What protections do I have under the new Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA)?
You may be entitled to additional paid leave. The Colorado Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA) applies to all employers in Colorado, regardless of size, and extends available paid sick leave for up to two weeks if:
- You have COVID-19 symptoms and are seeking a medical diagnosis;
- You are instructed by a government agency or a health provider to quarantine or isolate due to COVID-19 risk; or
- You are taking care of someone else due to COVID-19 precautions—either someone ordered to quarantine or isolate, or a child whose school, place of care, or childcare is closed or unavailable.
If I am undocumented, am I protected by the Colorado Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA)?
Yes. Regardless of immigration status, you are entitled to two weeks of paid sick leave from work at your regular pay rate or the locally applicable minimum wage—whichever is higher. If you are taking leave to care for someone else, you can be paid for those two weeks at two-thirds of your regular pay rate.
I think I might have COVID-19. Can I take paid time off?
Yes—in most cases. The Colorado Health Emergency Leave with Pay (“Colorado HELP”) Rules temporarily require employers in certain industries to provide up to 14 days of sick paid leave at two-thirds of regular pay to employees who have tested positive for COVID-19, have COVID-like symptoms, or have been directed to quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19 concerns. Note that the two weeks of leave are measured as “calendar” days, and employees are paid only for the days in those two weeks that they would have otherwise worked. For example, if an employee falls ill on June 1, the maximum amount of time covered by this rule is June 1–14; the employee gets paid only for the days they would have worked during this period.
Covered industries include: leisure and hospitality; food services; child care; education; food and beverage manufacturing, and related work with educational establishments; home health, if working with elderly, disabled, ill, or other high-risk patients; nursing homes; community living facilities; retail establishments, real estate and leasing, offices and office work; elective health services; and various personal care services.
The 2020 federal Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) created a right to paid leave for many employees— but as of 2021, providing sick leave is no longer mandated but employers may opt-in to EPSLA and will receive a tax credit if they do.
What documentation can my employer request?
Only specific information related to a COVID-19 test or prescription. Colorado employers are not allowed to require documentation as a precondition for employees to take paid leave, because the purpose of the Colorado HELP rules is to encourage leave-taking by employees who otherwise could spread COVID-19. That said, an employer may legally request documentation from returning employees to establish that the employee obtained a prescription for a COVID-19 test or was tested for COVID-19. Employees may also be asked to provide documentation of the same information by providing a written statement, but this does not need to be notarized or in any particular format.
Can I take time off work to care for my children or other family members?
It depends. Under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), employers must provide paid sick leave and paid family leave to employees for reasons relating to COVID-19 through the end of 2020.
Additionally, an employee who is sick or whose family members are sick may be entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) regardless of immigration status. Please note that the FMLA only covers employers with 50 or more employees, and an employee must have worked at least one year, and a minimum of 1,250 hours within the previous year, to qualify. Upon the end of this leave, a worker should be reinstated to her previous (or similar) position.