Like employers in every state, Colorado employers must comply with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which allows eligible employees to take unpaid leave, with the right to reinstatement, for certain reasons.
In addition, Colorado has its own laws that give employees the right to take leave for family and health reasons. Employees who are covered by more than one of these laws are entitled to the rights set out in the most protective law.
Federal FMLA Rights
Employees in Colorado who are eligible may take up to 12 weeks of leave for serious health conditions, bonding with a new child, or preparation for a family member's military service; more leave is available for employees who need to care for a family member who was seriously injured on active military duty. For detailed information on FMLA leave, see Taking Family and Medical Leave.
Who Is Covered?
Colorado employers must comply with the FMLA if they have at least 50 employees for at least 20 weeks in the current or previous year.
Employees are eligible for FMLA leave if:
- they have worked for the company for at least a year
- they worked at least 1,250 hours during the previous year, and
- they work at a location with at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius.
Reasons for Leave
FMLA leave is available if a Colorado employee needs time off to:
- bond with a new child
- recuperate from a serious health condition
- care for a family member with a serious health condition
- handle qualifying exigencies arising out of a family member’s military service, or
- care for a family member who suffered a serious injury during active duty in the military. (You can find more information on these last two types of leave in Military Family Leave for Employees.)
How Much Leave Is Available?
Colorado employees may take up to 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month period for a serious health condition, bonding with a new child, or qualifying exigencies. This leave renews every 12 months, as long as the employee continues to meet the eligibility requirements explained above.
Employees who need military caregiver leave may take up to 26 weeks of leave in a single 12-month period. However, this leave is a per-injury, per-service member entitlement. Unless the same family member is injured again, or another family member suffers an injury while on active duty, an employee may not take an additional leave for this purpose.
Leave and Reinstatement Rights
Employees are entitled to continue their health insurance while on leave, at the same cost they must pay while working. Although FMLA leave is unpaid, employees may be allowed (or required) to use their accrued paid leave during FMLA leave.
When an employee’s FMLA leave ends, the employee is entitled to be reinstated to the same or an equivalent position, with a few exceptions.
Colorado Family and Medical Leave Laws
Colorado employees also have the right to take time off under several state laws.
State Family and Medical Leave
Unlike some other states, Colorado does not have its own family and medical leave law. However, Colorado's Family Care Act (FCA) expands the definition of a "family member" under the FMLA to include domestic partners and partners in a civil union. Colorado employees who qualify for FMLA leave may take up to 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month period to care for a domestic partner or civil union partner with a serious health condition. The Family Care Act states that this leave runs concurrently with FMLA leave, meaning that Colorado employees are not entitled to take up to 12 months off under the FMLA and another 12 months off under the FCA. However, because of complex issues having to do with the interaction between state and federal laws, there is an open question as to whether it is legal for the leaves to run concurrently.
Domestic Violence Leave
Employers with at least 50 employees must allow eligible employees who have been victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, domestic abuse, or stalking to take up to three days off in a 12-month period to:
- seek medical treatment or counseling for the employee or the employee’s child
- seek a civil protection order
- seek legal assistance or attend court-related proceedings, or
- seek new housing or make an existing home secure.
All employers that provide parental leave following the birth of a biological child must make the same amount of leave available to adoptive parents. This requirement doesn’t apply to step-parent adoptions.
Colorado Small Necessities Leave
Employers with at least 50 employees must let employees who are the parents or legal guardians of children in school (kindergarten through 12th grade) take time off work to attend:
- parent-teacher conferences, or
- meetings related to special education, dropout prevention, attendance, truancy, disciplinary issues, or response to intervention.
Employees may take up to six hours of unpaid leave in any month, and a total of 18 hours of unpaid leave in any school year, for these purposes. Employees must make reasonable efforts to schedule these activities outside of work hours.
For More Information
You can get more information on these state laws at the website of Colorado’s Department of Labor and Employment.