Wage and Hour Laws
- Table of Minimum Hourly Wage Rates in the District of Columbia
- Who is required to pay minimum wage?
- Who is protected under the law?
- What hours count as work hours?
- Minimum Hourly Wages
- Minimum Daily Wage
- Living Wage
- Overtime Pay
- Paid Sick Leave
- Worker Misclassification
Wage and Hour Laws
The following table summarizes the District’s minimum hourly wage for most employees and tipped employees for the years 2017-2021. District law requires employers to pay their employees no less than the minimum hourly wage.
|Starting On||Most Regular Employees||Most Tipped Employees||Some Government Contractors|
|July 1, 2017||$12.50||$3.33||$13.95|
|July 1, 2018||
|July 1, 2019||$14.00||$4.45|
|July 1, 2020||$15.00||$5.00|
|July 1, 2021||$15.20||$5.05|
Note: Increases from July 1, 2021 on are linked to the % increase in the area Consumer Price Index.
All employers, with the exception of the United States federal government, are required to abide by the District’s minimum wage laws. Employers include the District of Columbia government, and any individual, partnership, general contractor, subcontractor, association, corporation, business trust, or any person acting directly or indirectly in the interest of an employer in relation to an employee. See D.C Code §§ 32-1002(3), 1003.
Examples of employers under the District’s law may include, but are not limited to: restaurants and bars, retail stores, construction companies, hotels and health care providers, schools and institutions of higher learning, and District of Columbia governmental agencies.
Most employees employed in the District of Columbia are entitled to the District’s minimum wage. There are a few narrow exceptions to the minimum wage laws explained in more detail below.
- A person is “employed in the District of Columbia” if that person:
- regularly spends more than 50% of their working time in the District of Columbia; or
- the person’s employment is based in the District of Columbia and the person regularly spends a substantial amount of their working time in the District of Columbia and not more than 50% of their working time in any particular state. See D.C. Code § 32-1003(b).
- An employee’s immigration status does not affect their entitlement to a minimum wage.
A note on “employees” and “independent contractors.” Most workers qualify as employees under the District’s law, and are thus entitled to the District’s minimum wage protections. However, questions may arise regarding whether a worker is an employee (who is entitled to the District’s minimum wage protections) or an “independent contractor” (who is not entitled to those protections). To determine whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor, the District’s courts and regulatory agencies will weigh the following factors. If these factors are present, it is more likely that a worker will be found to be an employee, rather than an independent contractor.
- Whether the employer paid the worker wages;
- Whether the employer has the right to control and direct the worker in the performance of their work and the manner in which the work is done;
- Whether the worker’s provided service is part of the employer’s regular business.
Hours of “work” for purposes of the minimum wage and overtime laws include all time an employee spends on the employer’s premises, or time spent “on duty” or at a prescribed location. That includes:
- Training: Time spent in training that is required by the employer.
- Travel: Time spent traveling for purposes of the employer’s business, such as travel between two work sites. Note that commuting - the travel time between your home and the job site - does not count as work time.
- Repair, maintenance, and cleanup activities count as work. For example, if you are required to spend time cleaning up your workstation after your official work shift ends, you must be paid for the time spent cleaning up.
D.C. Code §32-1002(10). See also Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 785, Hours Worked under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, as amended.
Joe works at a hospital. His schedule is listed below, with work hours highlighted in bold.
Altogether, for this day, Joe will have worked 8 work hours total.
- Regular Employees: Employees who do not receive gratuities (tips) must be paid at least $15.20 per hour. The regular minimum wage rate generally increases every year on July 1st.
- Salaried employees are entitled to receive a salary that is equal to or greater than the amount they would receive if paid hourly at the minimum wage rate.
- Tipped Employees: Employees who receive gratuities may be paid a lower minimum wage rate, $5.05, as long as:
- (1) The employer notifies the employee of the provisions of D.C. Code §32-1003(f) (the “tipped employee minimum wage” law);
- (2) The employee keeps all of the tips they receive, or receives their fair share of money from a ‘pool’ of tips received by all tipped employees; and
- (3) The employee’s wages plus tips add up to at least what the employee would have received if paid at the regular minimum wage rate.
Last week, Greta waited tables at a restaurant for 10 hours and was paid $5.05 per hour. She received $50.50 in wages in her paycheck that week.
At the minimum wage rate, she would have earned $15.20 per hour. If Greta were paid minimum wage for her 10 hours of work, she would have received $152 in wages.
The difference between $152 (Greta’s minimum wage) and $50.50 (Greta’s actual wage) is $101.50.
Greta needs to make at least $101.50 in tips for her wage rate to equal the minimum wage.
Thus, if Greta received less than $101.50 in tips, she has not received all the wages she is entitled to under District law.
Unless you regularly work a shift that is less than four hours long, your employer must pay you for at least four hours of work for each day you report to work. See DCMR 7-907.
- If you report to work but are sent home, your employer must pay you for four hours of work at the regular minimum wage.
- If you report to work and are given less than four hours of work, your employer must pay you at your regular hourly rate for the hours worked, and at the regular minimum wage for the remainder of four hours not worked.
