By Martha J. Cardi, Chief Compliance Officer, and Megan G. Holstein, Senior Counsel, Compliance and Employment Law

Colorado has joined states such as California and Oregon in providing employees in a civil union or domestic partnership the right to take an FMLA-like leave to care for the employee’s partner with a serious health condition. On Friday, May 3, Colorado Governor Hickenlooper signed the Colorado Family Care Act, HB 13-1222, to be effective on August 7, 2013. Features of the new law include the following:

  • Eligible Colorado employees may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period to care for a civil union or domestic partner with a serious health condition.  The partners can be of the same or different sex.
  • The leave is available to eligible employees who are:
    • in a civil union under Colorado law;
    • in a domestic partnership that is registered in the municipality in which the person resides or with the state.  Presently, Denver and Boulder have domestic partnership registries; or
    • in a domestic partnership recognized by the employee’s employer.
  • Employers may require reasonable documentation of the employee’s relationship with the civil union or domestic partner.  Documentation can be a simple written statement of the relationship from the employee.
  • The law adopts all other definitions and parameters set forth in the federal FMLA, including rules regarding employee eligibility, covered employers, leave amount, and leave usage.

Up to 24 Weeks of Leave Possible

An employee who takes leave under the Family Care Act may also be eligible for an additional 12 weeks of leave under the FMLA because the FMLA does not include civil unions or domestic partners as covered relationships for whom leave can be taken.

However, the sequence of leaves taken will determine whether an employee may take advantage of this second opportunity for leave.  If an employee first takes leave in a leave year for a reason that qualifies under the federal FMLA law, that time will count toward the Colorado entitlement as well, and the employee will not be entitled to additional leave under the Colorado Family Care Act during that same leave year.  On the other hand, if the employee first takes FMLA-like leave under the Colorado act to care for a civil union or domestic partner, that time cannot be counted against his or her FMLA entitlement, which remains complete at 12 weeks (barring other prior usage).

Note:  The Colorado law provides that leave taken pursuant to the act “runs concurrently with leave taken under the [federal] FMLA”, and that the act does not “increase the total amount of leave to which an employee is entitled” under the Colorado law, the FMLA, or both.  However, a state law cannot serve to deny an employee his or her federal FMLA leave rights by counting toward FMLA leave usage the employee’s time off to care for a person in a relationship that is not covered by the FMLA, i.e., a civil union or domestic partnership (29 C.F.R. § 825.701(a)(3).

A link to the text of the bill can be found here.  For previous discussions about leaves of absences as they relate to civil unions, domestic partners, and same sex-marriages, see Reed Group’s earlier blog post.

What Employers Must Do Now

Colorado employers are responsible for compliance with the Family Care Act beginning on August 7.  In the meantime, employers should:

  • Update handbooks or employment policies to reflect this new Colorado leave of absence right;
  • Train appropriate personnel (Human Resources, Benefits, etc.) on how to manage leaves under the Colorado Family Care Act;
  • Train supervisors and managers on the new type of leave so they can help spot covered absences and enlist HR assistance; and
  • Communicate the new law to Colorado employees.

Reed Group Will Be Ready for Colorado by August 7!

If you are using Reed Group’s leave management services or software we will be ready to manage your Colorado employees’ civil union/domestic partner leaves on August 7.  We will:

  • Update our signature LeavePro™ leave management software to encompass the new Colorado Family Care Act;
  • Create a new chapter to address the Colorado law in Leave of Absence Advisor™;
  • Update eligibility letters and packets for Colorado employees to reflect the parameters of the Colorado Family Care Act; and
  • Train staff and update scripts to be ready to administer the Colorado Family Care Act in time for its August 7 effective date.

 Have you tried Reed Group’s Leave of Absence Advisor ™?

Did you know that Colorado also has leaves for parental involvement in school activities, adopting bonding, and for victims of sexual assault or domestic abuse?

Keeping up with existing and new leave of absence laws is a full time job! But help is available: Reed Group’s Leave of Absence Advisor™ (LoAA) is a current and reliable reference tool that provides analysis, helpful tips, examples, and notes on best practices to administer the FMLA and state leave of absence laws.  Reed Group’s LoAA also tracks pending legislation so that you are on top of what new laws or amendments are on the legislative horizon that might impact your employees.  By using Reed Group’s LoAA, you don’t need to memorize all fifty states’ leave of absence laws or the FMLA; rather, you can have access to current information at your fingertips when the need arises.

When it comes to complying with leave of absence laws and regulations, you don’t have to go it alone.  Contact Reed Group with questions about any leave issue:

This spring, Colorado enacted a bill to recognize civil unions effective May 1, 2013.

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