Gov. Jared Polis signed the Colorado Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA) on July 14, 2020, and it became effective at the start of this year. It requires that all employers provide each employee paid sick leave as and to provide statutory notice of such rights. Among other changes to Colorado’s requirements pertaining to paid sick leave, each employee now earns at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, though employees are not entitled to earn or use more than 48 hours of paid sick leave each year, unless the employer allows a higher limit. Employers are prohibited from engaging in retaliatory personnel actions when employees use paid sick leave, which now must begin to accrue when an employee begins working and can be used as it is accrued. HFWA does not allow for any vesting of paid sick leave.
Up to 48 hours of accrued, but unused, paid sick leave are required to be carried forward into, and can be used in, a subsequent year. That said, employers are not required to allow employees to use more than 48 hours of paid sick leave in a year.
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The act does not require employers to provide financial or other reimbursement of unused paid sick leave to an employee upon separation from employment. However, an employee may recover paid sick leave as a remedy if the employer is deemed to have engaged in a “retaliatory personnel action,” as defined in HFWA, that prevented the employee from using paid sick leave. If, however, an employee is rehired by an employer within six months after the separation, the employer must reinstate any accrued, but unused, paid sick leave from the employee’s previous employment that had not been converted to monetary compensation and paid out to the employee at the time of the separation.
If an employing company is sold, all employees of the original employer who remain employed are entitled to all paid sick leave that they accrued when employed by the original company and are entitled to use it as specified in the act.
Employers must allow employees to use their accrued paid sick leave to be absent from work when the employee: 1) has a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition that prevents him or her from working; 2) needs to obtain diagnosis, care, or treatment for such a condition; or 3) needs to obtain preventative care. Paid sick leave may also be used when the employee needs to care for a family member, as defined in HFWA, under any of these scenarios or when the employee or the employee’s family member needs time to deal with the results of domestic abuse, sexual assault or harassment.
Employers must allow employees to use paid sick leave upon request, which can be provided verbally, in writing, electronically or by any other means deemed acceptable to the employer. Employees must use paid sick leave in hourly increments unless the employer allows it to be taken in shorter increments of time. Employers are prohibited from requiring, as a condition on the use of paid sick leave, employees to search for or find a replacement worker to cover for them while they are out, though they may require reasonable documentation that the paid sick leave is used for a purpose authorized by the Act when an employee takes paid sick leave of four or more consecutive workdays.
The act provides additional requirements, and additional paid sick leave, during public health emergencies, as defined by HFWA, or related to COVID-19. Since Gov. Polis has since lifted public health emergencies or restrictions related to COVID-19, those provisions are not detailed in this article. The act also provides for specific requirements related to confidentiality and recordkeeping.
If you have not reviewed your paid sick leave policies recently, it’s a good time to do so, or to discuss policies with the human resources department or service provider to ensure that you are in compliance with HFWA.