Bloomberg Law
June 16, 2020, 6:22 PM

Colorado Lawmakers OK Paid Sick Leave Plan, Pandemic Protections

Ralph Chapoco
Ralph Chapoco

Colorado lawmakers have approved a proposal requiring employers to provide paid sick leave for workers.

The bill, passed unanimously in both chambers Monday, mandates that employers allow their workers paid sick leave related to the Covid-19 pandemic through year’s end, while also outlining rules that allow workers to accumulate leave hours at the start of next year. Businesses with 15 or fewer employees are exempt from the paid sick leave mandate until 2022 under an amendment added to the bill.

“One of the contributing factors in spreading coronavirus is people showing up to work when they are sick,” said Colorado House Speaker KC Becker. “A lot of people who can’t afford not to show up, keep going to work when they are sick. If they have the option for paid sick leave, it certainly helps with his pandemic. We think it is the right policy overall anyways.”

Colorado joins about a dozen states and the District of Columbia that have passed measures to give workers paid time off for illness. Even states with paid leave laws already in place have sought to expand those benefits during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A local food and commercial workers union welcomed the paid sick leave measure.

“The Healthy Families and Workplaces Act is a smart public health policy that will help prevent contagious diseases and deaths across Colorado,” UFCW Local 7 said in statement.

Employees will be allowed to accrue one hour of paid sick leave for illness-related reasons for every 30 hours they work, up to a maximum of 48 hours, according to the bill. Workers can use the hours as they earn them, and the balance will carry forward into the new year if they’re not all taken by the employee.

The proposal also allows additional time off for public health emergencies, such as a pandemic, and prohibits retaliation by the employer if employees decide to take time off.

Business Opposition

The Colorado chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses objected to the bill.

“We believe this is an issue that should be left between the employer and the employee,” said Tony Gagliardi, the group state director. “If the employer doesn’t have an established paid-time-off-policy, which many don’t, it is negotiated between the employee and the employer.”

Gagliardi said the bill’s passage comes at a bad time, when many of his members are only beginning to open their retail shops, and some may not reopen at all.

“To ask for a bill like this is unreasonable,” Gagliardi said. “We were fortunate to at least get an exemption for 15 and under for a little over a year.”

—With assistance from Genevieve Douglas.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ralph Chapoco in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Martha Mueller Neff at