In addition to the leave provided by your employer’s discretionary policies on vacation time, sick leave, personal days, or paid time off (PTO), you may have a legal right to take time off work for specific reasons under federal and Colorado laws. For example, if you are caring for an ailing family member or recovering from childbirth, you may have a right to leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Colorado law provides additional leave rights, including the right to time off for adoption leave, domestic violence leave, and to attend a child’s school activities.
This article provides an overview of your right to time off from work in Colorado. For more information, see our page on employee leave rights.
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives eligible employees the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year to care for a seriously ill family member (spouse, parent, or child), recuperate from their own serious health conditions, bond with a new child, or handle certain practical matters arising from a family member’s military service. The FMLA also requires employers to give employees up to 26 weeks off to care for a family member who suffered or exacerbated a serious illness or injury while serving in the military. (For purposes of this military family leave provision only, employees may take leave to care for a broader set of family members, including siblings, grandparents, and cousins, if they are next of kin to an injured service member.)
The FMLA applies to employers in all states with at least 50 employees. Employees are eligible only if they have worked for the employer for at least 12 months and have worked 1,250 hours in the 12 months before taking leave. (Learn much more about your rights under the FMLA at our Taking Family and Medical Leave page.)
Some states have created laws that provide employees with leave for family and medical reasons. Sometimes these laws overlap with the FMLA and don’t create additional rights. Often, however, state law applies to a wider set of employers, has more relaxed eligibility requirements for employees, or covers a broader set of family members. In Colorado, employees have the right to take time off to care for a domestic partner or same-sex spouse, for adoption leave, and for certain school activities:
Another federal law, the Unformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) gives eligible employees the right to be reinstated to their jobs after taking up to five years off for service in the U.S. military. (Find out all about USERRA in Nolo’s article, Taking Military Leave.) Employers may not discriminate against employees based on their military service. And, employees may be fired only for good cause for a period of up to one year after they return from service, even if they would otherwise work at will. (See Employment At Will: What Does It Mean? to learn more.)
The laws of many states extend similar rights to employees who serve in the state’s military, including the right to take time off from work and to be reinstated afterwards. In Colorado, employees who are called to active state service in the Colorado National Guard are entitled to unlimited leave and reinstatement. Employees who are members of the U.S. military or the Colorado National Guard are also entitled to up to 15 days of unpaid leave per year for training.
Colorado law gives employees the right to take time off work, without fear of retaliation, for the civic responsibility of voting. Employees must be allowed to take up to two hours off, with pay, to vote. The employer may decide when these hours are taken, but must allow the employee to take them at the start or end of a shift if the employee requests it. However, the employer is not required to provide this leave if the employee already has at least three hours off work while the polls are open.
Employers must also allow employees to take time off to serve on a jury. Employers may not make any demands on the employee that would interfere with the employee’s ability to effectively serve on a jury. Employees must be paid their regular wages, up to $50 a day, for the first three days of jury service. After that, the time is unpaid. However, special rules apply to exempt employees. Under federal law, employers typically cannot deduct an exempt, salaried employee’s pay for time spent serving on a jury, unless the employee did no work for the entire week. For more information, see our article on pay docking.
In Colorado, employers with at least 50 employees must give employees time off to:
Employees are entitled to this leave if they have worked for at least 12 months and have been victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, domestic abuse, or stalking. Employees may take up to three days off in a 12-month period.