D.C. Enacts COVID-19 Workplace Protections
The District of Columbia Council passed the Protecting Businesses and Workers from COVID-19 Emergency Amendment Act of 2020, which temporarily mandates certain COVID-19 workplace protections for all employers with at least one employee in D.C. This law, which will remain in effect from August 13 through November 11, 2020, imposes the following requirements:
- Employers must adopt and implement social distancing policies that adhere to Mayor’s Order 2020-080, concerning the wearing of masks in D.C. The Mayor’s Order requires that employers ensure that all persons in the workplace wear face coverings, except customers who are eating, drinking, or engaging in socially-distanced exercising.
- Employers are prohibited from disclosing the identity of a COVID-positive employee to anyone aside from the Department of Health, or other District or federal agency responsible for contract tracing and the containment of COVID-19.
- Employers may choose to establish a workplace policy that requires an employee to report a positive test for an active COVID-19 infection.
- Employers are prohibited from retaliation against employees who refuse to serve a customer or client or work within 6 feet of another individual who is not complying with the employer’s social distancing policy. In addition, employers may not take adverse action against employees who: have tested positive for COVID-19 (unless the employee reports to work after testing positive), are symptomatic and awaiting test results, must quarantine after exposure, or are caring or seeks to care for someone who is symptomatic or quarantined.
In addition, the Mayor is authorized to issue grants in an amount up to $1,000 to businesses eligible for certification as a small business enterprise or a nonprofit entity for the purpose of purchasing personal protective equipment for its employees. Such business must demonstrate financial distress due to a COVID-19-related reduction in business revenue.
As to enforcement, the Mayor has the authority to conduct investigations, enforce the bill administratively, and assess discretionary penalties. The Attorney General may also conduct investigations and bring a civil action in District courts to seek reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs, payment of lost wages, statutory penalties, and other equitable relief as appropriate.
**Thank you to Evan Conder for his assistance in writing the above article.