The District of Columbia has enacted emergency legislation (B23-980) that requires employers to adopt certain worker protection policies and prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for certain COVID-19 related reasons.
Social Distancing Policies:
Beginning November 23, 2020 and during the public health emergency, employers in the District of Columbia must adopt and implement social distancing and worker protection policies that adhere to the requirements of Mayor's Order 2020-080 (which governs the use of masks), or subsequent Mayor's Order to prevent transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace.
Employers are prohibited from taking adverse employment action against an employee for their refusal to serve a customer or client, or to work within six feet of an individual who isn't complying with the workplace protections.
Employers may establish a workplace policy to require an employee to report a positive test for an active COVID-19 infection. Employers are prohibited from disclosing the identity of an employee who tests positive except to the Department of Health or another District or federal agency responsible for and engaged in contact tracing and the containment of community spread of COVID-19.
Effective immediately, employers are prohibited from taking adverse employment action against an employee because they:
- Tested positive for COVID-19, provided that the employee didn't physically report to the workplace after receiving a positive test result;
- Were exposed to someone with COVID-19 and need to quarantine;
- Are sick and are waiting for a COVID-19 test result;
- Are caring for or seek to provide care for someone who is sick with COVID-19 symptoms or who is quarantined; or
- Take actions to secure any right or protection contained in the law or to prevent or stop a violation of the law.
Under the law, an adverse employment action means an action that an employer takes against an employee, including a threat, verbal warning, written warning, reduction of work hours, suspension, termination, discharge, demotion, harassment, material change in the terms or conditions of the employee's employment, or any action that is reasonably likely to deter the employee from attempting to secure any right or protection contained in the law or to prevent or stop a violation of the law.
Note: The law doesn't prohibit an employer from requiring an employee who has tested positive for COVID-19 to refrain from entering the workplace until a medical professional has cleared the employee to return to the workplace or until a period of quarantine recommended by the Department of Health or the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has elapsed.
Employers in the District of Columbia should ensure their policies and practices comply with the law and ensure that supervisors receive training on its requirements. Please contact your dedicated service professional with any questions.