On Tuesday, January 26, 2016, the D.C. Council held a joint public hearing on two employment-related bills. Both the video and audio recordings of the hearing are available on the D.C. Council’s website.

The first bill addressed at the joint public hearing was the Fair Credit History Screening Act of 2015 (Bill B21-0244). This bill prohibits an employer with more than 10 employees from inquiring about or requiring an applicant to provide information about his or her credit history until after a conditional offer of employment is extended.  After extending a conditional offer of employment, an employer may inquire of the individual’s credit history but may only withdraw the conditional offer or take adverse action against the applicant for a legitimate business reason.  An employer’s determination of a legitimate business reason must be reasonable in light of several factors, including but not limited to the specific duties and responsibilities related to the employment, the bearing of a criminal offense on the applicant’s fitness or ability to perform employment responsibilities, the time that has elapsed since the criminal offense, the applicant’s age at the time of the criminal offense, and the frequency and seriousness of the criminal offense.

The bill specifies that an applicant who believes that his or her credit history was unlawfully considered may request the documents that the employer utilized when considering the applicant’s application. The bill provides for an administrative remedy for violations through the D.C. Office of Human Rights, including a fine of up to $5,000 depending on the employer’s size.  The prohibitions of this Act do not apply where D.C. or federal law requires that credit history be considered for the purposes of employment.

The second bill addressed at the hearing was the Employment Protections for Victims of Domestic Violence Amendment Act of 2015 (Bill B21-0211). This bill would amend the Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act of 2008 by adding a new section 9a.  The proposed new provision would prohibit employers from discharging, discriminating, or retaliating against an employee who is a victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking for taking time off from work to obtain relief to help ensure the health, safety, or welfare of the employee or the employee’s child.  The bill provides that employees taking such leave are required to give reasonable advance notice of an absence if feasible.  However, if the employee takes an unscheduled absence from work, the employer will be prohibited from taking action against the employee if the employee, within a reasonable time after the absence, provides a certification to the employer that the absence was due to domestic violence.

Under the bill, employers are also required to provide reasonable accommodations for the safety of a victim of domestic violence if requested as long as the requested accommodation does not constitute an undue hardship on the employer. The bill also prohibits retaliating against an employee for requesting a reasonable accommodation.  Finally, the bill would permit employees to use vacation or other compensatory time available to them for time off taken for purposes permitted under the new provision.

We will monitor the progress of these two bills in the Council and keep you updated on any developments.