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In addition to rights under the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act, all employees in the District of Columbia are entitled to Family Leave and Medical Leave under local District of Columbia Law. Public employees are also entitled to participate in a voluntary leave transfer program. The other sections of this article contain a brief summary of the D.C. laws.

If you are considering taking leave, it is advisable to consult with your Human Resource Office for additional detail - preferably speak with a supervisor who is likely to know more details about the law than an entry level person.

For information, see:

Family And Medical Leave

Who Is Eligible?

You are eligible for Family & Medical Leave if you have been employed by the same employer for one year without a break in service, and you have worked at least 1000 hours during the 12-months immediately preceding your request for leave. Your employer must be in the District of Columbia.

How Much Family Leave Am I Entitled To?

An eligible employee is entitled to 16 work weeks of family leave during any 24-month period.

What Are Legitimate Reasons For Family Leave?

  1. The birth of your child, or the placement of an adopted or foster child with you, or the placement of any child for whom you assume permanent parental responsibility. However, you must use leave for these reasons within 12 months of the birth or placement.
  2. To care for a family member who has a serious health condition.

Who Is A "Family Member"?

Under D.C. law, a family member is:

  1. Anyone whom you are related to by blood, legal custody, or marriage;
  2. A child who lives with you and for whom you have assumed permanent parental responsibility;
  3. A person with whom you share, or have shared within the last year, a residence and with whom you maintain a committed relationship.

What Medical Leave Am I Entitled To?

If you have become unable to perform the functions of your position because of a serious health condition, then you are entitled to Medical Leave for as long as you continue to be unable to perform your job, BUT not longer than 16 workweeks during any 24-month period.

What Is A Serious Health Condition?

A "Serious health condition" is physical or mental illness, injury, or impairment that involves either inpatient care in a hospital, hospice or residential health care facility, OR continuing treatment or supervision at home by a health care provider or other competent individual.

Can I Take Family Leave A Little At A Time?

  1. If you are taking leave to care for a family member who has a serious health condition, then you can take leave intermittently (a little at a time) when it is medically necessary; OR
  2. If your employer agrees, you can also work on a reduced schedule (e.g. half-time). You can use your 16 work weeks of leave as you go, but you cannot extend that leave over more 24 consecutive workweeks.

Can I Take Medical Leave A Little At A Time?

You may take medical leave intermittently when it is medically necessary to do so.

Will I Be Paid During Family Leave?

Family Leave is an unpaid program. However, you may chose to use up any of your accrued paid leave (such as vacation or personal) during the period you are taking as Family Leave.

Will I Be Paid During Medical Leave?

Medical Leave is an unpaid program. However, if you and your employer agree, then you may use any of your paid vacation, personal or compensatory time during your medical leave.

Do I Need A Note From A Doctor?

If you are taking family leave due to the serious health condition of a family member or due to your own serious health condition, your employer may require a letter or form from your or your family member's doctor stating:

  1. The date that the serious health condition occurred or began;
  2. The likely duration of the condition;
  3. Medical facts supporting your need for leave;
  4. If you are taking leave for your own serious health condition, a statement that you are unable to perform the functions of your job, OR if you are taking leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition, an estimate of the amount of time that you are needed to care for that family member.

Am I Required To Give My Employer Notice Before Taking Leave?

  1. If your need for leave is foreseeable and is in connection with the birth or placement of a child, then you must give your employer reasonable prior notice of the birth or placement;
  2. If your need for leave is foreseeable and is in connection with a planned medical treatment, then you must provide your employer with reasonable prior notice of the treatment AND you must make a reasonable effort to schedule the treatment so that it does not unduly disrupt your employer's business (subject to the approval of your or your family member's health care provider).

What Happens To My Benefits While I Am On Leave?

  1. While you are on family or medical leave, your employer must maintain your coverage under group health plans. If you are normally responsible for paying any contribution to your health plan, then you will continue to be responsible for those payments during leave.
  2. While you are on family or medical leave you will not lose any employment benefits or accrued seniority which you had before you went on leave.

Will My Job Be Protected While I Am On Leave?

The general answer is "yes." When you return from family or medical leave your employer must place you in the same position you held before leave, or in an "equivalent" position (meaning, equivalent benefits, pay, seniority and other terms and conditions of employment).

Exception: If you are among the 5 highest paid employees working for an employer with fewer than 50 employees OR you are among the highest paid 10% of employees of an employer with 50 or more employees, then your employer may refuse to return you to your former position IF he or she can demonstrate that the refusal is necessary to prevent substantial economic injury to the employer's business.

D.C. Voluntary Leave Transfer Program for Public Employees

Who Is Eligible?

You are eligible for the Voluntary Leave Transfer Program if you have been an employee of the D.C. Government for at least 1 year without interruption.

What Is Transferred Leave?

Every D.C. agency must establish a voluntary leave transfer program. Under that program annual leave accrued by one employee (the leave "contributor") may be transferred to you (the leave "recipient").

How Do I Become A Recipient Employee?

You may apply to become a recipient employee IF:

  1. You expect to have a "prolonged" absence from work (meaning an absence from work for at least 10 consecutive workdays which will cause you substantial loss of income because you do not have available paid leave), and
  2. Your absence is due to your serious health condition or because of your responsibility to provide "personal care" for an "immediate relative."

"Immediate Relative" - means a person related by blood or marriage. For example, immediate relative includes your father, mother, child, husband or wife; an individual for whom you are legal guardian; or, a domestic partner.

"Personal Care" -- means assistance that helps an immediate relative with activities of daily living, including bathing, eating, dressing, and continence.

How Do I Apply?

You must complete a written application requesting to become a recipient employee. In the application, you must state:

  1. The anticipated length of your absence;
  2. Your name and the name of the potential leave contributor;
  3. The amount of leave requested.

In addition you must present:

  1. An signed affidavit stating that the individual you must provide personal care for is an immediate relative or that you must provide care in connection with a recent adoption of a child or care for a newborn child; and
  2. Certification from a healthcare professional stating that you have a serious health condition or that your immediate relative requires personal care. You do not need certification in cases where you are taking leave in connection with a pregnancy, recent adoption, or care of a newborn.

How Much Leave Am I Entitled To?

You may be entitled to receive up to 320 hours of transferred leave during any 12-month period. However, those hours must be contributed from another agency employee. The other employee must request to contribute a specific number of their accrued annual leave to you. However, they cannot contribute more than one-half of the leave that they would accrue during the year.

Is My Employer Required to Accept My Application?

Not necessarily. Your employer may consider your past record, the likelihood that you will return to work after leave, and any disruption your leave may cause the agency. However, if you are eligible for leave under the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act then your employer must grant your application for leave. Your employer must tell you whether your application is approved within 15 days of receiving your application.

Researched and written by:

Lisa Gerson, Esq. McDermott Will & Emery LLP New York, NY