Thursday, March 6, 2008


On Tuesday, the District of Columbia became the second city (after San Francisco) to require employers to give employees paid sick leave. Some last minute exemptions weakened the bill, which you can learn more about from the D.C. Employment Justice Center. Last summer, I testified before the D.C. City Council urging that the leave be available to care for a broad definition of "family members." Unfortunately, the City Council did not go as far as I hoped; they did not give private employees in D.C. the same protection that federal employees have to use their sick leave to care for "any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship." But they did include the ability to use one's sick leave to care for a person the employee has lived with for a year in a "committed relationship" which is a "familial relationship...characterized by mutual caring and the sharing of a mutual residence." This means same-sex and different-sex partners don't have to be registered as domestic partners to use their leave for this purpose and that two people don't need to be a "couple" to use this leave to care for each other as long as they live together in a relationship of mutual caring. An employee can also use his or her sick leave to take care of a child in the employee's home "for whom the employee permanently assumes and discharges parental responsibility." The employee does NOT need to be the legal or biological parent of the child. This law is a step in the direction of valuing all families, although the federal employee definition is much better because it does not require living together.

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