Alex is paid $20 per hour at his job at a retail store, and his shifts are regularly longer than 4 hours. Because Alex’s shifts are regularly longer than 4 hours, he is entitled to a minimum daily wage under District law.
Alex shows up for work on Wednesday and is told the store only needs him to work for two hours. Alex works for 2 hours and goes home.
However, because Alex is entitled to a minimum daily wage, the employer must pay him for at least 4 hours of work.
For that day, the employer must pay Alex a total of $65 as follows:
$40 ($20/hour (Alex’s regular wage) for the 2 hours of actual work), plus
$30.40 ($15.20/hour (the minimum wage) for the 2 additional hours to meet the 4 hour pay total).
- If your employer is a contractor for the District of Columbia, you may be entitled to a higher minimum wage rate, called the “living wage.” D.C. Code §2-220.03.
- In 2021, the living wage rate is $15.20 per hour. The living wage rate can be increased annually based on any increase in the Consumer Price Index for the Washington, D.C. area, up to a 3% increase.
- Any employee working more than 40 hours per week is entitled to at least 1½ times the regular hourly pay for every hour over 40 worked in a week. D.C. Code §32-1003(c).
- Workers are entitled to earn a certain amount of paid sick leave, depending on the size of their employer, under D.C. Code § 32-531.02. The chart below shows the rate of paid sick leave for small, medium, and large employers.
|Total Company Employees||1-24||25-99||100 or more|
|Hours work per hour of leave||87||43||37|
|Max. sick days per year||3||5||7|
The following employees are exempt from the District’s minimum wage and overtime pay laws codified in D.C. Code § 32-1003:
- “White Collar” workers: Those employed in a bona fide executive, administrative, or professional capacity. D.C. Code §32-1004(a)(1); § 201 et seq. of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
- Outside Salespeople: An outside sales employee is any employee who is employed for the purpose of making sales or obtaining orders, and who customarily and regularly works away from the employer’s place of business. D.C. Code §32-1004(a)(1)); § 201 et seq. of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
- Newspaper delivery jobs (when delivering directly to consumers’ homes). D.C. Code §32-1004(a)(2).
- Volunteers engaged in the activities of an educational, charitable, religious, or nonprofit organization without any expectation of payment. D.C. Code § 32-1002(2)(A).
- Lay member of religious organizations who are engaged in religious functions. D.C. Code § 32-1002(2)(B).
- “Casual” Babysitters who are employed on an irregular or intermittent basis, and whose vocation is not babysitting. D.C. Code § 32-1002(2)(C); 7 DCMR 999.2.
- United States Government Employees.
The following employees are exempt from the District’s minimum wage laws codified in D.C. Code § 32-1003:
- Disabled Workers with a United States Department of Labor Certificate. Workers with disabilities who work for an employer who has received a certificate from the United States Department of Labor that authorizes the payment of less than minimum wage are exempt from the District’s minimum wage laws. D.C. Code § 32-1003(d).
- Security Officers. A security officer working in an office building in the District of Columbia is exempt from the District’s minimum wage laws. Employers of such security officers must pay wages, or any combination of wages and benefits, that are not less than the combined amount of the minimum wage and fringe benefit rate for the guard 1 classification established by the United States Secretary of Labor pursuant to the Service Contract Act of 1965, approved October 22, 1965 (79 Stat. 1034; 41 U.S.C. § 351), as amended. D.C. Code § 32-1003(h).
- Minors. Individuals under the age of 18 years old may be paid the minimum wage established by the United States Government, rather than the District’s minimum wage. 7 DCMR § 902.4(g).
- Student-Employees. Students employed by institutions of higher education may be paid the minimum wage established by the United States Government, rather than the District’s minimum wage. 7 DCMR § 902.4(f).
- Miscellaneous Acts Setting Other Minimum Wages. Individuals employed pursuant to the Job Training Partnership Act, the Older Americans Act, or the Youth Employment Act, must be paid the wages set forth in those laws. 7 DCMR § 902.4(b)-(d).
The following employees are exempt from the District’s overtime pay laws codified in D.C. Code § 32-1003:
- Airline Employees. Airline employees who voluntarily trade workdays with another employee for the primary purpose of using travel benefits available to those employees. D.C. Code § 32-1004(b)(6).
- Automobile Dealership Employees. Any salesman, partsman, or mechanic primarily engaged in selling or servicing automobiles, trailers, or trucks, if employed by a non-manufacturing establishment primarily engaged in the business of selling these vehicles to ultimate purchasers. D.C. Code § 32-1004(b)(3).
- Commissioned Employees. Overtime pay is not required if the employee works for a retail or service establishment and: (1) the regular rate of pay of the employee is in excess of 1½ times the minimum hourly rate applicable to the employee codified in D.C. Code §32-1003; and (2) more than ½ of the employee’s compensation for a representative period (not less than 1 month) represents commissions on goods or services. D.C. Code § 32-1003(e)(1)-(2).
- Railroad Employees. Any employee employed by a railroad. D.C. Code § 32-1004(b)(2).
- Seamen. Any employee employed as a seaman. D.C. Code § 32-1004(b)(1).
