Colorado Governor Signs Paid Leave Bill
Colorado Governor Jared Polis recently signed the Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (SB 20-205) into law, which requires employers of 16 or more employees to provide paid sick leave to all employees effective January 1, 2021.
Currently, there is no paid sick leave provided in Colorado.
Paid Sick & Safe Time (PSST) Leave
The Paid Sick and Safe Time leave will first be applicable to employers with 16 or more employees beginning on January 1, 2021, and then apply to all employers from January 1, 2022.
Employees will begin to accrue sick leave at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked, up to a yearly maximum of 48 hours effective January 1, 2021. Employees can immediately begin using their accrued sick leave as it is accrued.
Reasons for Leave
The employee has a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; needs a medical diagnosis, care, or treatment related to 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 a medical diagnosis, care, or treatment related to 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.
Definition of family members includes an employee’s immediate family member (a person related by blood, marriage, civil union, or adoption), a child to whom the employee stands in loco parentis, a person who stood in loco parentis to the employee when the employee was a minor, and a person for whom the employee is responsible for providing or arranging health- or safety-related care.
Employers who already have a pre-existing sick leave policy are not required to provide any additional sick leave if the employer’s plan meets or exceeds the requirements under the new law.
Employers may “front load” sick leave, which would provide employees with the total amount of required sick leave at the beginning of the year rather than waiting for the employee to accrue the hours.
Carry – Over
An employee’s unused sick leave must be carried over to the next year; however, an employer may limit the use of sick leave to 48 hours per calendar year.
Sick Leave Pay
Leave must be paid at the same rate of pay the employee is paid for regular working hours, or at the state minimum wage, whichever is greater. Employees transferred to a separate division of the same employer or to a successor employer must be allowed to transfer their accrued sick leave to their new place of employment.
Employers are required to notify each employee in writing of their right to paid sick leave and to display a poster in the workplace that will be developed by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.
Public Health Emergency Leave (PHEL)
Currently, Colorado employees are subject to the COVID-19 Sick Leave (CO-EPSL) which provides paid sick leave under the federal Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act in the FFCRA, Pub.L.116-127. This is effective up to December 31, 2020. There is no other public emergency leave in Colorado.
The COVID-19 Sick leave contained in the FFCRA requires covered employers to provide up to 80 hours of FFCRA paid sick leave to covered employees.
As per the Healthy Families and Workplaces Act, in the event of a public health emergency, employers must supplement an employee’s PSST to ensure the employee may take the following amounts of leave:
- For employees who normally work 40 hours or more per week: At least 80 hours.
- For employees who normally work fewer than 40 hours in a week: At least the greater of either the amount of time the employee is scheduled to work in a 14-day period or the amount of time the employee actually works during an average 14-day period.
Employers may count an employee’s unused PSST toward the PHEL the law requires. The Act defines a “public health emergency” to be:
- an act of bio-terrorism, pandemic influenza, or an epidemic caused by a novel and highly fatal infectious act, for which: 1) a disaster emergency is declared by the governor; or 2) an emergency is declared by a federal, state, or local public health agency;
- a highly infectious illness or agent with epidemic or pandemic potential for which a disaster emergency is declared by the governor.
Reasons for Leave
- To self-isolate and care for oneself (or a family member who is self-isolating) because the employee (or family member) is diagnosed with, or experience symptoms of, the communicable illness that is the cause for the public health emergency;
- To seek or obtain (or care for a family member who needs) medical diagnosis, care, or treatment if experiencing symptoms associated with a communicable illness that is the cause of the public health emergency.
- To seek (for oneself or a family member) preventive care concerning a communicable illness that is the cause of the public health emergency.
- If the individual’s presence on the job or in the community would jeopardize the health of others because of the individual’s exposure to the communicable illness or because the employee is exhibiting symptoms of the communicable illness (regardless of diagnosis), as determined by local officials with such authority or the employee’s or covered relation’s employer;
- To care for a child or other family member when the child’s care provider is unavailable due to a Public Health Emergency, or if the child’s or family member’s school or place of care has been closed by a local, state, or federal public official or at the discretion of the school or place of care due to a Public Health Emergency, including if a school or place of care is physically closed but providing instruction remotely; or
- If an employee is unable to work because the employee has a health condition that may increase susceptibility to or risk of communicable illness that is the cause of the Public Health Emergency.
An employee may use PHEL until 4 weeks after the official termination or suspension of the public health emergency. Employees need not supply documentation to take leave.
Employers may count an employee’s unused PSST toward the PHEL the law requires.
The Healthy Families and Workplaces Act does not provide a specific date by when the PHEL leave requirement begins. Considering that the CO-EPSL provisions will apply until December 31, 2020, and the PHEL provisions reference being in addition to paid sick and safe time, it is possible that the PHEL will be effective January 1, 2021.