Colorado Legislature Passes Paid Sick Leave Bill

June 23, 2020

By: Colin A. Walker

On the final day of the abbreviated 2020 Colorado legislative session, June 15, 2020, the Colorado Legislature passed the Healthy Families and Workplaces Act, Senate Bill 20-205. The bill requires all employers in Colorado to provide employees with up to 48 hours of paid sick leave, at their usual wage or salary rate, not including overtime or bonuses, but including benefits. Employees earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked and may carry up to 48 hours over to the next year, but the employer does not have to provide more than 48 hours of paid sick leave per year. Paid sick leave must be taken in hourly increments unless the employer allows leave to be taken in smaller increments. Employers are not required to pay employees for unused sick leave upon termination of employment.  

Unlike traditional sick leave policies, employees may take sick leave for health conditions of family members, the definition of which includes a person for whom the employee is responsible for providing or arranging health or safety-related care. Employees may take leave for the following reasons:

  • the employee’s own health condition;
  • the health condition of a family member;
  • to seek medical treatment, legal assistance, counseling, or to relocate because of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or harassment;
  • due to a public health emergency, the employee’s place of business has been closed or the employee’s child’s school or daycare has been closed.

Employees must provide reasonable notice of the need for leave, which may be verbal. Employers may require reasonable documentation for leave of four or more consecutive days.

The Act has a specific section for public health emergencies, which requires employers to supplement employees’ accrued paid sick leave to ensure that they may take up to 80 hours of paid leave for full-time employees and, for part time employees, the amount the employee is normally scheduled to work in a 14-day period or the average of the hours the employee actually works in a 14-day period, whichever is greater.  Employers may require employees to use accrued, unused paid sick leave for public health emergency leave.  Leave under this provision may be taken for a communicable illness of the employee or a family member, or to care for a child whose school or daycare is unavailable due to a public health emergency.  Documentation is not required for leave relating to a public health emergency. 

Employers subject to collective bargaining agreements may be exempt if they provide equivalent or more generous paid sick leave benefits. 

Employers are required to notify employees of their rights by posting or similar means and are required to retain records of leave for two years.

The Act prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for exercising their rights. An aggrieved employee may file a civil action in court, but must first file a complaint with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE).

The Act has not been signed by the Governor but he is expected to do so. It would take effect January 1, 2021.