District of Columbia Universal Paid Leave Act

Date: October 1, 2019
Under the Universal Paid Leave Act (“UPLA”), beginning in July 2020, employees in the District of Columbia will have the option of taking three types of paid leave: up to eight weeks of parental paid leave taken within a year of giving birth, placing a child in adoption or foster care, or changing the custody of a child; up to six weeks of family paid leave to care for or provide companionship to a seriously ill family member; and up to two weeks of medical paid leave after the employee is diagnosed with or had an occurrence of a serious health condition.
Although employees are not eligible for benefits under the Act until next year, as of July 2019, covered employers are required to contribute an amount of .62% of the gross wages paid to each of its covered employees to the Universal Paid Leave Fund (the “Fund”). This tax is an addition to any other payroll taxes or benefits the employer provides its employees and cannot be collected from the employees through payroll deduction. It is very similar to the unemployment tax employers must pay. Employers must also file a report and contribute to the Fund on a quarterly basis. Meaning, the first payment must be made no later than October 31, 2019.  If an employer employs five or more covered employees, the employer must register with the Department of Employment Services (“DOES”) and pay the tax online. If the employer employs less than five employees, the employer can use the online service or manually complete registration and payment with the DOES. Employers are not exempt from contributing to the Fund if they already provide their own sponsored paid leave benefits.
In addition to the above requirements, employers are further required to develop and maintain records related to the UPLA for three years. These records include: the name and social security number or tax identification number of each covered employee; the beginning and ending dates of each pay period; the wages paid for each pay period; the method of payment; the earnings of employees; the dates on which wages were paid; the dates of parental, medical, or family leave taken by employees; copies of employee notices of leave furnished to the employer; copies of all written notices given to employees are required under the UPLA; documents describing employee benefits; and records of disputes between the employer and the employee regarding the UPLA. Employers must also post notice to their employees of their UPLA rights at each worksite in a conspicuous place or common area, and provide notice at certain times when an employee provides notice that leave for a qualifying event is needed.
An employer who fails to comply with the UPLA will be subject to certain penalties. These penalties can include misdemeanor convictions, fines, or interest rates attached to unpaid sums.
The attorneys are Whiteford, Taylor & Preston can assist employers in ensuring compliance with the UPLA and understanding their rights and responsibilities under the Act.