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DC Has Amended Its Anti-Discrimination Law and Its Definition of Harassment

The District of Columbia (DC) has amended its anti-discrimination law to add “homeless status” as a protected characteristic, to broadly define harassment and sexual harassment, and to extend coverage to independent contractors. DC’s antidiscrimination law applies to employers of all sizes. The amendments took effect on October 1, 2022.

The updated definitions of harassment, including sexual harassment eliminate the “severe and pervasive” standard, lowering the bar for what constitutes harassment.

Next Steps for Employers

Employers should not inquire about an applicant’s or employee’s living situation or use that information when making employment decisions.

Employers should also update their equal employment opportunity policy to add homeless status to the list of protected characteristics, in addition to, updating their harassment policies by removing any reference to the “severe or pervasive” standard.

Best practice is to also ensure that recruiters and supervisors/managers have been trained on these updates, including how to recognize conduct that could constitute harassment and how to respond appropriately.

HR Works, headquartered in Upstate New York, is a human resource management outsourcing and consulting firm serving clients throughout the United States for over thirty years. HR Works provides scalable strategic human resource management and consulting services, including: affirmative action programs; benefits administration outsourcing; HRIS self-service technology; full-time, part-time and interim on-site HR managers; HR audits; legally reviewed employee handbooks and supervisor manuals; talent management and recruiting services; and training of managers and HR professionals.