Wage and Hour Laws



Wage and Hour Laws

Table of Minimum Hourly Wage Rates in the District of Columbia

The following table summarizes the District’s minimum hourly wage for most employees and tipped employees for the years 2017–2020. 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  

Note: Increases are linked to the % increase in the area Consumer Price Index.

You can read more about the statutes for Most Regular EmployeesMost Tipped Employees, and Some Government Contractors.

Who is required to pay minimum wage?

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.

Who is protected under the law?

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.

What hours count as work hours?

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.

  • 8:00 AM – 9:00 AM. Ride bus to hospital.
  • 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM. Hospital training session (3 hours).
  • 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM. Deliver package to doctor’s office across town (1 hour).
  • 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM. Review and organize patient files (3 hours).
  • 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM. Clean up desk and workspace for evening (1 hour).
  • 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM. Ride bus home.

Altogether, for this day, Joe will have worked 8 work hours total.

Minimum Hourly Wages

  • Regular Employees: Employees who do not receive gratuities (tips) must be paid at least $12.50 per hour. The regular minimum wage rate increases every year on July 1st, and will reach $15.00 per hour on July 1, 2020.
  • 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 - $3.33 per hour until July 2018 - as long as:
    • (1) The employer notifies the employee of the provisions 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 $3.33 per hour. She received $33.30 in wages in her paycheck that week.

At the minimum wage rate, she would have earned $12.50 per hour. If Greta were paid minimum wage for her 10 hours of work, she would have received $125 in wages.

The difference between $125 (Greta’s minimum wage) and $33.30 (Greta’s actual wage) is $91.70.

Greta needs to make $91.70 in tips for her wage rate to equal the minimum wage.

Thus, if Greta received less than $91.70 in tips, she has not received all the wages she is entitled to under District law.

Minimum Daily Wage

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

$25 ($12.50/hour (the minimum wage) for the 2 additional hours to meet the 4 hour pay total)

Living Wage

  • 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 2017 the living wage rate is $13.95 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.

Overtime Pay

  • Any employee working more than 40 hours per week is entitled to at least 1 ½ times the regular hourly pay for every hour over 40 worked in a week. D.C. Code §32-1003(c)

Paid sick leave

  • Workers are entitled to earn a certain amount of paid sick leave, depending on the size of their employer, under D.C. Code § 32-131.02. 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


Minimum Wage and Overtime Law Exemptions

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 selling products or obtaining orders, and who customarily and regularly works away from the employer’s place of business. D.C. Code §32-1004(a)(1).
  • 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.

Minimum Wage Exemptions

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 have 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).

D.C. Overtime Exemptions

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 nonmanufacturing 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 1 1/2 times the minimum hourly rate applicable to the employee codified in D.C. Code §32-1003; and (2) more than 1/2 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).
  • Parking Lot/Garage Attendants. Any employee employed as an attendant at a parking lot or parking garage. D.C. Code § 32-1004(b)(5).
  • 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.