Maternity and Parental Leave Laws in District of Columbia

The District of Columbia requires most employers to provide time off for pregnancy and parenting.

By , J.D.

The District of Columbia Family and Medical Leave Act (DCFMLA) gives employees the right to time off work for pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting. The federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) also gives you the right to take unpaid leave for these reasons. The District of Columbia also requires certain employers to provide paid sick leave for employees.

Taking Time Off During Pregnancy in D.C.

There are two types of laws that might protect you if you need pregnancy leave: laws prohibiting pregnancy discrimination and laws that require pregnancy leave.

Pregnancy Disability Leave Under the DCFMLA

The DCFMLA gives employees the right to take time off for serious health conditions and parenting. Employers are covered by the DCFMLA if they have 20 or more employees. But employees may take leave only if they have worked for the employer at least a year, for at least 1,000 hours during the past year.

Under the DCFMLA, employees are entitled to take up to 16 weeks of medical leave, including leave for pregnancy and childbirth, in any 24-month period. Employees are entitled to an additional 16 weeks of family leave (including parenting) during the same period, as explained below.

Family and Medical Leave Under the FMLA

The FMLA gives pregnant employees the right to take up to 12 weeks off work in a one-year period, but the FMLA applies only to employers with at least 50 employees. Employees are eligible for leave if they have worked for the employer for at least 12 months, and at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months immediately preceding their leave. Employees may also take FMLA leave for prenatal care, including routine check-ups and doctor visits. (Learn more about the FMLA, including eligibility requirements, in our article on FMLA leave for pregnancy and disability.)

Pregnancy Discrimination

The federal PDA does not require employers to give pregnant employees time off work, but it requires employers to treat employees who are unable to work due to pregnancy just as it treats other employees who are temporarily disabled. For example, if your company lets employees take time off for serious illnesses or injuries, then it must allow pregnant employees to take the same time off when they are unable to work.

Employers in the District of Columbia must also make certain reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees. Unless it would pose an undue hardship, employers must provide reasonable accommodations to an employee's limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions, and must return the employee to her original position when her need for a reasonable accommodation ends.

Parenting Leave in D.C.

The DCFMLA also provides parental leave. If you meet the eligibility requirements described above, you may use DCFMLA leave for the birth or adoption of a child. This is in addition to leave for illness or pregnancy. In other words, you get 16 weeks of parenting leave in addition to 16 weeks of leave for a health condition.

The FMLA also gives employees the right to take time off to bond with a new child, whether biological, adopted, or foster. This is part of your total 12-week leave entitlement. So, if you use two weeks of FMLA leave during your pregnancy, you will have ten weeks left to use for parenting leave. If you want to use your parenting leave under the FMLA a little at a time – for example, by returning to work half-time for a while, or by taking some of your leave when the baby is born and some at a later point when your partner returns to work – your employer must agree to it.

Parents Who Work for the Same Employer

If you are married to someone who works for the same company, your employer can limit your total amount of FMLA leave for parenting to 12 weeks for both of you. (Note that this rule does not apply to unmarried couples.) However, whatever portion of your own 12 weeks of FMLA leave you don't use for parenting will still be available to you for other reasons, including your own serious health condition.

The DCFMLA has a similar requirement, but it isn't limited to married couples. Under the DCFMLA, any two family members who work for the same employer can be limited to a total of 16 weeks of family leave. Their employer can also limit them to no more than four weeks of leave taken at the same time (in other words, when both parents are off work).

Getting Paid During Your Time Off in D.C.

The District of Columbia requires employers to provide paid sick time, which can be used for pregnancy and childbirth.

D.C. Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act

All employers in the District of Columbia must provide paid sick leave to employees. Employees may use this time off for their own illness or medical condition. The amount of time off an employee accrues depends on the size of the employer:

  • Employers with fewer than 25 employees must provide employees at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 87 hours works, up to three days off per year.
  • Employers with 25 to 99 employees must provide employees at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 43 hours worked, up to five days of leave per year.
  • Employees with at least 100 employees must give employees at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 37 hours worked, up to seven days of leave per year.

Getting Paid During FMLA Leave

FMLA leave is unpaid. However, you may ask – or your employer may require you – to use your accrued paid leave (sick days, vacation, or PTO) to get paid during your time off.

Your employer may also offer maternity and paternity leave benefits, parental benefits, or its own short-term disability insurance. Talk to your HR representative or manager (and check your employee handbook) to find out what types of leave are available to you.

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