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How changes to the Washington DC Human Rights Act help workers

by | Oct 10, 2022 | Discrimination

The standard protections extended by federal employment laws apply to covered workers in Washington, DC. These include protection from discrimination related to certain protected characteristics and protection from retaliation when a worker engages in protected workplace activities, like opposing discrimination.

They also benefit from unique local laws. The DC Human Rights Act (DCHRA) goes further than federal law does when it comes to creating protected characteristics for the purposes of discrimination. The law in Washington DC acknowledges more kinds of protected characteristics that can lead to discrimination than the basic federal discrimination laws, and local lawmakers have recently passed a new bill expanding the law once again.

How will these changes potentially benefit workers?

Homelessness is now a protected characteristic

Unhoused individuals struggling to regain control over their finances and better provide for themselves often face an uphill battle when seeking both employment and housing. When the new bill becomes an effective part of the law, the section that previously referenced someone’s creditworthiness will now also include homelessness.

Those struggling to improve their lives after a stint of homelessness will no longer have to worry about their housing arrangements or lack thereof influencing their employment opportunities.

Independent contractors have greater protection, too

Some companies attempt to sidestep their obligations to workers by claiming that the rules that protect employees do not necessarily apply to independent contractors. The new bill specifically clarifies the legal code to confirm that the DCHRA also applies to independent contractors as well as unpaid interns.

It expands the definition of harassment

When someone makes a harassment claim under Federal law, they typically need to show a hostile work environment is severe or pervasive. The new DC law expands the definition of harassment to include any activity, including direct and indirect actions, that impact someone’s employment.

Learning more about the laws that protect you as an employee in Washington DC will help you make use of those protections and stand up for yourself when looking for a job or dealing with workplace discrimination or harassment.  If you are facing discrimination or harassment in the workplace, GEL may be able to help you.