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Do You Need to Update How You Handle Accrued Paid Leave Under HFWA?

Posted by: Karen Booher on July 10th, 2024

As recruiters who are immersed in the world of employment, we know that many Colorado employers handle Accrued Paid Leave under the Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA) differently (and we venture to say, incorrectly).

Since this law went into effect in 2021, some companies seem to have developed their own criteria for paying Accrued Leave. However, the actual statute and subsequent findings made by the Colorado Department of Labor (CDLE) should encourage companies to make updates to how they handle Accrued Paid Leave to avoid being out of compliance.

As a refresher, under this law, all Colorado employees earn one hour of accrued paid leave for every 30 hours worked, up to 48 hours per year, starting their first day of work, unless an employer offers more.

There is a list of reasons that qualify for Paid Leave. We often hear and see this leave referred to as Paid Sick Leave but it’s important to know that there are reasons outside of being “sick” that also qualify for Accrued Paid Leave. CDLE’s “INFO #6B” lists the qualifying reasons and many other important details. Providing this document to new employees during onboarding also satisfies the statute’s “notification” requirements to employees.

In a recent Colorado Staffing Association owners/leaders meeting, the guest speaker was Stacy Mueller, a partner specializing in employment law with Denver-based law firm Fox Rothschild. Mueller shed some critical light and recommendations for employers on this topic. The following are some points that were shared in this meeting that are important for employers to know.

  1. An employee does NOT need to ask for Paid Leave under HFWA to qualify for the leave. If you (the employer) are made aware that an employee is out for a qualified reason, you should proactively pay the Leave, whether the employee directly asks for it or not. If you do not, and the employee later files a complaint and requests to be paid, CDLE could find you out of compliance with HFWA and liable for both back pay and penalties.

  2. Most any illness, injury, or medical/health-related appointment (of the employee or family member) is going to qualify. For example, although the statute does not specify that dental appointments are included, it is safe to assume they do qualify.

  3. “Family member” is not formally defined in the statute, but can be anyone related by blood, marriage, civil union, or adoption. So, for example, the family member could be as distant as a second cousin.

  4. Employers cannot ask for a doctor’s note unless the leave is 4 or more consecutive days.

  5. Employees should provide advance notice, when possible, but if they are not able to give notice (or simply don’t), an employer is not allowed to penalize them by withholding payment of accrued leave, or otherwise retaliating against an employee for requesting and taking paid leave. This opens the possibility for employees to be able to take advantage of the system, if they choose to, but that’s an unfortunate reality of the law. For example, if an employee oversleeps and then later claims they were sick, there’s nothing an employer can do about that – advance notice is not required.

The above is not an all-inclusive list of items about Accrued Paid Leave under HFWA and is not meant to be taken as legal advice. All employers are encouraged to seek appropriate legal counsel to ensure their internal systems, policies, and procedures are set up for compliance.


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