The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles eligible employees to 12 weeks of leave per year for certain qualifying conditions. Although FMLA is unpaid, Colorado's Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FAMLI) comes into effect in 2023.
In some cases, FMLA and FAMLI apply concurrently, but there are some differences between them. Employers in Colorado need to be aware of their different obligations under federal and state leave law.
Here’s what you need to know about FMLA in Colorado, including who’s eligible and how to keep track of FMLA leave balances.
What Is FMLA in Colorado?
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides employees with up to 12 weeks of leave each year to treat a serious health condition, to care for a sick family member, to welcome a new child, or to deal with situations related to military deployment.
Since FMLA is a federal law, it isn’t unique to Colorado. It applies to the following types of employers in all 50 states (known as “covered employers”):
- Private employers with at least 50 people working for them
- State, federal, and local government agencies of any size
- Primary and secondary schools (both public and private)
Colorado employers who meet the definition of a covered employer must provide FMLA leave benefits to eligible employees. These entitlements include:
- Up to 12 weeks of leave per 12-month period
- The right to maintain their health insurance while on leave
- The right to return to work in the same role or an equivalent one
FMLA leave is job-protected, so Colorado employers can’t terminate employees while they’re on leave. However, they do have some discretion in temporarily re-assigning them or negotiating intermittent leave or a reduced work schedule.
Who Is Eligible for FMLA in Colorado?
Colorado employees who work for a covered employer aren’t automatically eligible for FMLA leave. They also need to meet the following eligibility conditions:
- Have been employed for at least 12 months with the same employer
- Work at location with at least 50 employees in a 75-mile radius
- Have performed 1,250 hours of work over the last 12 months
The 12 months of employment don’t have to fall within a single calendar year, so there’s some flexibility for part-time and temporary employees with gaps in their employment. For example, a seasonal employee could accumulate 12 months of employment by working for three months each year for four years in a row.
Qualifying for FMLA in Colorado
If an employee has accumulated enough hours to qualify for FMLA leave, they can take leave for any of the following reasons:
- The birth of a child
- The adoption of a child
- The placement of a new child in foster care
- To take care of an immediate family member
- To treat their own serious health condition
- For a qualifying exigency related to military service
For medical leave, employers can request documentation from a healthcare provider, but this should be kept confidential and shouldn’t be unreasonably intrusive. Family caregiver leave is usually limited to immediate family members only.
Although FMLA works the same way in all 50 states, there’s one important difference in Colorado. The CO Family Care Act (FCA) extends the definition of a family member to include siblings, grandparents, in-laws, and partners in civil unions.
This means that additional situations may be covered under state leave law that aren’t usually covered by FMLA.
How Much Leave is Available Under FMLA?
FMLA provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, but employees can access other types of leave if it’s available. If an employee has accrued sick leave or vacation time, their employer should allow them to draw from it while on FMLA leave.
The maximum amount of leave is 12 weeks in a 12-month period, but caregivers can take up to 26 weeks of leave to care for an active duty service member.
Employees are required to provide 30 days’ notice of their intent to take leave as much as reasonably possible, but this doesn’t apply in cases of medical necessity.
Parental leave is available for parents of any gender, but must be taken within the first year of the child’s birth or placement in foster care.
FAMLI vs. FMLA in Colorado
The FCA isn’t the only expansion to federal family leave law in Colorado. Voters passed the Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance program (FAMLI) in 2020, which comes into effect gradually between 2023 and 2024.
FAMLI covers many of the same situations as FMLA, such as the birth or adoption of a child, as well as “safe leave” scenarios like domestic violence and sexual assault.
Here’s what employers should know about FAMLI vs. FMLA in Colorado:
What Is the Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program?
Colorado’s FAMLI program is a state law that provides paid leave to employees through a state-run insurance program. It’s funded through a payroll tax and administered by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE)
FAMLI pays out a weekly benefit based on the employee’s wages. The maximum wage replacement is $1,100 per week or 90% of Colorado’s average weekly wage.
Any employer who has at least one employee or pays at least $1,500 in wages each quarter needs to register with the FAMLI Division of the CDLE.
Employees will see premium deductions on their paychecks starting in 2023, and can begin accessing their new paid family leave benefits in 2024. Employers who want to opt out can only do so if they offer a private plan that meets the same standards.
Alternatives to FMLA in Colorado
Both FAMLI and FMLA cover many of the same scenarios, including medical leave and parental leave. The FAMLI program doesn’t replace FMLA, but it offers more benefits, including wage replacement for eligible employees and self-employed individuals.
But what happens if an employee isn’t eligible for FMLA in Colorado? Here are two other state laws that might apply:
Healthy Family and Workplaces Act (HFWA)
The Colorado Healthy Family and Workplaces Act (HFWA) introduced several paid sick leave policies that apply to Colorado employers. These include:
- One hour of accrued sick leave for every 30 hours worked (up to 48 hours per year). This can be used for preventive care, mental health care, injuries, and short-term disabilities that affect work.
- Up to 80 hours of leave is available for employees experiencing symptoms of COVID or another illness covered by a public health emergency.
Domestic Abuse Leave
FMLA covers some circumstances related to domestic violence, such as seeking out medical care or caring for a family member who is experiencing domestic abuse. For employees who aren’t covered by FMLA, Colorado has an additional leave law that entitles employees to up to three days of leave to address domestic abuse.
Streamline FMLA Compliance in Colorado
Employees who meet certain criteria can request up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under FMLA in Colorado. They may also be eligible for wage replacement under Colorado’s Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program. As an employer, it’s up to you to categorize each leave request correctly and comply with all applicable laws.
Pulpstream makes it easy to stay compliant with leave requests and FMLA tracking with our no-code leave management system. Employees can submit their own FMLA leave requests and supporting documentation, and your human resources team can easily review them and approve them all in one place.
By digitizing and automating your leave management system, you can take the complication out of balancing intermittent leave cases and reduce the risk of human error.
Contact us today to get a demo and learn more!