Employees in D.C. Gain COVID-19 Leave Protections

Employees in D.C. Gain COVID-19 Leave Protections

A recent District of Columbia (D.C.) law offers employees of private employers in D.C. paid time off for COVID-19 vaccination-related leave, and provides unpaid COVID-19-related leave to eligible employees of employers with 20 or more employees in D.C. The COVID Vaccination Leave Emergency Amendment Act of 2021 (the Act) amends two existing leave laws: the Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act of 2008 (ASSLA) and the D.C. Family and Medical Leave Act (DCFMLA). Although the Act is currently in effect only until February 18, 2021, the D.C. Council will likely extend it.

Paid COVID-19 Vaccination-Related Leave
Under the Act, private employers with one or more employees in D.C. must provide paid time off to any employee who has worked at least 15 days for the employer for the purpose of obtaining their own or their children’s COVID-19 vaccinations and to recover from any side effects caused by the vaccine. This leave must be in addition to other paid leave otherwise provided by the employer.

Employees are entitled to the following:

  • up to two hours of leave for the employee to receive each injection of an approved COVID-19 vaccine, including booster shots; and
  • up to eight hours of leave per injection as needed to recover from vaccination side effects, taken during the 24-hour period following the initial two-hour leave period.

Employees get the same amounts of leave described above when taking their child to be vaccinated or to care for a child recovering from vaccination side effects.

Paid leave for vaccination purposes only covers absences from scheduled workdays and is capped at 48 hours per year. Employers can request reasonable documentation from the employee, such as a copy of the vaccination card, to verify the dates and times of vaccinations.

The Act also amends the DCFLMA by requiring covered employers to provide unpaid, job-protected, COVID-related leave to employees.

The unpaid leave entitlement is retroactive to November 5, 2021. Covered employers must provide up to 16 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave during the two-year period beginning November 5, 2021, to any employee who has worked for at least 30 days, if the employee is unable to work due to:

  • a positive COVID-19 test, or to care for a family or household member who has tested positive and must quarantine under certain applicable guidelines;
  • a quarantine or isolation recommendation made by a health care provider, or an employer’s requirement to do the same, due to COVID-19;
  • a need to care for a family or household member who is quarantining or isolating on the recommendation of a health care provider, or under the order or policy of a school or child care provider; or
  • a need to care for a child whose school or place of care is closed or whose child care provider is unavailable due to COVID-19.

Employers are allowed to request reasonable documentation of the need for COVID-related leave, such as a copy of a positive COVID-19 test result or a letter from a child’s school or child care provider. Employees may choose to use paid leave available to them under other employer policies concurrently with DCFMLA COVID-19 leave. Violations of the law may result in civil penalties.

D.C. employers who are covered by the Act should adjust their written policies accordingly. Likewise, they should continue to monitor for future developments, including the extension of the Act beyond the initial effective period. If you have questions about the Act or how it may impact your business, please contact Margaret Scheele at or (703) 408-4718.


Margaret Scheele (Washington D.C. team) is an employment law attorney with almost 30 years of experience. Margaret has represented a range of clients in a variety of industries, including aviation, food service, telecommunications, health care, and government contracting. Her practice includes the full range of advice and counseling work that arises within the employment context, including most recently COVID-related matters. 

This publication should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances not an offer to represent you. It is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only, and you are urged to consult your attorney concerning any particular situation and any specific legal questions you may have. Pursuant to applicable rules of professional conduct, portions of this publication may constitute Attorney Advertising.

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