On November 18, 2021, District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser signed the “COVID Vaccination Leave Emergency Amendment Act of 2021” (the “Act”). The law applies to almost all private employers with employees in the District. The law (1) establishes new requirements for paid COVID-19 vaccine leave and (2) extends emergency public health leave available under the DC Family Medical Leave Act (“DCFMLA”), which expired on November 5, 2021. The law will remain in effect until February 16, 2022.
New paid COVID-19 vaccine leave
The law requires employers to provide up to two (2) hours of paid leave to employees to receive each dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, including boosters. This leave is also available for employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine for their child.
In addition, the law requires employers to provide up to eight (8) hours of paid vaccine recovery leave, per dose and during the 24-hour period following the vaccine dose, for employees to recover from the vaccine or to care for their child recovering from the vaccine. vaccine . This leave is in addition to the two (2) hours of paid leave for employees to be vaccinated.
Extension of emergency leave for public health
The law also extends DC’s declared public health emergency for COVID-19. Under the previously passed 2021 Coronavirus Support Temporary Amendment Act, employees were entitled to an additional 16 weeks of unpaid emergency leave due to COVID-19-related reasons. However, the public health emergency declaration expired on November 5, 2021. The law extends the extended DCFMLA COVID-19 leave until February 16, 2022. Reasons an employee can take advantage of the unpaid public health emergency leave include:
(1) to care for themselves or a family member after testing positive for COVID-19,
(2) the employee must be quarantined/isolated or care for a family member who has to be quarantined/isolated, or
(3) the employee must care for a child whose school/care facility is closed due to COVID-19.
Below are answers to questions employers may have about complying with the law’s new paid vaccine leave requirements:
1. Can employers require employees to provide documentation proving that they need paid vaccine leave?
Answer: Yes. Employers may require employees to provide their vaccination record book or documentation stating the date and time of their (or their child’s) vaccination after they return from leave.
2. Is there a limit to how much paid COVID-19 vaccine leave an employee can use?
Answer: Yes. Employees are only entitled to a maximum of 48 hours of paid vaccine leave (including vaccine recovery leave) in any one year.
3. Can employers require employees to give notice prior to taking leave?
Answer: Yes. An employer may require employees to provide 48 hours’ notice prior to taking vaccine leave. However, in an emergency, employees are only required to provide reasonable notice.
4. If employees are subject to a collective bargaining agreement, can they waive the law’s paid vaccine leave requirements?
Answer: No. The law explicitly prohibits exemptions from the requirements for paid vaccine leave through collective bargaining agreements.
5. Are employers obliged to give new employees paid vaccine leave immediately after employment?
Answer: No. Employees are not entitled to paid vaccine leave until they have been employed for 15 days.
6. Do these new leave laws expand the amount of leave available to employees under DC and federal law?
Answer: Yes. DC’s New Vaccine Leave, Public Health Emergency Leave and Extended DC FMLA COVID-19 Leave are available in addition to leave under DC FMLA, DC Safe and Sick Leave Act, and the federal FMLA. For example, under the DC FMLA, employees are now entitled to up to 16 weeks of family leave, 16 weeks of medical leave, and 16 weeks of COVID-19 leave, in addition to the 12 weeks available under the federal FMLA.
© Polsinelli PC, Polsinelli LLP in CaliforniaNational Law Review, Volume XI, Number 327