The Catholic University of America

Summary of District of Columbia Laws


Workers' Compensation Act

D.C. Code Ann. §§ 32-1501 to 32-1545 [Formerly 36-301 et seq.]

The Law: Private-sector employers were previously governed under the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act, but are now administered by the D.C. Department of Employment Services pursuant to the D.C. Code. The Workers' Compensation Act is invoked whether or not the injury or death occurred in the District of Columbia, as long as the employee was injured while working for the employer in the District, or outside the District if the employment is principally located in the District. However, one is not covered if the worker receives benefits from another state; is a casual employee at the time of the injury; or is covered by the laws of another state while temporarily working inside the District. In order for the Act to apply and coverage to occur, it is important to establish jurisdiction and the employer-employee relationship. There is a presumption that, without evidence to the contrary, the claim falls under the Act and sufficient notice of the claim has been given. For more information, see The D.C Practice Manual(2003 ed.) Chapter 29 - Workers' Compensation.

Coverage: In order to be covered under the Act, the employer-employee relationship must be established either by the "right of control" test, or the "relative nature of the work" test.

(1) Right of Control: This test focuses on such factors as the direct evidence of a right or exercise of control, the method of payment, the furnishing of equipment, and the right to fire. For example, this test would be satisfied where the employer assigns general duties without providing direct supervision or training, but not when the employee just receives a straight commission, maintains supervisory control, can't be fired, and provides his own training and tools. See generally, Jones v. John's Properties, H&AS No. 88-420A (Dec. 28, 1988); Saah v. Adler & Son, H&AS No. 84-543 (June 17, 1986); and Coe v. KCS Communications, H&AS No. 93-84 (Aug. 22, 1994).

(2) Relative Nature of the Work: This test analyzes whether the work being done by the employee is an integral part of the business of the employer and not for the employee's own independent business or professional service. See generally, Culley v. Falcon Express Couriers, H&AS No. 91-353 (July 19, 1992); and Derenberger v. Derenberger Reporting Co., H&AS No. 91-485 (Apr. 12, 1995).

Only accidental injuries are covered. An intentional, self-inflicted injury will not be compensated. Where the conditions of employment result in the injury and there is a causal relationship between the injury and the employment, the employee may recover under the Act. The cause of the injury itself need not be unexpected or accidental, only the injury itself. See D.C. Code Ann. § 32-1501(12). For examples of "accidental injuries" and those which are covered, see The District of Columbia Practice Manual, Chapter 29 - Workers' Compensation.

Benefits: The amount of the compensation will depend on the employee's average weekly wage during the 26-week period of employment prior to the injury. This formula will depend on whether the employee is paid by the day, hour, or output and whether the employee is paid weekly, monthly, or yearly. After this number has been calculated, the compensation rate is 66 2/3 percent (66 2/3%) of the employee's weekly wage. See D.C. Code Ann. §§ 32-1511 and 32-1508(1). Employers are obligated to provide vocational rehabilitation and to assist the injured employee with finding suitable alternative employment.

Death benefits will be paid to the surviving spouse and the children of the employee if the work-related injury resulted in death. Also, funeral expenses up to $5,000 may be allowed. If the employee had neither spouse nor children, a dependent parent may be entitled to the benefit totaling 25 percent (25%) of the wages earned during the dependence. See D.C. Code Ann. § 32-1509.

Medical Care: The Act provides that the employer "shall furnish such medical, surgical, vocational rehabilitation services including necessary travel expenses and other attendance or treatments, nursing and hospital service, medicine, crutches, false teeth or repair thereof, eyeglasses or repair thereof, artificial or any prosthetic appliance for such period as the nature of injury or the process of the recovery may require." D.C. Code Ann. § 32-1507(a). In addition, the employee may select the physician, but all services and care are subject to a utilization review to determine their necessity, character, and sufficiency. An employer must provide health care insurance for up to 52 weeks at the employee's own expense. However, the employee may be reimbursed from the "Special Fund" under the Act if certain requirements are met. See The D.C Practice Manual, Chapter 29 - Workers' Compensation.

Notice: An employee/beneficiary is required to give the employer and the Mayor written notice of the injury or death within 30 days after it occurred or within 30 days after the employee has become aware, or with due diligence should have become aware, of the injury relating to his employment. The claim will be barred without notice unless the employee had knowledge and has not been prejudiced by the late or failed notice, or if the Director of the Office of Workers' Compensation excuses the failure. See D.C. Code Ann. § 32-1513; D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 7, § 206.

See Required Posting for Workplace.

Employer Reports: An employer must keep a record of all injuries to employees. The employer's report must be sent to the Mayor within 10 days of the injury or of knowledge of the injury and include the name, address, and business of the employer; the name, address, and occupation of the employee; the cause and nature of the injury or death; and the year, month, day, hour, and locality where the injury/death occurred. Additional reports must be sent to the Mayor when requested regarding the condition of the employee. See D.C. Code Ann. §§ 32-1531, 1532; D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 7, § 203.

Penalties: If any compensation under an award is not paid within 10 days of the date on which it was due, an additional 20 percent (20%) is added to the benefit, though this penalty is not mandatory. The Mayor may waive the additional compensation if the employer can show that due to conditions over which he had no control he could not make such payment within the period prescribed. . . See D.C. Code Ann. §§ 32-1515 and. 32-1528.

Unemployment Compensation--Eligibility; Proposed Rule, 70 Fed. Reg. 42474, July 22, 2005

The Department of Labor (Department) is proposing this rule to implement the requirements of the Social Security Act (SSA) and the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) that limit a state's payment of unemployment compensation (UC) only to individuals who are able and available (A&A) for work. This rule would apply to all state UC laws and programs.

updated 8/14/15