Employment Law in Washington, D.C.

If you have suffered treatment from an employer in Washington, D.C. that violates employment laws, learning more about the law can help. Hiring an employment law attorney can best help you navigate the process, and increase the chances of winning your case.

What Is Employment Law?

Employment law covers the rights, responsibilities, and obligations within the employer-employee relationship. Employment lawyers serve both employees and employers, though they generally focus their practice on serving one or the other. Regardless of who their clients are, their goal is to present a solid case and defend them.

Understanding Employment Law Labor Rights in Washington, D.C.

Employees have a wide range of rights that employers cannot violate. If employers violate these rights, workers can file a complaint against them. Each state has unique labor laws and some also make provisions for qualifying independent contractors. Below are the most common topics covered in employment law across the country.

Wage and Hour Laws

Laws protect non-exempt employees from being forced to work for low wages and a certain amount of hours without increased pay. These are the wage and hour laws. They outline the minimum wages an employee can earn as well as the maximum amount of hours worked before qualifying employees should get paid overtime.

Washington, D.C., like every other state, has unique wage and hour laws. However, there are federal laws in place that are minimum requirements for all states. For example, the federal minimum wage is $7.25, but most states exceed that amount.

The Fair Labor Standards Act states that non-exempt employees can only work 40 hours per week at their regular wage rates. If they exceed that number, the employer must pay them overtime rates at a minimum of time and a half. Some states also require weekend overtime pay, holiday pay, and overtime for working more than a certain number of hours each day.

According to the District of Columbia’s Department of Employment Services, the District’s Fair Shot Minimum Wage Amendment was passed in 2016. In accordance with this law, the minimum wage in the District of Columbia is now $15.20 per hour for non-tipped employees, and $5.05 for tipped employees. The overtime rate continues to be 1½ times an employee’s regular hourly wage. The overtime rate continues to be paid on hours worked in excess of 40 in a workweek. Therefore, the minimum overtime wage in the District of Columbia is $22.80 per hour.

Workers’ Compensation

If you’ve been injured on the job in Washington, D.C., you might be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. This includes payments for lost wages and past or future medical bills that resulted from your workplace injury.

In order to be eligible for workers’ compensation, you must meet these requirements:

  • You must be an employee.
  • You must have a work-related illness or injury.
  • Your employer must carry workers’ comp insurance.
  • You must meet the deadline for filing workers’ comp claims.

There are, however, exceptions to these requirements that may still make you eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. However, if your employer is denying you benefits, you should contact an experienced Washington, D.C. attorney for assistance with your case.

Termination Rights under Washington, D.C. Employment Law

If you live in an at-will state, or your employment is “at-will,” you can be terminated from your job without notice and without cause. However, even at-will employees have rights when it comes to termination. A violation of those rights can be wrongful termination.

Here are some reasons your termination might be wrongful even if you are an at-will employee:

  • Written promises or contracts
  • Implied promises
  • Violations of public policy
  • Breaches of good faith and fair dealing
  • Workplace retaliation
  • Discrimination
  • Defamation
  • Fraud
  • Whistleblowing violations

There are currently no right-to-work laws in the District of Columbia. This means union membership and dues payment can be a condition of employment.

The District of Columbia does recognize at-will employment. This means that either the employer or the employee can terminate the relationship at any time, without reason, and without cause. However, firings based on discrimination, retaliation, or breach of contract, are unlawful.

If you believe your termination was wrongful due to the above circumstances, then contact a qualified Washington, D.C. employment law attorney right away. This is because there are time constraints on how long you can wait to file a claim.

Unemployment Benefits

If you’ve lost your job, you can file for unemployment benefits with the state unemployment agency. The agency will either approve or deny your claim. If it’s approved, you’ll receive monthly unemployment checks and benefits in the mail after filing weekly unemployment claims. Still, unemployment claims can be denied for a number of reasons, including:

  • If you were fired for misconduct.
  • You voluntarily quit your job.
  • You do not have enough earnings during the work period.

If your claim is denied, then you can appeal the decision if you think it’s the wrong choice. Working with an experienced Washington, D.C. attorney during the appeal process can improve your chances of winning the case.

Paid and Unpaid Time Off

Additionally, some states require paid time off as well as medical and family leave for employees. Oftentimes, this is combined into one singular paid time off, (PTO), amount. Laws can vary state-to-state, but typically PTO is accrued over time and you’ll get a set amount of PTO days per year.

Some states have laws that force the employer to pay for unused PTO. If you are not given proper PTO or your employer doesn’t follow your state’s medical or family leave laws, you can file a complaint.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the District of Columbia requires public and private employers to provide employees with paid sick leave. Specifically, employers with 100 or more employees must provide one hour of leave for every 30 hours worked, with a yearly maximum of seven days. Employers with 25-99 employees must provide one hour of leave for every 43 hours worked, with a yearly maximum of five days. Finally, employers with 1-24 employees must provide one hour of leave for every 87 hours worked, with a yearly maximum of three days.

Child Labor Laws

Child labor laws are a lot more strict than regular labor laws and require employers to be extra careful when scheduling minors. Each state has its own child labor laws that outline the number of hours a minor can work per week. These include how often they should have breaks, how many days in a row they can work, and how late they can work each night.

According to Georgetown University, District of Columbia employers who want to employ a minor under 18 must obtain a work permit. There are three different types of work permits: work, vacation, and theatrical. There are exceptions to the permit requirement, such as mowing a neighbor’s lawn. Additionally, minors cannot work more than six consecutive days a week, no more than 48 hours a week, and no more than 8 hours a day. There are also prohibited occupations for minors, including jobs operating electrically powered machinery or in a quarry, tunnel, or excavation.

Washington, D.C. Employment Anti Discrimination Laws

A collection of federal anti-discrimination laws protect workers from employment discrimination. Following are brief descriptions of some of these anti-discrimination acts:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act: Prohibits employers from selecting job applicants and employees based on race, religion, color, sex, and national origin.
  • Age Discrimination Act: Prohibits discrimination based on age for employees over the age of 40 years old.
  • Pregnancy Discrimination Act: Prohibits employers from discriminating based on pregnancy, childbirth, or a related condition.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act: Prohibits employers from discriminating against people with disabilities at any time during the application or hiring process or once the person holds the job.
  • Equal Pay Act: Requires employers to give men and women equal pay for equal work.

Sexual Harassment

If a coworker, employer, or client sexually harasses someone in the workplace; the employee has a set of rights to protect them from further harassment. Laws also offer protection from retaliation, such as getting fired for reporting a manager. If you or someone you know is facing sexual harassment in the workplace, report it to your HR department.

Under The District of Columbia Human Rights Act, sexual harassment is prohibited since it is considered a form of sex discrimination. Specifically, it is unlawful for an employer or employee in the District of Columbia to create a hostile environment based on the protected characteristic of sex. Additionally, employers are mandated to provide sexual harassment training for tipped employees and their managers. New employees must receive training within 90 days of hire, unless the employee participated in training within the prior two years.

Work With an Experienced Washington, D.C. Employment Lawyer

If you have employment law concerns, or you’re currently preparing for a case in Washington, D.C., then working with an experienced attorney can help. The hard part is finding the right one. We can even help you connect with an attorney across Washington, D.C. state lines.

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