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New Law Prohibits Discrimination Based on Homeless Status and Protects Independent Contractors

A new District of Columbia (D.C.) law that expands and clarifies existing prohibitions against discrimination will go into effect on Oct. 1, 2022. The new law amends the D.C. Human Rights Act (HRA) to:

· Prohibit employers from discriminating against individuals based on homeless status;

· Extend all protections against employment discrimination to independent contractors; and

· Clarify and enhance existing protections against workplace harassment.

Discrimination Based on Homeless Status

As of Oct. 1, 2022, employers may face legal action if they discriminate based on homelessness. Under the HRA, it is unlawful for employers in D.C. to discriminate against an applicant or employee based on certain protected traits, including race, color, religion, sex, age, disability, political affiliation and others. The new law adds homeless status to the list. For this purpose, the term “homeless” generally means lacking a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence.

Independent Contractor Protection

The new law expands the HRA’s existing definition of the term “employee”— which is an individual employed by or seeking employment from an employer and includes unpaid interns—to include individuals working or seeking work as an independent contractor. These individuals do not include service vendors who provide a discrete service to an individual customer.

New Harassment Provisions

The new law clarifies that it is unlawful for an employer to engage in harassment based on one or more protected traits. It also lists factors that must be considered when determining whether harassment occurred.

Important Dates

- July 25, 2022 D.C. enacted the Human Rights Enhancement Act of 2022 to expand existing protections against discrimination and workplace harassment.

- Oct. 1, 2022 The new law goes into effect. Employers in D.C. must ensure that their policies and practices comply with new provisions.

This Legal Update is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel for legal advice. ©2022 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.

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