The District of Columbia (D.C.) Council approved a bill on December 20, requiring employers to give workers 8 weeks’ paid leave for the birth, adoption, or foster placement of a child. Employers will pay for the leave through a payroll tax.
In addition to the 8 weeks of parental leave, the Universal Paid Leave Amendment Act of 2016 also provides 6 weeks to care for a family member and 2 weeks for an employee’s own serious health condition.
Employers will contribute 0.62% of wages for each covered employee. Workers will be eligible to receive up to 90% of their regular pay, up to $1,000 per week. Federal and city employees are not eligible.
The tax collection must begin by March 1, 2019 and the city must begin paying out benefits by March 20, 2020.
The program will allow the city’s workers to take family and medical leave without facing financial calamity, said Councilmember Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) in a statement. “[T]he Council put forth a comprehensive paid family and medical leave program that will help us tackle one of our biggest challenges—ensuring that our city is a more equitable and fair place to live.”
Mayor Muriel Bowser, however, said that she couldn’t support the $250 million tax increase because it mostly benefits Maryland and Virginia residents who work in D.C. “It is wrong to raise District taxes to fund a costly, new government program that sends 66 percent of the benefits outside of the city, and leaves District families behind,” she said in a statement. “If the Council wants to raise $250 million in new taxes, shouldn’t the focus be on District residents and their needs?”
Bowser said she won’t sign the bill into law but did not make clear whether she would actually veto the bill. Instead, she could allow the law to take effect without taking action, according to the Council.
But even if she did veto the bill, it passed 9-4 and therefore has the two-thirds majority required to override a veto. Finally, as with all D.C. legislation, the bill also must go to Congress for review.
Kate McGovern Tornone is an editor at BLR. She has almost 10 years’ experience covering a variety of employment law topics and currently writes for HR Daily Advisor and HR.BLR.com. Before coming to BLR, she served as editor of Thompson Information Services’ ADA and FLSA publications, co-authored the Guide to the ADA Amendments Act, and published several special reports. She graduated from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., with a B.A. in media studies.