Effective October 1, 2022, an amendment to the District of Columbia’s Human Rights Act (“the Act”) will expand the universe of workers protected under the Act, as well as codify workplace harassment as an unlawful discriminatory practice.

First, the amendment expands the Act’s definition of a protected “employee” to now also include individuals “working or seeking work as an independent contractor” as well as unpaid interns. However, the amendment states that an independent contractor for purposes of the Act “does not mean a service vendor who provides a discrete service to an individual customer.”

Next, the amendment adds “homeless status” to the Act’s list of protected classes in employment, as well as with regard to public accommodation, housing and other purposes. As such, the amended Act will provide that an employer may not “fail or refuse to hire, or to discharge, any individual; or otherwise discriminate against any individual, with respect to his or her compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment” on the basis of an employee or applicant’s “actual or perceived” status as homeless. For purposes of the amended Act, homelessness is defined in accordance with the city’s Homeless Service Reform Act as “an individual or family that lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.”

Finally, the amendment expressly provides that “[i]t shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice to engage in harassment” on the basis of any protected characteristic under the Act. The amendment describes these changes as “clarify[ing] and enhanc[ing] protections against workplace harassment.”

The amendment defines harassment as “conduct, whether direct or indirect, verbal or nonverbal, that unreasonably alters an individual’s terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, or has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.” The amendment also includes a list of non-exhaustive factors to be considered in determining whether challenged conduct constitutes unlawful harassment, including:

  • the frequency of the conduct;
  • the duration of the conduct;
  • the location of the conduct;
  • whether the conduct involved threats, slurs, epithets, stereotypes, or humiliating or degrading conduct; and
  • whether any party to the conduct held a position of formal authority or informal power relative to another party.

We will continue to monitor and report on further developments regarding this amendment once it goes into effect. In the meantime, D.C. employers should review and, as necessary, update their existing anti-discrimination policies to ensure that they accurately reflect these expanded protections under the Act.

Print:
Email this postTweet this postLike this postShare this post on LinkedIn
Photo of Guy Brenner Guy Brenner

Guy Brenner is a partner in the Labor & Employment Law Department and leads the Firm’s Washington, D.C. Labor & Employment practice. He is head of the Government Contractor Compliance Group, co-head of the Counseling, Training & Pay Equity Group and a member…

Guy Brenner is a partner in the Labor & Employment Law Department and leads the Firm’s Washington, D.C. Labor & Employment practice. He is head of the Government Contractor Compliance Group, co-head of the Counseling, Training & Pay Equity Group and a member of the Restrictive Covenants, Trade Secrets & Unfair Competition Group. He has extensive experience representing employers in both single-plaintiff and class action matters, as well as in arbitration proceedings. He also regularly assists federal government contractors with the many special employment-related compliance challenges they face.

Guy represents employers in all aspects of employment and labor litigation and counseling, with an emphasis on non-compete and trade secrets issues, medical and disability leave matters, employee/independent contractor classification issues, and the investigation and litigation of whistleblower claims. He assists employers in negotiating and drafting executive agreements and employee mobility agreements, including non-competition, non-solicit and non-disclosure agreements, and also conducts and supervises internal investigations. He also regularly advises clients on pay equity matters, including privileged pay equity analyses.

Guy advises federal government contractors and subcontractors all aspects of Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) regulations and requirements, including preparing affirmative action plans, responding to desk audits, and managing on-site audits.

Guy is a former clerk to Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the US District Court of the District of Columbia.

Photo of Laura Fant Laura Fant

Laura Fant is a special employment law counsel in the Labor & Employment Law Department and co-administrative leader of the Counseling, Training & Pay Equity Practice Group. Her practice is dedicated to providing clients with practical solutions to common (and uncommon) employment concerns…

Laura Fant is a special employment law counsel in the Labor & Employment Law Department and co-administrative leader of the Counseling, Training & Pay Equity Practice Group. Her practice is dedicated to providing clients with practical solutions to common (and uncommon) employment concerns, with a focus on legal compliance, risk management and mitigation strategies, and workplace culture considerations.

Laura regularly counsels clients across numerous industries on a wide variety of employment matters involving recruitment and hiring, employee leave and reasonable accommodation issues, performance management, and termination of employment . She also advises on preparing, implementing and enforcing employment and separation agreements, employee handbooks and company policies, as well as provides training on topics including discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Laura is a frequent contributor to Proskauer’s Law and the Workplace blog and The Proskauer Brief podcast.

Photo of Theresa Madonna Theresa Madonna

Theresa Madonna is an associate in the Labor & Employment Law Department and a member of the Employment Litigation-Discrimination, Harassment & Title VII Practice Group and the Employment Counseling and Training Group.

During her time at Proskauer, Theresa has focused on a wide…

Theresa Madonna is an associate in the Labor & Employment Law Department and a member of the Employment Litigation-Discrimination, Harassment & Title VII Practice Group and the Employment Counseling and Training Group.

During her time at Proskauer, Theresa has focused on a wide range of employment matters, including employment discrimination litigation and client-counseling. She has assisted in representing employers in litigation and investigations related to claims of workplace harassment, discrimination, retaliation and wrongful discharge. In addition to her litigation practice, Theresa counsels clients regarding employee policies, handbooks, offer-letters and noncompetition and independent contractor agreements. She has gained experience across a wide variety of industries including health care institutions, education, real estate, media and entertainment, financial services and sports. As part of her pro bono practice, Theresa represents individuals in immigration matters and provides employment counseling to non-profit organizations.

Theresa earned her J.D. summa cum laude from Boston University School of Law, where she was a member of the Boston University Law Review and a Legal Research and Writing Fellow. During law school, she was a clinical student attorney and represented clients in employment, housing, and family law matters. Additionally, she interned for the Honorable Juan R. Torruella of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Theresa also received Boston University School of Law’s William L. and Lillian Berger Achievement Prize for exemplary scholastic achievement.

Prior to law school, Theresa was an in-house paralegal at a Boston-based technology company.