Employment Law Alert – DC Expands Anti-Discrimination Protections to Independent Contractors and Increases Legal Exposure for DC Employers
November 7, 2022
The act also adds “homeless status” as a protected category, which is defined under the Act as “an individual or family that lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.” By way of operation, the Act also increases legal exposure of District of Columbia employers for workplace harassment claims.
The amendment to the Act extends employment rights to independent contractors that were previously not covered under the District of Columbia and federal anti-discrimination protections. Now, independent contractors who experience discrimination on the job—whether it be sexual harassment, lack of reasonable accommodation, or retaliation for protesting discrimination – are provided a private right of action. Under the Act, independent contractors can file a complaint with the DC Office of Human Rights or in court, just like an employee.
Many states have begun to focus on legislation to increase legal protections for independent contractors. Maryland’s Fair Employment Practices Act, in particular, is similar to the Human Rights Enhancement Act in that it includes an “individual working as independent contractor for an employer” in its definition of an “employee,” thereby bringing independent contractors within the protections of Maryland’s anti-discrimination provisions.
In short, these changes to Act expand the scope of individuals who can file harassment claims and the instances of alleged harassment for which an employer is liable. As such, now is a good time for employers to revisit policies and practices with respect to independent contractors and make sure that supervisors have appropriate training and guidance to prevent or limit conduct that could be construed as workplace harassment.
To read the full text of the Human Rights Enhancement Amendment Act of 2022, click here.If you have any questions about this Alert, we encourage you to reach out to your Shulman Rogers contact for solutions and recommendations for addressing these issues.
The contents of this Alert are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. If you have any questions about this Alert, please contact the Shulman Rogers attorney with whom you regularly work or a member of the Shulman Rogers Employment and Labor Law Group.