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New Bills to Address Loopholes in DC’s Minimum Wage and Paid Family Leave Laws

WASHINGTON, DC — Ward 4 Councilmember Janeese Lewis George introduced three bills to address important loopholes in the District’s minimum wage and paid family leave laws. These loopholes are systematically denying hard-working residents in the District the full pay and benefits they are entitled to for their labor. All three bills are being co-introduced by a majority of Members of the DC Council.

“DC’s minimum wage and paid family leave laws offer critical protections for working families, but some companies exploit loopholes to systematically deny workers the wages or benefits they deserve,” said Councilmember Janeese Lewis George. “These bills will help ensure that all who labor in our city receive the District’s minimum wage and can claim their full paid family leave benefits in their hour of need.”

The Minimum Wage Clarification Amendment Act of 2023 would require that any person working at least 2 hours per week in the District is guaranteed DC minimum wage rates. Currently, employers only have to pay the District’s minimum wage rate for employees who, in practice, spend a majority of their time working in the District. This requirement leads to confusion on how to compensate certain hourly workers who only work occasionally in the District. Some companies reportedly rotate employees between different job sites in the region to intentionally keep employees below a certain threshold of hours worked in the District to avoid having to pay DC’s minimum wage. Closing this loophole is particularly important for construction workers, who are vulnerable to this form of wage manipulation. A similar provision was introduced and considered in a Council hearing as part of the Green New Deal for a Lead-Free DC bill during the previous Council term. Read the full legislation.

The Universal Paid Leave Portability Amendment Act of 2023 would allow workers in the District to receive paid family and medical leave benefits when they are between jobs, provided that they are not receiving unemployment benefits at the same time and have worked for a covered employer for part or all of the past year. Because of their health or caregiving status, these workers are often ineligible for unemployment benefits because they would not be considered “ready, willing, and able to work.” Portable paid family leave benefits would give DC workers economic stability while they care for a new child, support an ill family member, or recover from a serious health condition. And because the District’s Universal Paid Leave system is funded through tax payments in advance of benefits being allocated, the employer has already contributed the funds to cover the cost of these benefits regardless of whether the worker is still employed by the company. This legislation was first introduced by Councilmember Elissa Silverman last Council term. Read the bill.

The Short-Term Disability Insurance Benefit Protection Clarification Amendment Act of 2023 would prohibit private market disability insurance companies from using the DC Paid Family Leave program to offset payouts they owe to District workers; short-term disability insurance policies are often paid for by the worker directly. When insurance companies use offsetting tactics, workers are shortchanged needed income replacements during medical emergencies and while recovering from childbirth. The Council first outlawed this practice by amending the Universal Paid Leave Act in 2021. However, private market disability insurance companies continue to flout the law. This legislation solidifies the Council’s intent to protect worker benefits by amending the District’s insurance regulations. This legislation was introduced last Council term by Councilmember Elissa Silverman, and a temporary version of the bill is in effect through July 26, 2023 while the Council works to pass a permanent version. Read the legislation.