Colorado Sick Leave Laws

Under the Colorado Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA), most Colorado employers are required to provide employees with paid sick leave. CO Statute 8-13.3-401 et seq HFWA allows employers to permit employees to accrue sick leave over time or may award employees a lump sum of sick leave at the beginning of each year.

If an employer allows employees to accrue sick leave over time, the employer must provide one (1) hour of sick leave for every thirty (30) hours worked, at a minimum. Under HFWA, employers may limit the amount of sick leave employees may take in a single year to 48 hours.

Employers are permitted to provide sick leave benefits that are more generous than the minimum set forth under the HFWA.


Eligible Employees

Generally, all employees, whether working temporarily, part-time, or full-time, may exercise their right to access the HFWA and are entitled to paid sick leave. CO Statute 3-13.3-402(4), 403(1)(a) However, employees who are subject to the federal Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act, 45 USC 351 et seq, are not covered by the law. CO Statute 3-13.3-402(4)


Covered Employers

All employers with employees are required to provide employees that work in Colorado with paid sick leave except the federal government. CO Statute 3-13.3-402(5)


Sick Leave Accrual

Employers may provide sick leave to employees by one of two methods: accrual or lump sum.

Accrual Sick Leave

Employers who choose to allow employees to accrue sick leave over time must provide employees with at least one (1) hour of sick leave for every thirty (30) hours an employee works. An employer may allow employees to accrue sick leave at a faster rate. Employers must attribute exempt employees with forty (40) hours worked for sick leave accrue purposes unless the employee consistently works less than forty (40) hours per week. CO Statute 3-13.3-403(2)

Lump-Sum Sick Leave

Instead of allowing employees to accrue sick leave over time, employers may provide employees with the full amount of their sick leave each year at the beginning of the year. CO Statute 3-13.3-403(2)


Minimum Use Amount of Sick Leave

The Colorado sick leave law allows employers to limit the amount of sick leave an employee may take each year to forty-eight (48) hours. CO Statute 3-13.3-403(2)

Employees must take sick leave in one (1) hour increments unless their employer allows leave to be taken in smaller increments of time. CO Statute 3-13.3-404(3)


Permitted Uses of Sick Leave

The general earned paid sick time under the HFWA may be exercised by employees under the following circumstances:

  • Leave for an employee who:
    • has a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition that prevents their ability to work
    • obtain a medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition
    • obtain preventive medical care
  • Leave to care for a family member who:
    • has a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition
    • obtain a medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition
    • obtain preventive medical care
  • Employee or family member who has been a victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or harassment:
    • seek medical attention for the employee or the employee’s family member to recover from a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition caused by the domestic abuse, sexual assault, or harassment
    • obtain services from a victim services organization
    • obtain mental health or other counseling
    • seek relocation due to the domestic abuse, sexual assault, or harassment
    • seek legal services, including preparation for or participation in a civil or criminal proceeding relating to or resulting from the domestic abuse, sexual assault, or harassment
  • a public official, due to a public health emergency, has ordered the closure of:
    • the employee’s place of business
    • the school or place of care of the employee’s child and the employee needs to be absent from work to care for the employee’s child

CO Statute 3-13.3-404(1)


Family Member Defined

For purposes of HFWA, family members include:

  • any person related to you by blood, civil union, marriage, or adoption
  • a child to who the employee stands in loco parentis
  • an individual who stood in loco parentis for the employee when the employee was a minor
  • a person for whom the employee is responsible for providing or arranging health- or safety-related care

CO Statute 3-13.3-402(6)


Alternative Eligible Leave Policies

Other federal and state leaves accessible to Colorado employees include:

  • Organ Donor Leave
  • Crime Victim Leave
  • Domestic Violence Leave
  • Jury Duty Leave
  • Military Leave
  • Emergency Responder Leave
  • Voting Leave

Employee Notice of Use Requirements

The Colorado sick leave law requires employees, when reasonable, to notify their employers that they would like to take sick leave before the leave is taken. The notice may be made orally, in writing, electronically, or by any other means acceptable to the employer. CO Statute 3-13.3-404(2) When the sick leave is foreseeable, an employee must make a good-faith effort to notify their employer in advance and make reasonable efforts to schedule the sick leave in a manner that will not unduly disrupt the employer’s operation. CO Statute 3-13.3-404(5)

Employers may establish a written leave policy that contains reasonable procedures for providing sick leave notice. However, employers may not deny employees the use of sick leave if the employee fails to comply with the written policy. CO Statute 3-13.3-404(2)


Documentation of Employee’s Use of Sick Leave

Employers may require employees to provide documentation of their need for sick leave if the leave exceeds four (4) or more consecutive work days. CO Statute 3-13.3-404(6)


Employer Notice Requirement

Employers are required to provide employees with the rules and limitations of sick leave as set forth by the HFWA. This includes notifying the employees of their discrimination and retaliation protection.

Employers may meet the notice requirement by:

  • supplying each employee with a written notice containing the necessary information that is in English and in any language that is the first language spoken by at least five (5) percent of the employer’s workforce; and
  • displaying a poster provided by the Colorado Department of Labor & Employment in a conspicuous and accessible location in each establishment where the employer’s employees work that contains the necessary information in English and in any language that is the first language spoken by at least five percent of the employer’s workforce.

CO Statute 3-13.3-408


Employer Recordkeeping Requirement

Employers are required to retain records

An employer shall retain records for each employee for a two-year period that documents an employee’s:

  • hours worked
  • paid sick leave accrued, and
  • paid sick leave used

CO Statute 3-13.3-409


Discrimination and Retaliation

HFWA protects an employee’s rights to:

  • use paid sick leave
  • file a complaint or inform any person about an employer’s alleged violation of HFWA
  • cooperate with the State when it is investigating that an employer has violated HFWA
  • inform any person of their rights protected by HFWA

HFWA prohibits employers from taking any disciplinary action, termination, reduction of paid hours, demotion, or otherwise taking retaliatory action against an employee who takes sick leave as permitted by the law. Furthermore, employers must not threaten employees whatsoever for wanting to use their paid sick time. CO Statute 3-13.3-407


Filing a Complaint, Complaint Procedure, and Penalties

The Colorado Department of Labor & Employment encourages employees to file complaints when they believe an employer has violated the HFWA.


Relationships with Other Laws

While Colorado has implemented the Healthy Families and Workplaces Act, it is crucial to recognize that the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) still binds the state. Employers with at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius of their workplace are subject to this law.

Employees who have worked for at least 12 months and have accumulated at least 1,250 hours may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Employees are likewise protected from being fired, demoted, or having their hours reduced under this law.

Additionally, after the FMLA leave has ended, the employee must be restored to the same role. Complaints may be filed against an employer who fails to provide this and all other sick leave benefits in the FMLA to an employee. In collaboration with the US Department of Labor, the Wage and Hour Division may file a complaint in court.

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