District of Columbia Leave Laws




Vacation Leave

In the District of Columbia, employers are not required to provide employees with vacation leave, either paid or unpaid. If an employer chooses to provide vacation leave, it must comply with the terms of its established policy or employment contract. NRA v. Ailes, 428 A.2d 816 (D.C. App. 1981); Jones v. District Parking Mgmt Co., 268 A.2d 860 (D.C. App. 1970).

An employer must pay an employee his/her accrued vacation leave upon separation from employment, whether by quit, discharge, or layoff, unless the employee has knowingly agreed to a policy or contract that denies such payment. NRA v. Ailes, 428 A.2d 816 (D.C. App. 1981); Jones v. District Parking Mgmt Co., 268 A.2d 860 (D.C. App. 1970).

An employer may only cap the amount of vacation leave an employee may accrue if the employee has knowingly agreed to the policy or a contract that implements the cap. NRA v. Ailes, 428 A.2d 816 (D.C. App. 1981).



Neither District of Columbia law or the courts have specifically address whether an employer may implement a use-it-or-lose-it type vacation leave policy. At minimum, if an employer decides to implement a use-it-or-lose-it type vacation leave policy, it may only do so if the employee has knowingly agreed to the policy or a contract that implements the use-it-or-lose-it provision. NRA v. Ailes, 428 A.2d 816 (D.C. App. 1981).

An employee, in addition to agreeing in writing, may knowingly agree to vacation leave policies limiting the accrual and/or payment of leave if he/she is first made aware of the policy and then performs work after being made aware of the policy. NRA v. Ailes, 428 A.2d 816 (D.C. App. 1981).



Sick Leave

The District of Columbia requires employers to provide employees paid sick leave, as discussed at District of Columbia Sick Leave Law. In addition to providing paid sick leave as discussed below, an employer may be required to provide unpaid leave to employees pursuant to the District of Columbia’s Family and Medical Leave Act and/or the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. D.C. Code 32-501 et al

If an employer implements a policy permitting an employee to accrue sick leave, in addition to the legally required minimums, the employer may be required to pay an employee his/her accrued sick leave upon separation from employment, whether by quit, termination, or layoff. One exception to this requirement would be if the employee knowingly agreed to a policy or contract denying the payment of leave. NRA v. Ailes, 428 A.2d 816 (D.C. App. 1981). An employee would also be required to knowingly agree to any caps on the amount of accrued sick leave.NRA v. Ailes, 428 A.2d 816 (D.C. App. 1981).

Neither District of Columbia law or the courts have specifically address whether an employer may implement a use-it-or-lose-it type sick leave policy. At minimum, if an employer decided to implement a use-it-or-lose-it type sick leave policy, it may only do so if the employee has knowingly agreed to the policy or a contract that implements the use-it-or-lose-it provision. NRA v. Ailes, 428 A.2d 816 (D.C. App. 1981).

An employee, in addition to agreeing in writing, may knowingly agree to sick leave policies limiting the accrual and/or payment of leave if he/she is first made aware of the policy and then performs work after being made aware of the policy. NRA v. Ailes, 428 A.2d 816 (D.C. App. 1981).



Parental Leave

Employers are also required to provide employees with parental leave. The employer must allow an employee who is a parent at least 24 hours of unpaid leave during a 12 month period in which to attend or participate in a child’s school-related activities. To be eligible for the leave, the employee must notify his/her employer of the need for the leave at least ten (10) days in advance, or as soon as otherwise possible. An employer may deny an employee parental leave only if granting the leave would disrupt the employer’s business making production or service delivery unusually difficult. D.C. Code 32-1202



Holiday Leave

In the District of Columbia, employers must permit employees to take off from work, unpaid, on April 16, District of Columbia Emancipation Day, unless doing so would disrupt the employer’s operations and make production or service delivery particularly difficult. An employee must notify his/her employer of his/her desire to take time off on April 16 at least ten (10) days in advance of that date. D.C. Code 32-1202

The District of Columbia has no other laws requiring private employers to provide paid or unpaid leave on holidays. This means an employer can require an employee to work holidays. An employer does not have to pay an employee premium pay, such as one and a half (1½) times the regular rate, for working on holidays, unless such time worked qualifies the employee for overtime under standard overtime laws. If an employer chooses to provide either paid or unpaid holiday leave, it must comply with the terms of its established policy or employment contract.

State holidays

Visit our District of Columbia State Holidays page for a list of holidays recognized and observed by the state of District of Columbia as well as information regarding state laws governing holiday leave for public employers and employees.



Jury Duty Leave

District Columbia law requires employers to provide employees with leave to respond to a jury summons and serve on a jury. No provision of the law requires that the jury duty leave be paid. The law also prohibits an employer from terminating, disciplining, threatening, or otherwise coercing an employee because the employee receives or responds to a summons or serves on a jury.

An employer who terminates, disciplines, threatens, or otherwise coerces an employee because he/she receives or responds to a summons or serves on a jury is guilty of criminal contempt and may be fined up to $300 and imprisoned for up to 30 days, for the first offense. For subsequent offenses, the employer may be fined up to $5,000 and imprisoned for up to 180 days.

An employee who is terminated in violation of the jury duty leave law may, within nine (9) months of the offense, file a claim in civil court against his/her employer to recover lost wages. If the employee succeeds in his/her claim, the employer will be required to pay the reasonable attorney fees of the employee.
D.C. Code 11-1913



Voting Leave

The District of Columbia does not have any laws requiring an employer to provide employees either paid or unpaid leave to vote.



Bereavement Leave

District of Columbia law does not require employers to provide employees bereavement leave or leave to attend funerals. Bereavement leave is leave that is taken by an employee due to the death of another individual, usually a close relative. Employers may choose to provide bereavement leave and may be required to comply with any bereavement policy or practice they maintain.