Colorado Department of Labor and Employment Issues New Guidance on Qualifying Reasons for Paid Sick Leave

By Miller Jozwiak posted 07-27-2023 01:39 PM


The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) has updated its guidance regarding the Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA). As we recently covered, in the 2023 legislative session, the Colorado General Assembly expanded the reasons for which an employee may use paid sick leave under HFWA. Effective August 7, 2023, an employee may use leave for the following reasons: 

  • The employee needs to grieve, attend funeral services or a memorial, or deal with financial and legal matters that arise after the death of a family member.  

  • The employee needs to care for a family member whose school or place of care has been closed due to inclement weather, loss of power, loss of heating, loss of water, or other unexpected occurrence or event that results in the closure of the family member's school or place of care. 

  • The employee needs to evacuate the employee's place of residence due to inclement weather, loss of power, loss of heating, loss of water, or other unexpected occurrence or event that results in the need to evacuate the employee's residence.  

The CDLE, the state agency responsible for enforcing Colorado wage-and-hour laws, publishes Interpretative Notice and Formal Opinions (INFOs). According to the CDLE, INFOs are the agency’s officially approved opinions and notices to employers, employees, and other stakeholders as to how the Division applies and interprets various statutes and rules.Unlike statutes and regulations, however, INFOs are not binding as a matter of law.  

INFO #6B provides information regarding HFWA. The CDLE recently updated INFO #6B with information regarding what counts as an “evacuation” for purposes of paid sick leave. The following is an example it provided: 

Yesenia and Norbert temporarily leave their homes after a tornado (a) rips part of the roof off Yesenia’s house, and (b) at Norbert’s house, breaks a window and makes the neighbor’s dog bark loudly for days. Under [HFWA], “evacuation” requires a home to be not just less comfortable or inconvenient, but essentially uninhabitable — though it doesn’t have to be completely unsafe. That means: 

  • Yesenia is entitled to HFWA leave. Lacking a roof made the home, as a whole, uninhabitable — even if one or more rooms may have remained safe and comfortable to be in. 

  • Norbert isn’t entitled to HFWA leave. A broken window and loud dog didn’t make the home uninhabitable, so an understandable decision to leave an uncomfortable home wasn’t “evacuation” — unless the broken window caused enough damage (like flooding) to make the home uninhabitable. 

Under the CDLE’s interpretation of the new law, the above example provides employers with a helpful idea of the circumstances under which employees may and may not be entitled to paid sick leave under the expanded version of HFWA. Employers should stay tuned for updates from the CDLE, including potential amendments to the Wage Protection Rules further interpreting the new law. In the meantime, if you have any questions regarding the new law, please reach out to Employers Council’s Member Experience Team.