Washington D.C. Wrongful Termination Laws

Learn if you have been wrongfully dismissed and are protected under Washington D.C. labor laws. Read on to find out more about illegal firings and Washington D.C. employment law.

The District of Columbia has some of the most comprehensive civil rights protection laws in the country, with numerous local laws supplementing the Federal Labor Standards Act of 1938 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And while there is a local EEOC office, which employees can contact for help, claims, or advice, employees may also file private civil suits with the help of an attorney. The District of Columbia is also an "at will" municipality, allowing both employees and employers to have the right to terminate employment for any reason except those specifically outlined in federal and local laws.

Washington D.C. Labor Laws

In addition to federal laws, there are a number of supplemental anti-discrimination laws relating to the workplace, which include the following:


State Law

Additional Benefits

Right to Work


State Minimum Wage

$7.00 or FLSA rate + $1.00

Maximum tip credit $4.23; minimum wage for tipped employees $2.79

State Military Leave


Jury Duty


Paid leave for full-time employees, regular pay for first 5 days





No employee can have more than 10% of gross wages withheld in any month until $200 or more has been withheld; no more than 20% in any month until $500 or more withheld; no limit on garnishments; no retaliation allowed; $2 fee for each child support garnishment

State Family & Medical Leave


For employers with 20 or more employees; employees who have worked a year or at least 1,000 hours or more in previous 12 months; 16 weeks leave in any 12-month period for childbirth, adoption, maternity, or serious health condition of employee or family member; leave for school events up to 24 hours/year; family members must be related by blood, custody, or marriage, share the residence, a committed relationship, or a permanent parent-child responsibility/relationship

Arrest & Conviction Records


Employee not required to reveal any record that has been expunged



1 or more employees; age (18 and older); national origin; disability (physical or mental), HIV/AIDS; gender; marital status (including domestic partnerships); pregnancy, child birth, & parenthood; race; religion; sexual orientation; genetic testing; enrollment in vocational or higher education; family duties; source of income; place of residence or business; personal appearance; political affiliation; smoking; anything other than individual merit



Public employees

Plant Closings


For new contractors assuming service contracts with 25 or more nonprofessional employees (food, health, janitorial); within 10 days new contractor must hire all former employees with at least 8 months service for 90 days, after which a written performance review is the basis for retaining only satisfactory employees; replaced contractors awarded similar contracts within 30 days must hire 50% or more of former employees

*These laws change often, so consult local statutes for the most up-to-date information.

District of Columbia Discrimination Laws

District of Columbia has a wide range of supplemental local laws protecting employees from wrongful termination. Those laws are in addition to the federal laws protecting the basic rights of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. If discrimination occurs, employees may file a claim with local agencies or through a private employee rights attorney, according to these guidelines:

  • The state does not preempt the right of employees to privately pursue discrimination claims for wrongful termination.
  • Employees are permitted to recover attorney's fees from a defendant.
  • Statute of limitations is 1 year.

Filing a Claim for Wrongful Termination in Washington D.C.

Those who are victims of wrongful termination may file a claim with the District of Columbia EEOC as well as the Office of Human Rights, which, if they deem the case valid, will pursue the following procedures:

  • Investigation
  • Mediation/Conciliation
  • File a lawsuit, when appropriate

Legal Remedies for Wrongful Termination

Employees may expect any or all of the following remedies from local agencies or private lawsuits:

  • Reinstatement
  • Reinstatement of benefits and seniority
  • Back pay
  • Compensation for stress and suffering
  • Punitive damages to prevent further abuses by the employer
  • Mandated policy changes to protect other employees in that company
  • Possibly court costs and attorney's fees

District of Columbia employers who fail to abide by federal or state employment standards for hiring and firing may face the following penalties:

  • Jury duty – criminal contempt of court with fines of up to $300 and/or 30 days in jail for first offense, up to $5,000 and/or 180 days in jail thereafter; also liable to employee for lost wages, reinstatement, and attorney's fees.
  • Garnishment – for discrimination based on child support withholding (which includes taking longer than 90 days to comply with garnishment requests), penalties include fines of up to $10,000 paid to employee for use in satisfying child support payments.
  • Whistleblower – may file civil suit within 1 year statute of limitations.

Employees are free to contact the EEOC office or the local Office of Human Rights in the District of Columbia, or they can consult an employee rights attorney to protect their rights in relation to wrongful termination claims. And while the statute of limitations is 1 year for most cases, it is wise to move quickly and give EEOC officials or a lawyer time to investigate these cases thoroughly to determine the proper course of action and receive the appropriate solution.

Local Resources

District of Columbia EEOC Offices

Washington Field Office

1801 L Street, NW, Suite 100
Washington, DC 20507
202-419-0700 or 800-669-4000
TTY: 202-275-7518 or 800-669-6820
FAX: 202-419-0740

Office of Human Rights

Washington, DC

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Remedies Available for a Wrongful Termination Claim

Find out what a court can award if you win a wrongful termination lawsuit.

Is Forced Retirement Legal?

With a few exceptions, employers may not adopt a mandatory retirement age.

Collecting Unemployment After Being Fired

If you're fired for misconduct, you won't be eligible for unemployment benefits.

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