Legislature Passes New Paid Leave Legislation
July 21, 2020
On July 14, 2020, Gov. Polis signed SB20-205 into law. The legislation creates three categories of leave: 1) it expands the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) emergency paid sick leave to apply to employers who employ 500 or more employees; 2) it creates paid sick and safe leave for Colorado employees; and 3) it creates public health emergency leave for Colorado employees.
FFCRA’s emergency paid sick leave provisions apply to employers with fewer than 500 employees. The legislation expands the application of these provisions to employers with 500 or more employees. However, it does not provide tax credits to employers who provide leave under the law and is only effective until December 30, 2020.
The legislation requires employers to provide one hour of paid sick and safe leave for every 30 hours a Colorado employee works. An employee may earn up to 48 hours per year in this manner and unused hours can carry forward into the next year. An employer can offer this leave “up front” and employers that already have policies which provide this leave plus public health emergency leave at least as generous as that provided by the legislation may be exempt. Employees can use this leave to deal with physical or mental illness with themselves or their family members, as well as to deal with issues relating to domestic abuse, sexual assault, or harassment. This leave applies to employers with 16 or more employees beginning on January 1, 2021, and then will apply to all employers on January 1, 2022.
Finally the legislation requires employers to give employees up to 80 hours of leave in the event of a public health emergency, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. The paid sick and safety leave established by this legislation can be applied toward this leave, and employees can access it for up to four weeks after the emergency is officially declared over. The employee can use this leave to take care of himself or herself or a family member who is affected by the cause of the emergency, and to take care of a child who does not have access to child care as a result of the emergency. Employees must notify their employers of the need to take this leave as soon as practicable.
The legislation also requires employers to post notices regarding employees’ rights to this leave, and employers are prohibited from requiring employees to waive their access to this leave and from finding replacement workers when they take the leave. Employees will have a private cause of action to enforce this legislation in civil court, although there is an administrative requirement to report alleged violations to the state’s Department of Labor and Employment and allow that agency to resolve the matter first.
Employers with employees in the state should be aware of this new legislation. If the governor signs it into law, regulations and model notices will soon follow, so employers should keep their eyes open for those as well.