Paid Sick & Safe Leave

What are paid sick and safe days and what can I use them for?

Almost all workers in D.C. are covered by the paid sick and safe leave law, including both part-time and full-time workers and tipped restaurant workers.

If you are sick, injured, or have a medical appointment, you can be paid for time away from work to recover or to go to the doctor. You can also use paid sick days to take a family member to the doctor or take care of a sick family member. Even check ups and other preventative care visits qualify, but you need to give your employer reasonable notice of planned absences.

You can also use paid sick and safe days when you or a family member need services related to domestic violence, stalking or sexual assault.

You can take one hour of sick leave or more, as needed; you don’t need to use entire days at once.

How many sick days can I earn each year?

The number of days you can earn in a year and how quickly you earn them depends on the size of your employer and the number of hours you work, unless you are a tipped restaurant worker.

If you are a tipped restaurant worker, regardless of the size of your employer, you earn at least 1 hour for every 43 hours you work, up to 5 days a year.

For all other workers:

  • If you work for a business with 1-25 employees, you earn at least 1 hour for every 87 hours you work, up to 3 days a year.
  • If you work for a business with 26-99 employees, you earn at least 1 hour for every 43 hours you work, up to 5 days a year.
  • If you work with a business with 100+ employees, you earn at least 1 hour for every 37 hours you work, up to 7 days a year.

When do I start earning paid sick leave and when can I start using it?

Workers start earning paid sick leave on their first day of work and can use the sick leave they’ve earned after 90 days at work.

Are part time workers covered?

Yes. Part- time workers earn paid sick leave for every hour they work, just like other workers, depending on the size of the business they work for.

  • 1-25 employees: you earn at least 1 hour for every 87 hours you work, up to 3 days a year
  • 26-99 employees: you earn at least 1 hour for every 43 hours you work, up to 5 days a year
  • 100+ employees: you earn at least 1 hour for every 37 hours you work, up to 7 days a year

How is the law different if I am a restaurant worker who earns tips?

As of February 22, 2014, tipped restaurant workers are now covered under the paid sick and safe days law. Tipped restaurant workers earn at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 43 hours they work, up to 5 days a year, regardless of the size of their employer.

You should be paid your normal hourly wage or the full D.C. minimum wage ($10.50 an hour, since July 2015), whichever is higher, when you take paid leave. Paying just the tipped minimum wage of $2.77 per hour of sick and safe leave is against the law.

Do I need to show my employer a doctor’s note?

You only need to show your employer a doctor’s note if you have taken three paid sick days in a row and your employer requests one. 

Can my employer provide “paid time off” or vacation days instead of sick days? Can my employer make me use vacation days when I’m sick instead of paid sick days?

Yes, but only if your employer lets you earn the days just as fast as under the sick days law, keep them just as long, and lets you use the days without notice when you’re sick. So if your employer’s vacation policy gives you the same flexibility as the paid sick and safe leave law requires, your employer can count those vacation days as sick days under the law.

For example, if your employer gives you seven “personal” days a year that you can use when as a sick or safe day or for vacation, they don’t have to give you any additional sick days because of the new law. But if your employer says you can’t use those personal days to care for a sick family member or to deal with domestic violence or that you can only use them with two weeks notice or that they expire at the end of the year, then the personal days wouldn’t fulfill the employer’s duty under the sick and safe days law.

How long has this law been on the books?

D.C. law has required employers to provide paid sick and safe leave to most D.C. workers since 2008. On February 22, 2014, the law was expanded so that workers can start earning leave on their first day of work and can use the sick leave they’ve earned after only 90 days at work. Tipped restaurant workers are also now able to earn and use paid sick and safe days. 

What do I do if my employer isn’t following the law?

You can file a claim at D.C. Department of Employment Services, Wage and Hour Division located at 4058 Minnesota Ave. NE or call (202) 671-1880. You can also get free, walk-in legal assistance at the Employment Justice Center’s Workers’ Rights Clinic.  

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