D.C. Enacts Emergency Law Requiring COVID-19 Workplace Protection

On August 13, 2020, the Mayor of D.C. enacted an emergency law that mandates workplace safety protections for all D.C. workplaces. The Protecting Businesses and Workers from COVID-19 Emergency Amendment Act of 2020 (the “Emergency Law”) will be in effect until November 10, 2020, but could be extended due to the current pandemic.

Many employers are likely familiar with the workplace safety guidelines provided by the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and/or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The Emergency Law now requires compliance with certain safety recommendations and guidelines.

The Emergency Law requires D.C. employers to adopt and implement social distancing and worker protection policies to prevent transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace that adheres to the Mayor’s Order that requires masks to be worn. The Emergency Law creates a grant program to assist certain small businesses with acquiring the personal protective equipment (“PPE”), such as masks, needed to comply.

The Emergency Law also allows, but does not require, employers to establish a workplace policy to require an employee to report to an employer a positive test for an active COVID-19 infection. The Emergency Law prohibits employers from disclosing the identity of an employee who tests positive for COVID-19 except to the Department of Health or another D.C. or federal agency responsible for and engaged in contact tracing and the containment of community spread of COVID-19.  

The Emergency Law further prohibits employers from taking adverse action in the following circumstances:

• The employee refuses to serve a customer or client, or to work within 6 feet of an individual, who is not complying with the workplace protections established by the Emergency Law;

• The employee tested positive for COVID-19, provided that the employee did not physically report to the workplace after receiving a positive test result;

• The employee was exposed to someone with COVID-19 and needs to quarantine;

• The employee is sick and is waiting for a COVID-19 test result; or

• The employee is caring for or seeks to provide care for someone who is sick with COVID-19 symptoms or is quarantined; or

• The employee exercises rights established by the Emergency Law.  

For any additional questions, assistance crafting an appropriate policy or to determine if you qualify for the newly-established grant, please contact me.

Meredith S. Campbell Chair, Employment and Labor Group
Shulman Rogers mcampbell@shulmanrogers.com | T 301.255.0550 | F 301.230.2891
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Have you ever had an employee who claims she’s been subjected to discrimination? Or maybe one who habitually strolls in late, or frequently calls in sick? Of course you have—and chances are, it’s the same employee in both scenarios. What’s a good employer to do in response to these conflicting problems? Employment laws are complex, and employer missteps in dealing with these issues frequently turn minor problems into major tragedies down the road.  

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