Workplace Safety During the COVID-19 Pandemic Emergency Amendment Act of 2021
This page contains general information about workplace safety laws in the COVID19 pandemic and how D.C. residents can get further information and assistance. The information below is for general educational purposes and is not legal advice.
What may an employer do to protect the workplace from the spread of COVID-19?
If you have tested positive for COVID-19, have COVID-19 symptoms, or have been exposed to the virus, your employer may restrict you from entering the workplace until you are no longer experiencing symptoms and the federal quarantine period has elapsed, or when a medical professional has cleared you to return to the workplace. Your employer may also require you to inform them if you test positive for COVID-19. However, your employer must maintain this information in confidence, except to the District agency responsible for tracking the spread of the virus. If you contract COVID19 in the course of, and within the scope of employment, and risk spreading it to other employees, your employer must report that information to the Mayor.
Can my employer retaliate against me for issues related to COVID-19?
No. Your employer cannot retaliate against you if, in relation to COVID-19, you:
- have tested positive for the virus;
- have symptoms;
- have been exposed to the virus;
- care for someone who is infected;
- quarantine in accordance with federal guidelines;
- comply with the requirements of the Mayor’s order;
- use or wear personal protection equipment;
- attempt to stop or prevent a violation of COVID-19 workplace safety laws; and/or
- report workplace health or safety practices.
Your employer’s actions will be considered retaliation if your employer:
- threatens you;
- issues a verbal or written warning to you;
- reduces your work hours;
- suspends or terminates your employment;
- discharges or demotes you, harasses you;
- makes any other material change in the conditions of your employment; and/or
- takes any other actions that can reasonably be viewed as deterring you.
If you are the victim of retaliation, you have the right to bring a private civil suit against your employer within a year and receive damages and compensation. Recall that it is not considered retaliation if your employer restricts you from entering the workplace due to a positive COVID-19 test or exposure to the virus, as previously explained.
What happens if you report your employer for violating COVID-19 workplace safety laws?
Both the Mayor and the Attorney General have authority to investigate complaints by issuing subpoenas, conducting depositions, and examining witnesses amongst other tools. Employers can challenge these investigations in court, but if the court finds grounds to procced with the investigation, the employer must comply. The Mayor may post on the District’s Coronavirus website the name of each business for which a violation was found and a description of the penalties imposed. Penalties may range between $1,000 and $2,000 per violation in addition to penalties imposed under other statutes of the law.
Are employers required to share information with you regarding COVID-19 workplace safety laws?
Yes, employers are required to post information about this law to a conspicuous location within the workplace in English and in any other language spoken by at least 10% of the employees. When the Mayor posts this law on their website, employers will no longer be required to do so themselves.
Can employee information be used for contact tracing?
Yes, employee information can be used for contact tracing. An employer must cooperate with contract tracers from the District if an infected employee or customer was in close contact with other employees, including sharing their contact information.
Am I entitled to receive Worker’s Compensation or Unemployment Insurance if I am infected with COVID-19?
Yes, if you are otherwise eligible for those benefits. Working in unsafe locations or conditions can be “good cause” to receive Worker’s Compensation or Unemployment Insurance from the District. The employer may also be required to pay compensation.
Workers can report workplace violations to the Mayor or to the Office of the Attorney General. Complaints to the Mayor may be submitted by calling 311 or through the District’s Coronavirus website, https://coronvirus.dc.gov. Complaints to the Attorney General may be submitted by calling (202) 442-9828 or emailing email@example.com.
See full text of the Workplace Safety During the COVID-19 Pandemic Emergency Amendment Act of 2021