Transportation Benefits Coming to D.C. Employees in 2016

November 4, 2015

In July 2014, the Council of the District of Columbia adopted and the then-mayor signed the Sustainable DC Omnibus Amendment Act of 2014, DC Law 20-385. The Act, among other things, brought about regulations and rules governing energy conservation, disposable food containers and bee colony density management. Notably, the Act also included a provision related to requirements that covered Washington, D.C. employers provide certain transportation benefit programs to all employees who work in the District. Such programs must be implemented and in place no later than Jan. 1, 2016. Thus, as 2015 comes to a close, all D.C. employers need to ensure they have instituted a benefit program to offset the cost of employees’ transportation to and from work.

The DC Transit Ordinance, DC Law 20-142, codified in Subtitle A of Title III of the Act as Reducing Single Occupancy Vehicle Use by Encouraging Transit Benefits, requires D.C. employers with 20 or more employees working in the District (i.e., “covered employers”) to provide certain options in the form of transportation benefit programs to all employees who work in the District. While many D.C. employers already provide transportation benefit programs and are therefore already compliant, those that do not (or those that do not offer such benefits to all District employees), will be required to make changes to their current plans.

Specifically, by Jan. 1, 2016, “covered employers” under the Act must offer at least one of the following transportation benefit options to all District employees:

  • Pre-tax transportation fringe benefits that provide “commuter highway vehicle, transit, or bicycling benefits…at least equal to the maximum amount that may be deducted for those programs from an employee’s gross income” set by the Internal Revenue Code (i.e., $100 per month for transportation in a commuter highway vehicle or transit pass).
  • A prepaid (by the employer) benefit program whereby, at the election of the employee, an employee can receive a transit pass for public transportation of the employee’s choice or “reimbursement of vanpooling or bicycling costs in [an] amount at least equal to the purchase price of a transit pass for an equivalent trip on a public transit system.”
  • “Employer-provided transportation at no cost to the covered employee in a vanpool or bus operated by or for the employer.”

Forms of public transport covered under the Act include transit passes for travel on any bus, streetcar or train operated by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Maryland Area Regional Commuter, Virginia Railway Express or Amtrak.

Any covered employer who fails to offer a transportation benefit program to its employees is subject to potential civil fines and penalties pursuant to the District of Columbia Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Civil Infractions Act of 1985. However, implementing rules and penalties are not yet in place.

For questions regarding the new D.C. transportation benefits requirements or assistance in establishing a program for covered employees, please reach out to your McGuireWoods contact, the authors or any other members of the McGuireWoods Washington, D.C. or Tysons Corner, VA labor and employment group.