Wage and Hour Laws in District of Columbia | Current District of Columbia Labor Laws

Minimum Wage

The current minimum wage in the District of Columbia is $16.10. All employers must pay their staff at this rate unless they are exempt from federal and state laws.

Tipped employees in the state have a minimum wage of $5.35 per hour, as long as tipped employees earn tips. They must earn the standard minimum wage when their tipped wages and tips are combined.

If not, employers are responsible for accommodating the difference to meet the standard minimum wage. In some situations, employers could be allowed to pay their employees a subminimum wage.Visit our District of Columbia minimum wage information page to learn more about the minimum wage in the District of Columbia.

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District of Columbia labor laws require employers to pay employees 1½ times their regular rate for all hours worked in a workweek in excess of forty (40) hours. D.C. Code 32-1003. Some exceptions apply. An employer must also comply with federal overtime laws. See FLSA. Federal law will apply in cases where it benefits employees more, otherwise, District of Columbia law applies.

Prevailing Wages

Under certain circumstances, employers in DC may be required to pay residents wage rates established by the federal prevailing wage rates and rules. The prevailing wage rates may be different from the city’s standard minimum wage rates. Employees may be eligible for prevailing wages if they work on federal or government-funded construction projects or perform certain federal government services. See the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts, McNamara-O’Hara Service Contract Act (SCA), and Walsh-Healey Public Contracts Act (PCA) for more information about prevailing wages.

Meals and Breaks

District of Columbia labor laws do not have any meal or break requirements for employers, thus the federal rules apply. The federal rule does not require an employer to provide either a meal (lunch) period or breaks. However, if an employer chooses to do so, breaks, usually of the type lasting less than twenty (20) minutes, must be paid. Meal or lunch periods (usually thirty (30) minutes or more) do not need to be paid, so long as the employee is free to do as they wish during the meal or lunch period. DOL: Breaks and Meal Periods.

Nursing Mother Breaks

The District of Columbia labor laws require employers to provide employees who are nursing mothers with reasonable breaks times to express breast milk unless doing so would create an undue hardship on the operations of the employer. Employers may request employees who are nursing to take breaks to express milk when possible at the same time as other paid break periods. Employers are not required to pay employees for breaks to express milk if the breaks do not coincide with other paid breaks.

Employers must make reasonable efforts to provide nursing mother employees with private locations where nursing mothers may express breast milk. The locations must be in close proximity to the nursing mothers’ work areas. Toilet stalls and bathrooms do not meet the minimum standards for the nursing mothers location.

Reasonable efforts to provide the minimum requirements for nursing mother locations may not impose an undue hardship on the employer’s business. Whether an employer will suffer an undue hardship involves how significant the difficulty or expense of meeting the legal standard for nursing mother breaks will be related to such factors as:

  • the size of the business
  • its financial resources
  • the nature and structure of its operation

D.C. Code 2-1402.82

Vacation Leave

District of Columbia employers aren’t required to give their employees unpaid or paid vacation leave. However, if employers have private policies, they must follow the guidelines outlined in their employment contracts.

Additionally, employers are required to pay their employees accrued vacation leave upon termination of employment. The only instances where employers can deny payment for accrued vacation is if the employment contract says so.

Also, employers cannot cap accrued vacation time unless the employee’s contract states as much. Employers also have the responsibility to review vacation policies alongside their employees. Employees can agree to limited vacation leave policies if they know the guidelines before performing work.Visit our District of Columbia vacation leave information page to learn more about vacation leave in the District of Columbia.

Sick Leave

Employers in the District of Columbia must provide employees with paid sick leave. They could also be required to provide unpaid leave due to the District of Columbia’s Family and Medical Leave Act. There could also be federal guidelines for employers to provide unpaid sick leave.

Employers who allow employees to accrue sick leave benefits might have to pay for accrued benefits upon employment termination. One exception is if employees knowingly agree to forfeit paid sick leave benefits in their employment contract. Employees must also be advised if there is a cap on accrued sick leave before starting work.

Visit our District of Columbia sick leave information page to learn more about sick leave in the District of Columbia.

Holiday Leave

There’s only one law in the District of Columbia regarding unpaid or paid time off for holiday leave. Employers must allow employees to take April 16th (District of Columbia Emancipation Day) off unless it disrupts the daily operations.

Employees must also notify their employers 10 days in advance that they will be taking the holiday. Otherwise, employers in the state aren’t required to provide unpaid or paid holiday leave.

Employers can require employees to work on holidays at their standard wage rate. This could change if an employee’s hours contribute to overtime, in which case, they will receive a premium pay rate. In these instances, employers must abide by overtime laws when adjusting an employee’s pay rate.

Visit our District of Columbia holiday leave information page to learn more about holiday leave in the District of Columbia.

Jury Duty Leave

District of Columbia employers must provide leave to employees responding to a jury summons. There aren’t any laws that specify employees must be paid for their time off. However, employers cannot terminate, threaten, or coerce their employees for responding to jury duty.

Employers who do any of the above could be found guilty of criminal contempt. The penalties for such a crime include a $300 fine and 30 days in jail. Employees terminated for attending jury duty may file a claim in civil court within nine months of the offense.

Visit our District of Columbia jury duty leave information page to learn more about jury duty leave in the District of Columbia.

Voting Leave

Currently, there aren’t any laws that require employers to provide employees with unpaid or paid time off to vote.

Visit our District of Columbia voting leave information page to learn more about voting leave in the District of Columbia.

Severance Pay

District of Columbia labor laws do not have any laws requiring an employer to pay severance pay to an employee. If an employer chooses to provide severance benefits, it must comply with the terms of its established policy or employment contract.


In the District of Columbia, workers can apply for unemployment benefits while seeking another job. However, there are specific eligibility requirements that must be met, including:

  • Applicants must have made at least $1,950 in wages for their entire base period.
  • Applicants must be unemployed through no fault of their own.
  • Applicants must be available for work.
  • Applicants must be physically able to work.
  • Applicants must actively seek work while receiving benefits.
  • Applicants cannot be receiving unemployment benefits from another state.

Visit District of Columbia’s unemployment information page to learn more about unemployment benefits in the District of Columbia.