Colorado Sick Leave, Vacation Pay and Paid Time Off Laws
Colorado employers do not have any local or state laws that require mandatory sick leave, but there are some specific rules regarding vacation leave and other types of leaves that employers should understand.
The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of Colorado leave laws and resources for questions.
Although, there is no Colorado law that requires mandatory paid or unpaid sick leave to be provided to employees, companies that promise leave to employees are under a legal obligation to provide leave.
Moreover, FMLA law provides protected unpaid leave for employees with a serious health condition or illness. FMLA leave can be taken in as little as partial day increments and so, employees who qualify for FMLA have a type of sick leave provided for them.
Another important thing for employers to know is that under Colorado law, employers who offer vacation pay and who have a “use it or lose it” policy must revise their policies. The Colorado Division of Labor has announced that once vacation pay has been earned it cannot be revoked.
This means that earned vacation days must be paid out to employees upon termination of employment and that vacation days cannot be lost at the end of the year.
The Division states on their website that “If an employer provides paid vacation for an employee, the employer shall pay upon separation from employment all vacation pay earned and determinable in accordance with the terms of any agreement between the employee and employer.”
Vacation days are not a required benefit for Colorado employers to provide, but if they do, they must pay out vacation days and cannot have a “use it or lose it” policy.
It is important to note that the policy applied specifically to vacation days and not to Paid Time Off (PTO) or sick days. Thus, employers can have a “use it or lose it” policy as it relates to sick leave and PTO, but their employment policies should not include any references to “vacation days.”
Colorado Family Care Act
The Colorado Family Care Act (FCA) was passed in 2013. The act attempts to expand the coverage provided under the Federal FMLA.
The Family Care Act covers all employee that are covered under FMLA. It provides 12 weeks of protected leave and provides reasons for leave that are “in addition” to the reasons stated under FMLA. It further states that FCA leave should run concurrently with FMLA.
However, Colorado does not have the right to expand federal law, and so it actually provides additional protected leave for employees.
Expansions under Family Care Act
The FCA expands the relationships that an employee can take leave to include any relationship that is related by blood, marriage, adoption, legal custody, civil union, or in a committed “live in” relationship. This means that domestic partners are a qualified relationship as are siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, parents in-law and others. Additionally, children over 18 yrs are also included in the law.
This is an expansion of the FMLA guidelines which allow leave for a parent, a child under 18 yrs old, and a spouse.
Employer Requirements to Stay Compliant with FCA and FMLA
Colorado law cannot alter Federal law, and despite language in the Act that states leave should be taken “concurrently.” Therefore, the Colorado Family Care Act actually provides additional 12 weeks of leave for employees. An employee can take off 12 weeks of leave to care for a domestic partner and employers cannot count that time toward the Federal FMLA or they risk penalties by the US Department of Labor.
For more information on the aspects of FCA and FMLA please see our article on balancing FMLA and Colorado’s Family Care.
Colorado Domestic Abuse Leave
Another leave provided in Colorado is the Domestic Abuse Leave. This leave provides victims of domestic violence up to 3 days of protected leave in a 12 month period through the Domestic Abuse Leave Law (Colo. Rev. Stat. §24-34-402.7). Employees can be required by employers to exhaust other leave such as vacation, personal and sick days. Employers can also waive that requirement.
Domestic Abuse Leave can be taken if the employee is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Employees can take leave to seek legal redress, protection and counseling.
- To Seek Civil Protection
- Obtain medical care or mental health care for the employee or their children relating to the domestic violence, stalking or sexual assault
- Seek new housing or make existing housing secure from further abuse
Employers must keep information confidential. Employees who are seeking remedies for violation of the Act can file a civil suit to recover wages and benefits and would have been due to the employee.
Jury Duty Leave
In addition Colorado employees can utilize Jury Duty leave. Under Jury Duty Leave the first the days are paid leave covered by the employer. Colorado employee are required to provide the first three days of pay to employees who are serving on a jury. The employee is to be paid regular wages up to $50 a day. However, the employer and employee can agree to pay more than that amount.
If paying the employee’s regular wages would cause the employer undue financial hardship, then the business can apply to the State of Colorado to pay the employee’s wages instead.
Employees serving on a jury are protected while on leave and employers cannot threaten, coerce, or discharge an employee who reporting for duty as summoned (Colo. Rev. Stat. §13-71-126).
An additional unpaid, but protected leave is the Colorado Military Leave. Employees who are members of the Colorado National Guard or reserve are permitted up to 15 days of protected leave each calendar year to receive military training. Employees must be able to return to their same or similar positions upon returning from the leave (Colo. Rev. Stat. §28-3- 609).
One small, but paid leave that employers must provide to certain employees is the Colorado voting leave. Colorado law also provides up to 2 hours of paid leave for employees to vote on election day. Hourly employees can take of time to vote and must still be paid for the time away voting. One exception to the required leave is when employee have at least 3 hours off from work when the polls are open (Colo. Rev. Stat. §1-7-102).
Colorado Minimum Wage
In addition to protected leaves, the State of Colorado has a higher minimum wage than the Federal minimum wage of $7.25. The Colorado minimum wage is $9.30 an hour. Tipped employees’ minimum wage is set at $6.28 an hour. Employers cannot credit more than $3.02 of tips toward a tipped employee’s minimum wage.
Colorado’s minimum wage law is set to increase the state’s minimum wage until January 2020, when it will reach $12 an hour. Every year afterwards, it will adjust based on the Consumer Price Index.
Let SwipeClock Help
Businesses who have employees in Colorado have multiple protected leave laws they must comply with, especially the Family Care Act and balancing it with FMLA laws.
SwipeClock provides a comprehensive array of workforce management and time tracking tools that can help businesses to more easily stay in compliance with local and national laws.
Records are effortlessly kept for years and accrual is automatically tracked and reported to employees according the state and city laws. Additionally, with geo-timekeeping clocks, businesses can effortlessly track time worked in specific cities to ensure compliance.
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Colorado Leave Laws (You must agree to terms and search by the statue number provided in the article)
Written by Annemaria Duran. Last updated on May 27, 2017.