- Live-in Domestic Workers (who live with employer). A worker employed as a private household worker who lives on the premises of the employer. 7 DCMR § 902.5.
- Companions for the Aged or Infirm. A worker employed as a companion for the aged or infirm. 7 DCMR § 902.5. Note that persons who spend more than 20 percent of their time on household work not directly related to caring for the aged or infirm shall not be deemed a companion for the aged or infirm. 7 DCMR § 999.2.
If you are a District resident and believe you have been denied wages or certain benefits and protections as a result of worker misclassification, OAG is here to help. Read these Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to learn more about worker misclassification, as well as when and how to seek help.
What is worker misclassification?
Worker misclassification is the practice of incorrectly categorizing workers as independent contractors rather than employees. This is a serious problem because it deprives workers of many of the basic protections of employment, including the minimum wage, overtime pay protection, paid sick days, workers’ compensation coverage, unemployment insurance, and more. When employers misclassify their workers, they shift these costs onto the workers themselves.
What is an “independent contractor”?
An independent contractor is engaged by a company or a person to perform a certain service. Generally, independent contractors are self-employed businesspeople who offer specialized skills and perform a service that is not part of the company’s overall business. True independent contractors have the ability to set their job duties, hours, and wages, as well as select their own customers. They are responsible for paying their own taxes and have to get their own insurance in order to be protected if they are injured on the job or become unemployed. Independent contractors receive a Form 1099 for paying their federal taxes, while employees receive a Form W-2.
How is an “independent contractor” different from an “employee”?
In contrast to an “independent contractor,” generally employees are individuals who regularly perform work within that employer’s ordinary course of business. Workers are not independent contractors simply because they work offsite, or work remotely, or have flexibility over their hours and responsibilities.
A worker is more likely to be an “independent contractor” if:
- the nature of their work involves a high degree of skill or entails a separate calling or business from that of the employer;
- if their work is not a regular part of the employer’s typical business, regardless of whether the work is continuous or intermittent; and
- if they are hired to complete a particular job, as opposed to being hired to perform ongoing services.
Why does it matter whether I am a worker or an independent contractor?
Employees get special protections with many federal and District laws that are not available to independent contractors.
District workers, but not independent contractors, get the following benefits:
- District minimum wage of $15.20 per hour;
- Overtime pay protections under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act;
- Workers’ Compensation coverage paid for by their employer, in case they are injured on the job;
- Unemployment Insurance paid for by their employer, in case they lose their job;
- The right to collectively bargain under the National Labor Relations Act for improved pay and working conditions;
- Employment taxes, including social security and Medicare taxes, paid by their employers;
- In some instances, guaranteed family and medical leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act; and
- The protection of additional federal labor and employment laws, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects employees from discrimination based on race, religion, sex, and national origin.
What are the harms of worker misclassification?
- When employers misclassify their workers, workers are deprived of the full wages they are entitled to under the minimum wage and overtime work laws. This is called “wage theft.”
- When employers misclassify their workers, workers do not get the full protections they are entitled to under federal and District laws.
- Employers that properly classify their employees are put at a competitive disadvantage against businesses that shirk costs by misclassifying their workers.
- Misclassification also deprives the District of tax revenue from income, Social Security, Medicare and unemployment taxes, which provide funding for public services.
What else should I know about misclassification?
Worker misclassification is rampant in the construction industry, and the District has special protections for construction workers. In 2019, OAG released a report showing that District construction companies that misclassify workers unlawfully cut their labor costs by anywhere from 16.7% to 40% at the expense of workers. When construction workers are misclassified as “independent contractors,” they are rendered uniquely vulnerable without the protection of workers’ compensation and paid sick leave, because of the high-risk nature of their work. The District’s Workplace Fraud Act applies specifically to the construction industry and requires companies to classify workers as employees in most circumstances. To classify a worker as an independent contractor, construction companies must prove that:
- An individual is free from the employer’s direction and control,
- An individual is economically independent, and
- An individual’s work falls outside of the core business of that company.
You can contact OAG to report worker misclassification.
In 2018, OAG worked with the D.C. Council on legislation that grants OAG independent authority to investigate and bring wage theft cases, including misclassification cases. Since gaining independent authority, OAG has launched more than 40 investigations into wage theft and payroll fraud. In 2020, OAG secured it’s largest wage theft settlement to date, requiring Power Design—a major electrical contractor—to pay $2.75 million to hundreds of harmed workers and the District over wage theft and worker misclassification claims. OAG also resolved a case against Capitol Drywall, Inc.—a Maryland construction company—penalizing them $200K for cheating 100+ District workers out of wages and benefits by misclassifying them as Independent Contractors.
Workers can report worker misclassification, wage theft, and other wage and hour violations to OAG at (202) 442-9828. Learn more about workers’ rights in the District and how to get help if those rights are being violated at oag.dc.gov/workers-rights.
This section contains general information about worker misclassification and how D.C. residents can get further information and assistance. The information above is for general educational purposes and is not legal advice. The standard for analyzing worker misclassification may change with legislative changes, and currently is different depending upon whether one’s work is within the construction industry or not.