Colorado Expands Paid Sick Leave Law for COVID-19 and Beyond

Author: David B. Weisenfeld, XpertHR Legal Editor

July 31, 2020

Earlier this month, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed a law requiring employers to provide paid sick leave under a host of situations, including a coronavirus (COVID-19) provision that goes beyond the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).

Under the Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA), Colorado employers must provide at least two weeks of paid leave through December 31, 2020, to an employee who:

  • Has COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis;
  • Is instructed by a health provider or government agent to quarantine or isolate due to COVID-19 risk; or
  • Is taking care of someone else due to COVID-19 precautions, either someone who is self-isolating or a child whose school or childcare is closed or unavailable.

Unlike the FFCRA, which does not apply to employers with 500 or more employees, the Colorado Act's COVID-19 provisions apply to any employer of any size. An employee may use paid sick leave under the Colorado law until four weeks after the official termination or suspension of the public health emergency. But that's not all.

Effective January 1, 2021, Colorado will also require employers with 16 or more employees to provide up to 48 hours (six days) of paid sick leave per year. Under the HFWA, an employee may earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked up to the 48 hours and may start earning the leave when their employment begins. Any unused paid sick leave rolls over into the next year.

Effective January 1, 2022, all Colorado employers will be subject to the law regardless of size.

The HFWA also includes an anti-retaliation provision that prohibits employers from taking any retaliatory personnel action or discriminating against an employee or former employee for exercising any of the following rights:

  • Requesting or using paid sick leave;
  • Filing a complaint or informing anyone about any employer's alleged violation;
  • Participating or cooperating in an investigation, hearing or proceeding involving an employer's alleged violations; or
  • Informing any person of their potential rights.

Colorado Public Health Emergency Whistleblower Law

Along similar lines, Colorado's new Public Health Emergency Whistleblower law (PHEW), bars employers from discriminating or retaliating against any worker who raises claims related to a public health emergency.

PHEW covers employees who in good faith raise any reasonable concern about violations of government health and safety rules related to a public health emergency if the employer controls the workplace conditions giving rise to the threat or violation.

Employers also may not require, or attempt to require, employees to sign a contract that would limit or prevent them from disclosing information about workplace health and safety practices or hazards.

Covered employers include:

  • Employers covered under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act;
  • A foreign labor contractor and a migratory field labor contractor or crew leader;
  • The State of Colorado, local governments and political subdivisions; and
  • An entity that contracts with five or more independent contractors in the state each year.

All Colorado employers subject to the PHEW and the HFWA must be aware that the laws contain a notice-posting requirement. This notice must be displayed in a place accessible to workers and shared with remote workers electronically or on paper.