Colorado employees who work for larger employers have the right to take a few days off work each year to handle certain legal, medical, and safety issues arising from domestic violence, stalking, or assault. Colorado also gives employers the power to get a protective order against a perpetrator of domestic violence or other abuse, in some situations.
If you are facing domestic violence, you are probably most worried about protecting yourself and your family members. Worries about whether your children are safe, whether your home is secure, and whether your abuser will come to your workplace can make it tough to focus on the job. That’s why some states, including Colorado, have laws that give you the right to take leave from work while you take care of your immediate needs.
Search and plan carefully. As you begin to take action to protect yourself and your family, remember that your computer and phone use may be visible to your abuser. If you use the same computer as your abuser or share a phone plan that allows the abuser to see the calls you make and receive, for example, your efforts won’t be private. Take this into account when planning your next steps.
Not every employee is entitled to domestic violence leave. Under Colorado law, you are eligible for leave only if all of the following are true:
Colorado law requires employees who want to take domestic violence leave to follow their employer’s policies for giving notice that they need this time off. (This rule doesn’t apply if you are in imminent danger, however.) Employees must also provide any documentation their employer requires.
Some employees fear that revealing their status as victims of domestic violence might lead to mistreatment at work, or that their coworkers will learn painful details of their private lives. If you have these concerns, you should know that Colorado law provides some protections. Colorado employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who exercise their right to take time off under this law. The law also requires your employer to keep the information you reveal confidential.
If you qualify for leave, you may take up to three days off in a 12-month period to:
Before taking leave under this law, you must exhaust (use up) all of your available personal, vacation, annual or sick leave, if applicable. However, your employer can waive this requirement.
If you or a family member has suffered injuries or trauma that qualify as a serious health condition under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), you may qualify for leave under that law as well. Learn more about your rights under the FMLA.
If you are facing domestic violence, you likely already know about civil protection orders. Also called restraining orders, these court orders require your abuser to stay away from you and places you frequent, like your home or your school.
Colorado law gives employers the right to ask the court to grant a civil protection order to protect its employees. The court will grant such an order if it finds that imminent danger exists to employees of the business. Your employer doesn’t have to do this: In fact, the law says that an employer can’t be held liable by employees or customers for failing to get an order.
A civil protection order seeks to interrupt violence by making it illegal for someone not only to harass, threaten, stalk, or abuse you, but also to destroy your property, contact you, call you, send you mail, or come within a certain distance of you personally or of the places listed in the order (like your workplace). In other words, a protective order can legally keep your batterer out of your workplace and away from your home. A batterer who calls you or approaches you in violation of the TRO can be arrested, before physical violence takes place.
If you get a protective order yourself, you can ask that it include your workplace. However, the employer may want its own protective order, if the abuser has threatened to come to work or to harm you or others you work with. An employer may choose to do this if you are uncertain or afraid to get a protective order. Talk to your employer about exercising this option, if it makes sense in your situation.