Between July 15, 2020 and December 31, 2020, Colorado’s new Healthy Families and Workplace Act (“HFWA”) requires all employers to provide up to 80 hours of paid sick leave to employees for reasons related to COVID-19 (e.g., having COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a diagnosis, being subject to a quarantine or isolation order, caring for someone subject to a quarantine or isolation order, or caring for a child during a COVID-19 related school closure). In essence, the HFWA requires Colorado employers of all sizes to provide leave in accordance with the emergency paid sick leave provisions of the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) for the remainder of 2020.
Effective January 1, 2021, the HFWA will require covered Colorado employers to provide workers with up to 48 hours of general paid sick leave per year (plus an additional allotment of paid leave during a public health emergency for reasons related to communicable illness).
Who Is Covered by Colorado’s HFWA?
Beginning January 1, 2021 through December 31, 2021, employers with 16 or more employees will be required to provide accrued paid sick leave to their employees pursuant to the HFWA. On January 1, 2022, that requirement will be extended to all employers regardless of size.
An employee will be eligible to use accrued paid leave when:
a. The employee:
- Has a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition that prevents the employee from working;
- Needs to obtain a medical diagnosis, care or treatment of a mental of physical illness, injury or health condition; or
- Needs to obtain preventative medical care;
b. The employee needs to care for a family member who:
- Has a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition;
- Needs to obtain a medical diagnosis, care or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury or health condition; or
- Needs to obtain preventative medical care;
c. The employee or the employee’s family member has been the victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or harassment and the use of leave is to:
- Seek medical attention for the employee or the employee’s family member to recover from a mental or physical illness, injury or health condition caused by the domestic abuse, sexual assault, or harassment;
- Obtain services from a victim services organization;
- Obtain mental health or other counseling;
- Seek relocation due to the domestic abuse, sexual assault, or harassment; or
- Seek legal services, including preparation for or participation in a civil or criminal proceeding relating to or resulting from the domestic abuse, sexual assault, or harassment; or
d. Due to a public health emergency, a public official has ordered closure of:
- The employee’s place of business; or
- The school or place of care for the employee’s child and the employee needs to be absent from work to care for the employee’s child.
Employee Benefits Under the New HFWA Law
Employees must accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to 48 hours, or six eight-hour workdays of accrued time. Employees begin accruing paid leave on the first day of employment. Unused paid leave must be carried over to subsequent years, but employers are not required to allow the use of more than 48 hours of paid sick leave in a year. The law also prohibits retaliation against employees who use paid sick leave.
Public Health Emergencies and the HFWA
The HFWA also requires all employers regardless of size to provide additional paid sick leave during a declared public health emergency in an amount based on the number of hours worked by the employee. During a public health emergency, up to a total of 80 hours of paid leave must be provided to each full-time employee (or, for an employee working under 40 hours per week, two weeks of their regular hours).
This additional emergency paid sick leave will be available to use until four weeks after the official termination of the public health emergency and will cover: a) an employee’s self-isolation due to a COVID-19 diagnosis or symptoms; b) an employee seeking a medical diagnosis, care or treatment for COVID-19 symptoms; c) an employee seeking preventive care related to COVID-19; d) an employee unable to work due to a preexisting condition that makes the employee more susceptible to COVID-19; e) an employee who has been deemed unsafe to return to the community or workplace by a public health official, or who is caring for a family member who has been designated as such; f) to care for a family member who is self-isolating due to a COVID-19 diagnosis or symptoms, seeking a diagnosis, care, or treatment for COVID-19 symptoms, or seeking preventive care related to COVID-19; and g) an employee caring for a family member or child whose school or child care facility is closed due to the public health emergency.
What Should Employers Do?
Employers should determine whether paid leave provided to their employees under company policy or a collective bargaining agreement meets or exceeds the requirements of the HWFA. If not, employers should work with counsel to update their policies and procedures as necessary to comply with Colorado’s new law. Employers are also encouraged to review the Colorado Department of Labor & Employment’s Interpretive Notices on the HFWA (INFO# 6A and INFO# 6B) for additional details, including posting and notification requirements, and information about how paid leave provided to employees under Colorado’s Health Emergency Leave with Pay (HELP) Rules may be credited towards HFWA leave for 2020.
What ReedGroup Is Doing
ReedGroup does not administer accrued paid sick leave laws for most clients, but we monitor changes to sick leave laws to keep our clients up to date so they can create or revise internal policies and processes accordingly. Subscribe to our blog to receive leave law updates straight to your inbox.
If you’re looking for assistance managing claims or to ensure compliance across your organization, Reed Group has solutions for you. Check out our offerings here.
Information provided on this blog is intended for general educational use. It is not intended to provide legal advice. ReedGroup does not provide legal services. Consult an attorney for legal advice on this or any other topic.