Colo. Paid Sick Time Mandate Signed Into Law Amid Pandemic

By Vin Gurrieri
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Law360 (July 14, 2020, 10:43 PM EDT) -- Colorado Gov. Jared Polis on Tuesday signed a bill requiring employers in the state to provide workers with up to six paid sick days a year — and more if there is a public health emergency — joining about a dozen other states that have similar paid leave laws.

Known as the Healthy Families and Workplaces Act, the law enables many workers in Colorado starting in 2021 to accrue an hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours they work, up to 48 hours, or six eight-hour workdays, of accrued time. It also gives workers access to additional paid sick time during times when a public health emergency has been declared.

For 2021, the law covers businesses with at least 15 employees. Businesses that fall below that cutoff have to provide their workforces with paid sick days starting in 2022.

A portion of the law that takes effect right away also fills certain coverage gaps in the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which made paid sick leave available to certain workers affected by the novel coronavirus pandemic but didn't apply to employers with more than 500 employees.

During a signing event Tuesday, Polis noted that most hourly workers have no access to paid sick leave and end up going to work sick to avoid missing out on pay.

"Too many Coloradans have that pressure to go to work while they're sick, while they're contagious. Whether it is coronavirus, whether it's the flu, whether it's strep, in general in society for us all to stay healthy we want sick people to be able to stay home," Polis said. "This is a really important step for health in Colorado."

Although workers can roll over unused paid sick time into subsequent years, employers won't be required to allow them to use any more than 48 hours in any given year, according to the text of the new law.

The statute also outlines a host of reasons for which workers can use the time they've earned, including for mental or physical illnesses, preventative care or caring for sick family members. Workers will also be allowed to use paid sick time if they are victims domestic violence, harassment or sexual abuse or if they need to assist family members who are victims of such conduct.

Moreover, the law imposes on employers posting requirements to inform workers about the law and documentation requirements to track sick time that is accrued and used.

A Better Balance, which advocates for worker-friendly leave policies and helped draft the law that Polis signed, said that Colorado has joined a dozen other states as well as Washington, D.C., and numerous cities in guaranteeing workers paid sick time.

"Across the United States, far too many workers are forced to make impossible choices between their jobs and their personal or family well-being," Jared Make, a vice president at A Better Balance who is based in Colorado, said in a statement. "Colorado's new paid sick time law will help to ease this burden, especially for low-wage workers who are struggling to make ends meet during the COVID-19 pandemic."

--Editing by Abbie Sarfo.

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