Colorado employers will soon be required to provide workers with up to six paid sick days per year under the Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA), signed into law by Governor Jared Polis on July 14, 2020. As part of the HFWA, Colorado employees will also be entitled to additional paid sick leave in the event of a public health emergency.
The majority of the HFWA will take effect and apply to businesses with at least 16 employees beginning on January 1, 2021 and will be expanded to cover businesses having fewer than 16 employees starting on January 1, 2022. However, a part of the new law that broadens the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) will take effect immediately, staying in place through December 31, 2020. Specifically, the HFWA requires Colorado employers to provide two weeks of paid sick leave to employees affected by COVID-19, regardless of the number of employees they have. This is in contrast to the requirement under the FFCRA, which does not apply to employers having more than 500 employees.
Under the new law, Colorado employees will earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to a total of 48 hours (or six eight-hour workdays) of paid sick leave in a year. The leave can be used for the following purposes:
- The employee has a mental or physical illness, injury or health condition; needs to obtain a medical diagnosis, care or treatment of such illness, injury or condition; or needs to obtain preventive medical care.
- 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 such illness, injury or condition; or needs to obtain preventive medical care.
- The employee or family member has been the victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault or harassment and needs to be absent from work for purposes related to such crime.
- A public official has ordered the closure of the school or place of care of the employee's child or of the employee's place of business due to a public health emergency, necessitating the employee's absence from work.
In the event of a public health emergency, employees will be entitled to additional sick leave of up to 80 hours, based on the number of hours the employee works.
Although employees will be allowed to roll over unused paid sick time into subsequent calendar years, they will not be permitted to use more than 48 hours in a given year. Employers are not required to reimburse employees for unused paid sick leave upon separation from employment, though employees may recover paid sick leave as a remedy for retaliatory personnel action that prevented them from using paid sick leave.
If a Colorado employer already provides sick leave that is comparable to that mandated by the HFWA, and if it allows employees to use that leave as permitted under the act, the employer is not required to provide additional paid sick leave. Employers may provide more paid sick leave than that required by the new law.
Employers must notify their employees of their rights under the HFWA by providing a written notice of their rights and by displaying a poster, developed by the Colorado Division of Labor Standards and Statistics, that details employees’ rights under the HFWA. In addition, the new law imposes documentation requirements for tracking the accrual and use of sick time.
In enacting the HFWA, Colorado joins twelve states and the District of Columbia, which have already adopted similar legislation.
The HFWA can be read in its entirety here.