Legislative highlights

2022 has been a good year for legislation to protect workers, create opportunities for people of all ages to grow their skills and take advantage of training and internship opportunities, and addressing dysfunction in the D.C. Housing Authority.

Labor and Workforce Development Committee Highlights from Council Period 24 — 2021 and 2022

Effective October 1, 2022

The following laws, programs and funding went into effect on October 1, 2022:

Up to 12 weeks paid leave for DC workers

Councilmember Silverman had the District’s Chief Financial Officer reevaluate the Universal Paid Leave program’s finances as part of the budget process last year. As a result, the payroll tax for businesses was cut by more than half and workers can now receive far more weeks of paid leave – up to 12 weeks to welcome a new child into their family or take care of themselves or family members. Workers can also receive up to two weeks of paid leave for prenatal care.
Most private sector employees in the District are eligible for paid leave under the program, which was implemented on-time and under budget in July 2020, and can receive up to 90 percent of their income, up to about $1,000 per week. More than 28,000 DC workers have applied for leave – 60 percent for parental leave, 30 percent for medical leave, 7 percent for family leave, and 2 percent for prenatal.

Read the press release | one-pager

Stimulus payments for excluded workers

An estimated 15,000 undocumented residents, returning citizens, and workers in the informal economy were not eligible for temporary federal jobless benefits or federal stimulus checks during the pandemic, despite losing work and income just like everyone else. But these workers will receive relief payments of about $1,000 later this fall. In May 2022, Councilmember Silverman introduced a budget amendment to allocate $20 million for the payments, once the Chief Financial Officer confirms on Sept. 30 there is enough tax money available, which he did. The Council unanimously supported Councilmember Silverman’s measure.

Read the press release

Protect workers from non-compete agreements

The District is now one of a small but growing number of jurisdictions in the country with a ban on non-compete agreements. The ban, spearheaded by Councilmember Silverman, applies to employees whose total compensation is less than $150,000 per year, or $250,000 per year for medical specialists. It is a significant boost in protecting workers, giving them control over their job mobility and career paths.
In general, non-compete agreements prevent an employee from leaving a company to work for a competitor in the same region and from starting or operating their own business during or after they leave. In practice, non-competes are anti-competitive. They depress wages, hurt entrepreneurship, and starve the market of potential workers. They can short-circuit the jobs and careers of workers who cannot seek a new position in the same industry without moving to a new region.

Funding effective programs

Councilmember Silverman fought for additional measures in the budget year starting Oct. 1, 2022, that improve the lives of District residents:

Workforce Development

  • The Labor Committee passed a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) training program through DC Infrastructure Academy. This workforce development program builds a job pipeline to WMATA and other driver careers that are in high demand, helping businesses find skilled workers and helping residents looking for career growth.
  • Funded a University of the District of Columbia’s Community College program to build career pathways in home care and nursing, with additional funding for full-time faculty.
  • Provided millions of dollars in grants to community training providers in IT and healthcare.
  • Funded a study of career pathways for District violence interrupters, to help them plan and manage their future careers.
  • Preserved funding for the innovative Jobs First pilot to help returning citizens and those with barriers such as homelessness to obtain permanent employment in jobs that pay at least $15/hour.

Youth and Adult Learners

  • Permanently expanded the School Year Internship Program to provide employment to 1,000 D.C. students, including 100 slots reserved for students who might need additional support due to truancy, involvement with the justice or foster care system, or likelihood of committing violent acts.
  • Increased funding for adult learners in DC public schools and adult charter schools.

Safety Net to Aid Residents at the Greatest Economic Risk

  • Keeps District residents in their homes by doubling the Committee’s previous investment in evidence-based eviction diversion programs.
  • Restored funding for the Labor Committee’s initiative to create a Commission on Poverty.
  • Strengthened enforcement of workers’ rights by funding additional staff at the Office of the Attorney General.
  • Funded legislation that will allow District residents to renew a driver’s license, regardless of their wealth.

Read the Committee Budget Report

Domestic Worker Employment Rights

Councilmember Silverman introduced the Domestic Worker Employment Rights Amendment Act in March 2022. The bill would extend protections to domestic workers, such as housekeepers, nannies, and home health aides that nearly all other DC employees already have. A person or business hiring a domestic worker would be required to provide the worker with a written contract detailing hours, pay, duties, and other specifics, to ensure a fair and safe workplace. The bill also ends the carve-out of domestic workers from the D.C. Human Rights Act, which protects against workplace discrimination, and requires D.C. government agencies to provide resources to employers and workers on how to ensure safety in their workplace.

The legislation was co-introduced by eight other councilmembers and received overwhelming support in a June committee hearing. The bill goes to the full Council for final votes on Dec. 6 and 20.

Paid Family Leave Expansion for District Government Workers

District government employees will get significantly more paid family and medical leave under the District Government Paid Leave Enhancement Amendment Act, which passed the Council with unanimous support on Sept. 20, 2022; a second and final vote is expected Oct. 4. Expanding paid family leave benefits makes DC government more competitive as an employer and better able to compete for talented and qualified candidates who could easily work in the federal government and the private sector. DC government employs 37,000 city employees.

The legislation increases benefits from eight to 12 weeks for family caregiving and parental leave and adds two new types of paid leave: personal medical leave, up to 12 weeks, and prenatal leave, up to two weeks. Funding approved earlier this year will cover up to two weeks of medical leave. Employees will also have access to more paid leave through a leave bank if they don’t have enough paid time available for their or family members’ medical issues. The Council will need to fully fund the bill in future budgets to reach the full 12 weeks called for in the legislation.

Reckless Driver Education and Speed Limiters on DC Government Vehicles

The Reckless Driver Accountability Act of 2022 authorizes the District to boot or impound any car that has five moving violation tickets, or three tickets for speeding by more than 25 miles per hour over the speeding limit or running a red light, even if the tickets are paid. The legislation targets the region’s most reckless drivers and puts them in a restorative justice education program modeled on one in New York that has reduced dangerous driving incidents among participants by up to 40 percent. This class, featuring small group sessions, tries to reduce reckless driving behavior by helping drivers understand the impact of their actions.

The Speed Limiters Amendment Act of 2022, requires the installation of speed limiters on the District government’s roughly 3,000 non-emergency vehicles. These limiters would prohibit the vehicles from driving over 40 miles per hour, unless there is a clear reason it needs to drive faster.

DC Housing Authority Accountability and Reform

A scathing assessment of the D.C. Housing Authority by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development became public in early October 2022. The investigation found the local agency, which provides tens of thousands of units of housing for low-income families, in violation of federal law, lacking oversight and proper financial management, and its housing portfolio in a state of disrepair.

Among the reports findings: DCHA’s executive director lacks expertise in public housing management and its board does not provide proper fiscal and operational oversight; public housing is nearly insolvent, with barely one month’s expenses in its reserves; and DCHA is out of compliance with numerous federal procurement policies, prompting HUD to require the authority to review all past procurements and to repay all funds that were spent improperly.

Councilmember Silverman introduced and the Council passed emergency legislation that was co-introduced by 12 members. The bill requires training for the authority's executive director and board members, requires DCHA to report data to the Council, and clarifies that DC’s consumer protection laws apply to DCHA.

Councilmember Silverman is also preparing to introduce comprehensive DCHA reform legislation, legislation she was working on before the HUD report came out. She is expected to introduce the legislation in late October or November. The legislation would increase the board's capacity and willingness to monitor DCHA effectiveness, change the makeup of the board, reduce conflicts, give more power to the board, and improve information sharing for better Council oversight.