New Resource Will Help Employers Implement D.C.'s Paid Sick Days Law

May 08, 2012

By Andrea Lindemann

Four years ago, Washington D.C. became the second location in the country to enact a paid sick days law, the Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act of 2008.  Unfortunately, many people in D.C. do not know the law exists and enforcement has been weak.  In fact, recent D.C. Council oversight hearings revealed that only one claim has been filed in the past two years. 

The slow start to public awareness of the law is in part due to the delay by the Department of Employment Services (DOES) in its implementation.  While the law technically went into effect in November of 2008, the regulations were not issued until June of 2010.  In the fall of 2010, the DOES finally published the required poster for employers.  Recently the DOES mailed the posters to local businesses, but they have done little else to raise awareness or educate employees, employers, or the public. 

As a result, many D.C. businesses and workers remain in the dark.  The D.C. Employment Justice Center (EJC), which led the campaign to pass the law, helps educate employees about their right to paid sick days.  For employers, many may want to do the right thing but do not know what is required of them.  While large companies likely get guidance from law firms, many small businesses do not have the same resources.  This is why CLASP has developed a guide to help businesses implement the law.  The guide presents ten basic requirements and provides a sample policy.  When sick days policies are implemented, businesses can benefit from a healthier work environment and increased productivity and retention.

Last week, I used the guide during a presentation for the D.C. Restaurant Industry Roundtable convened by the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Washington, D.C. (ROC-DC).  The Roundtable provides restaurant owners with a path to the "High Road to Profitability," which ROC-DC defines as an ethical, pragmatic, and profitable approach to doing business that benefits employers, employees, consumers and the community.  These restaurant owners believe in treating their workers fairly and ROC-DC works with them to promote sustainable practices that improve wages and working conditions.  These business owners, like many others in D.C., believe in doing the right thing and appreciate strategies and information about how to do so.

Paid sick days are a key component in creating quality jobs and expanding economic opportunity. When workers risk losing a day's wages or their job because they or a family member are ill and can't make it to work, families and communities suffer.

Another overlooked component of the law is the requirement of an annual report by the District of Columbia Auditor about the law's economic impact, including whether businesses are complying with the posting requirements and whether businesses are using staffing patterns to circumvent the law. To date, no audit has been done.  The audit would be a good starting place to gather information about the law and how it is working, or not working, in practice.  Last week EJC's Advocacy Manager Ari Weisbard testified at the budget hearing for the D.C. Auditor, explaining that there are significant compliance issues with the law and urging the audit to be conducted this year.

CLASP's implementation guide is a step toward helping employers understand the D.C. paid sick days law, but it is not a substitute for guidance and a public awareness campaign by the D.C. government.  CLASP continues to urge the D.C. government to help businesses and workers understand the paid sick days law so that D.C. is a healthier and more productive place to live and work.

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