Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.
Since January 1, 2021, Colorado’s Healthy Families & Workplaces Act (HFWA) has required employers to provide up to 80 hours of supplemental public health emergency leave (“PHE leave”) for conditions relating to COVID-19. That obligation ends on June 9, 2023.
Under the HFWA, PHE leave is triggered by certain pandemic, infectious disease, or other disaster emergencies declared by the governor or a federal, state, or local health agency, and it remains in effect until four weeks after the expiration of such emergency declarations. Ever since the PHE leave portion of the HFWA took effect on January 1, 2021, PHE leave for COVID-19 was in effect due to dual emergency declarations by the Colorado governor and federal public health authorities. As of May 11, 2023, both declarations have expired. That means the obligation to provide PHE leave for COVID-19 will end after June 8, 2023, four weeks after the expiration of the last applicable public health emergency declaration.
To be sure, Colorado employers continue to have multiple sick leave obligations under the HFWA. Besides having to provide PHE leave through June 8, 2023, they also must continue to comply with the other components of the HFWA, including by providing up to 48 hours of paid sick and safe leave (PSSL) each year, which is unaffected by the expiration of the PHE leave obligation. Specifically, employees will continue to be able to take PSSL for the following reasons:
- a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition that prevents work, including diagnosis or preventive care;
- domestic abuse, sexual assault, or criminal harassment leading to the need for health, relocation, legal, or other services; or
- caring for a family member experiencing a condition described in category (1) or (2).1
It is also possible that a future public health emergency will again trigger the obligation to provide PHE leave in Colorado. Indeed, a public health emergency was in effect in Colorado for reasons relating not just to COVID-19, but also to flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and similar respiratory illnesses, thus expanding the reasons employees could access PHE leave from November 11, 2022 until the governor revised the order on January 8, 2023. Thus, while the obligation to provide PHE leave in connection with COVID-19 may be expiring soon, employers should continue to monitor developments in Colorado to ensure they are meeting their obligations under the HFWA.
1 Additionally, a bill has passed the Colorado legislature that would add a number of new categories of reasons for which employees may use PSSL, including for bereavement, to care for a family member whose school or place of care has been closed for specified reasons (e.g., inclement weather, loss of power, etc.), and to evacuate the employee’s place of residence for specified reasons (e.g., inclement weather, loss of power, etc.). Littler will update Colorado employers if this bill is signed into law.