-time workers who are paid less than $47,476 ($913 per week) will automatically be eligible for time-and-a-half overtime. For more information, visit dol.gov/whd/overtime/final2016.

Workers’ Compensation Program

The Workers’ Compensation program is designed to ensure that your employees who may become injured or disabled on the job are provided with fixed monetary awards.

Occupational Safety And Health

The Office of Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) provides onsite consultation services to private-sector employers in the District of Columbia. OSH establishes and maintains a safety and health management program that ensures, to the maximum extent possible, a safe and healthy work environment for employees.

Foreign Worker (Labor) Certification

Find out if you can hire workers from abroad to help grow your business. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 stipulates that certain foreign workers may obtain a visa to enter the U.S. and engage in permanent employment.

Child Labor Laws

No minor under 18 can be employed for more than eight hours in any one day, six consecutive days in any one week, or 48 hours in any one week.

Leave Acts

The Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act of 2008 requires employers in the District of Columbia to provide paid leave to employees for their own or family members’ illnesses or medical appointments and for absences associated with domestic violence or sexual abuse. Employers in the District of Columbia must provide paid leave to each employee, including employees of restaurants and bars, temporary and part-time employees, and tipped employees. Paid leave accrues at the beginning of employment, and employees must be allowed to use paid leave no later than after 90 days of service with the employer. Accrual of paid leave is determined by the number of employees an employer has and the number of hours employees work.

Visit does.dc.gov for comprehensive information on The Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act.

The DC Family Medical Leave Act requires employers with 20 or more employees in the District of Columbia to provide eligible employees with 16 weeks of unpaid family leave and 16 weeks of unpaid medical leave during a 24 month period. Similarly, the DC Parental Leave Act allows employees who are parents or guardians to take 24 hours of leave (paid or unpaid) during a 12 month period to attend school-related activities.

DC Office of Human Rights · (202) 727-4559 · ohr.dc.gov

Federal Human Rights Laws

The federal government has strict laws that forbid employment discrimination based on race, sex, color, religion, national origin, age, pregnancy, or physical disability. The Equal Pay Act, which applies to all businesses, requires that women doing the same job as men be paid the same salary. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal civil rights law that prohibits the exclusion of people with disabilities from participating in everyday activities. As a business owner in the District, you need to be especially aware of ADA guidelines regardless of the number of employees you have.

Additionally, take note of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Age discrimination occurs when an individual is treated unfavorably by an employer because of one’s age. Sexual harassment laws are another concern for growing businesses. Consider adopting written policies that protect employees from being fired or not being promoted because of failure to succumb to the sexual advances of their superiors or sexual comments or references that can make them feel uncomfortable in the workplace.

ADA · (800) 514-0301 · ada.gov

Local Human Rights Laws

DC’s Office of Human Rights (OHR) enforces the DC Human Rights Act of 1977, as amended, which expands upon federal protections and applies to all DC businesses regardless of their size. The 15 traits protected from employment discrimination in DC are race, color, religion, national origin, sex (including sexual harassment and pregnancy), age (18 years or older), marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, family responsibilities, political affiliation, disability, matriculation, and genetic information.

OHR enforces the following additional employment laws:

  • The Fair Criminal Record Screening Amendment Act of 2014, which prohibits most employers in DC from asking about criminal backgrounds on job applications or during the interview process. Covered employers may conduct a criminal background check only after making a conditional job offer to the applicant and may only withdraw the offer for a legitimate business reason.
  • The Protecting Pregnant Workers Fairness Act of 2014, which requires DC employers to provide reasonable workplace accommodations for employees whose ability to perform job duties is limited because of pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, or a related medical condition.
  • The Unemployed Anti-Discrimination Act of 2012, which prohibits employers, employment agencies, or entities acting on an employer’s behalf from discriminating against individual applicants because they are unemployed.

DC Office of Human Rights · (202) 727-4559 · ohr.dc.gov.

Information Required to Display Visibly

Employers in the District of Columbia are required by law to display specific employment-related posters in locations accessible to their employees. A listing of these posters, and the appropriate District of Columbia government offices where they may be obtained, is provided below:

does.dc.govWage and Hour
Office of Wage-Hour · (202) 671-1880

Unemployment Compensation
Office of Unemployment Compensation · (202) 724-7000

Workers’ Compensation (Private Sector)
Office of Workers’ Compensation · (202) 671-1000

Occupational Safety and Health (Private Sector)
Office of Occupational Safety and Health · (202) 671-1800
dol.govChild Labor Law
U.S. Department of Labor · (866) 487-9243
ohr.dc.govDC Family Medical Leave Act
DC Office of Human Rights · (202) 727-4559

Equal Employment Opportunity
DC Office of Human Rights · (202) 727-4559

Protecting Pregnant Workers Fairness Act
DC Office of Human Rights · (202) 727-4559

DC Parental Leave Act
DC Office of Human Rights · (202) 727-4559

Finding Talent

Locating the right person to hire can be a major challenge, but bear in mind that DC has an extensive job market with a highly skilled labor force. Look broadly at ways to fill your employment needs

  • Be flexible. Can your needs be fulfilled by part-time employees, rather than full-time employees? Can student interns or recent graduates be of assistance?
  • Consider hiring independent contractors for assignments. The hourly rate for contractors may be higher than the respective wages of full-time employees, but contractors are hired for a pre-defined amount of time. Additionally, contractors do not receive benefits.
  • Develop an attractive package. Most small businesses cannot afford a pension or profit-sharing plan but can offer perks like flexible scheduling, telecommuting, additional vacation leave, or free transportation.

Suggestions for Finding Talent in DC:

Attend professional and networking events. Utilize sites like LinkedIn.com, Idealist.com, and Meetup.com to find out about events that relate to your business goals and hiring needs.

  • Contact or join industry-specific professional associations.
  • Post advertisements on online job boards, industryspecific job boards and forums, newspapers, and social media. Consider posting on several reputable sites, such as LinkedIn.com, Indeed.com, Monster.com, Glassdoor.com, Idealist.com, and Snagajob.com.
  • Offer referral incentives to employees.
  • Hire an executive recruitment firm for professional staffing needs.
  • Seek out opportunities to participate in career counseling and job fairs at local universities and colleges, including:
    • American University
    • Catholic University of America
    • Gallaudet University
    • George Washington University
    • Georgetown University
    • Howard University
    • The Art Institute of Washington
    • University of the District of Columbia
  • Call the DOES American Job Center at (202) 724-7000 to set up a time to review your employment needs.