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DC Legislative Updates

March 2, 2021

The "Workplace Safety During the COVID19 Pandemic Temporary Amendment Act of 2021” passed its second reading. This legislation passed as emergency legislation and thus is effective upon it being signed by the Mayor. RAMW was very concerned about the passage of this legislation and the burdens it places on operators as they attempt to survive the pandemic. However, through many conversations with Councilmember Silverman and other members of the Council, RAMW was able to have some changes made in the final version passed to make the legislation more palatable for our industry. The legislation does the following:

  • Clarifies that COVID-19 is compensable under workers compensation if contracted at work. We expressed concern that this could increase workers comp costs for the business, but through many conversations with experts it seems unlikely that this will occur. The legislation does not outline how it is traceable if a case is contracted at work. 

  • Provides that an employee who refuses to work because of an unsafe work environment is entitled to unemployment compensation. Unsafe working conditions are defined as conditions which a reasonable or prudent person in the labor market would leave work over.

  • Requires that employers comply with all COVID Orders outlined by the Mayor in her Orders. 

  • Prohibits the release of names of employees who have contracted COVID-19 except to government officials. As a result of RAMW’s efforts the identity of such an employee can be released, as long as they are not identified by name. This provides protection for the employer, and for the public, who understandably would want to know if they came in direct contact with someone infected with COVID-19.

  • Protects employees from being fired or facing other adverse employment, if the employee: 

    • Reasonably attempted to prevent a violation of a Mayor’s Order (ex: telling people to social distance or wear a mask)

    • Filed complaints about workplace safety

    • Raised reasonable concerns about workplace health and safety practices related to COVID-19 to the employer, the government or the public

    • Tests positive for COVID-19 or had close contact with someone who did

    • Needs to quarantine consistent with CDC or DOH guidance

    • Contracts COVID-19

  • Employees’ rights may be enforced by the Attorney General or by private right of action

  • Lost wages and attorneys fees may be recovered by an employee for any violations

  • Employers must cooperate with official contact tracers and promptly respond to inquiries