Employment Law in Washington DC

Employment laws give protection to employees at all stages of the employment process, from hiring through firing. This area of the law includes federal, state and local statutes. Here are some things to keep in mind if you're an employee in Washington DC.

Getting Hired

Help-wanted ads, interviews, and hiring decisions can't be discriminatory. Employers can't consider factors such as race, age, gender, color, pregnancy, religion or disability when interviewing and making hiring decisions. Some interview questions are unlawful, such as whether you're pregnant, whether you attend church, where you worship, and if you suffer from disabilities.

Minimum Wage and Overtime

Federal law sets minimum wage and overtime rules to cover most, but not all, employees. States and localities can also establish their own minimum wage and overtime laws, and these can sometimes provide greater protection than federal rules. The District of Columbia has set minimum wages under local law and they're higher than federal law.

Work Environment

Employers are required to provide safe working environments for employees. They can't fire employees who point out unsafe work conditions, such as pollutants, faulty equipment, lack of safety devices, exposure, contamination, or similar concerns.

Workers' Compensation

Workers’ compensation is a system of insurance that provides replacement income and medical benefits to employees who are injured on the job or who contract an occupational disease. In exchange, the employee gives up the right to sue his employer for personal injuries. Workers’ compensation provides qualified, eligible employees with benefits such as medical treatment and partial income replacement. These might include temporary disability payments or compensation for a permanent impairment until the worker can return to his job or reaches maximum medical improvement. Nearly all employees and employers in the District are covered under local workers’ compensation laws.

Time Off

Some types of time off are required by federal laws, such as the Family and Medical Leave Act. The District of Columbia also has its own Family and Medical Leave Act. State and local laws don't require District of Columbia employers to give employees time off to vote. It's subject to specific employer policies. Smaller employers may not be required to comply.


All forms of harassment are prohibited by federal law. Harassment is unwelcome verbal or physical conduct based on race, sex, color, sexual orientation, religion, age, national origin, retaliation or disability. Conduct rises to the level of harassment when it's severe enough to create a hostile work environment or when a supervisor’s conduct creates a change in an employee’s status or benefits. Harassment includes, but isn't limited to, sexual harassment.


Like most states Washington DC offers “at will” employment. Unless a contract exists stating otherwise, either party can terminate the employment relationship for nearly any reason or for no reason at all. Employers can't fire employees for unlawful or discriminatory reasons, however, including those based on age, gender, race, national origin or disability. They can't fire someone because she filed a workers’ compensation claim, demanded roper wages or overtime pay, took time off for medical reasons or to care for a family member, for being a whistleblower, or for doing something protected by law. The District’s local laws require that employers include unused vacation pay in an employee’s final paycheck.

Post-Employment Benefits

After employment terminates, employees may be eligible for benefits such as unemployment and COBRA, although very small companies are may be exempt from these rules.

Help From a Labor and Employment Attorney

Employment law is complex. If you have questions about your particular work circumstances, speak with a Washington DC employment lawyer.

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