COVID-19 Legal FAQ Update – “Healthy Families and Workplace Act”: Guaranteed Sick Leave for Employees

Memorandum

From:  CEA Legal Center

Date: July 21, 2020

RE: LEGAL FAQ – “Healthy Families and Workplace Act”: Guaranteed Sick Leave for Employees


This memorandum serves as a guidance to frequently asked questions presented to the CEA Legal team regarding how to respond to the unprecedented epidemic sweeping our nation. The FAQ’s will be updated as we address questions from the field. Please be patient and understand that these circumstances present new and uncharted areas of law. CEA Legal will provide the best advice it can based on its understanding of current law however, the law is unclear in many areas.

QUESTION: What is the new “Healthy Families and Workplace” Act?

ANSWER: Effective July 15, 2020 through December 31, 2020, employers are required to provide each of their employees paid sick leave for reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic in the amounts and for the purposes specified in the federal “Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act” in the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act”.

Additionally, beginning January 1, 2021,2 the “Healthy Families and Workplace” Act (“Act”) requires all employers in Colorado to provide paid sick leave to their employees, accrued at one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 48 hours.
Employees may use accrued paid sick leave to be absent from work for the following purposes:

  • The employee has a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; needs a medical diagnosis, care, or treatment related to such illness, injury, or condition; or needs to obtain preventive medical care;
  •  The employee needs to care for a family member who has a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; needs a medical diagnosis, care, or treatment related to such illness, injury, or condition; or needs to obtain preventive medical care;
  • The employee or family member has been the victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or harassment and needs to be absent from work for purposes related to such crime; or
  • A public official has ordered the closure of the school or place of care of the employee’s child or of the employee’s place of business due to a public health emergency, necessitating the employee’s absence from work.
    Additional sick leave must be granted during a future “public health emergency” based on the number of hours the employee works.

Logistical requirements include: The employee must use paid sick leave in hourly increments (unless the employer allows for smaller increments), and shall make a good-faith effort to provide notice to their employer in advance that they need to use paid sick leave. If the employee uses paid sick leave for four (4) or more consecutive work days, the employer may require reasonable documentation to prove that they are using their hours for one of the purposes stated above. Employers must retain records regarding hours worked and use of sick leave under this Act.

Other protections for workers include that employees may not be retaliated against for exercising their rights under the Act and absences under this Act may not lead to discipline or discharge. Employers cannot require employees to waive their including that an employee has the right to file a complaint or civil action for noncompliance. Employers shall not be required to disclose details relating to health information and any information gained by the employer should be treated as confidential medical records.

QUESTION: How does this Act affect educators that work with or without a collective bargaining agreement?

ANSWER: For those with a CBA, if the CBA provides for equivalent or more generous paid sick leave, then the Act does not apply to those employees and the obligation in the CBA is not contrary to the law. The Act provides for minimum standards for leave pay and an employer who has the equivalent or more generous leave is not obligated to reduce its leave. For those local affiliates negotiating CBA’s or renewing CBA’s after the Act goes in to effect, the Act does not apply as long as the CBA grants equivalent or more generous paid sick leave and the CBA expressly waives the requirements of the Act by choosing to adopt their more generous CBA provisions. Until the next round of negotiation of a current CBA, you do not need to make any adjustments in the CBA as long as the minimum requirements are already met.

For those school districts that do not have a collective bargaining agreement with the union, but whose benefits exceed the minimum requirements of the Act, they too are not required to reduce their leave time to be consistent with the Act. The Act provides a minimum standard that employers must comply with and does not prohibit the employer from providing more leave or reduce its leave to be compliant with the law. In fact, employers are encouraged to provide more than the minimum as required in this Act. This is valuable language when negotiating with your employer.