What you need to know about FMLA in Colorado

In Colorado, as well as the 49 other US states, unpaid, job-protected leave is safeguarded by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). FMLA is intended to be granted for a significant health condition of the employee, their spouse, their child, or their parent's serious medical condition.

If a worker needs to take unpaid time off under the FMLA, they have the legal right to come back to the same or an identical job, with all of the same benefits, seniority and other conditions of employment. Federal law expanded FMLA leave in 2009 to incorporate military caregiver leave for a single period of up to 26 weeks in a single 12-month period. This leave must be taken to care for a family member hurt in the line of military service.

A permanent worker with one year on a company payroll who has worked at least 1,250 hours is eligible for Colorado/FMLA leave. A company must grant leave for arrival of a child into a worker’s home through birth, adoption, or foster care. The law is gender-neutral, meaning a parent of any sex who is eligible for FMLA in Colorado can take the full quantity of leave as long as it ends within one year of the birth of the baby.

FMLA leave in Colorado may also be granted for issues arising due to an immediate family member’s military service. Leave can also be granted for Colorado workers to attend to a family member who was seriously injured or becomes ill in the line of military duty.

FMLA leave ends if the family member being taken care of passes away. While Colorado/FMLA leave ends with the passing of the loved one, bereavement leave may allow for a worker to attend services.

Worker Responsibilities Under the FMLA

When applying for FMLA in Colorado, a worker should ask for leave a minimum of 30 days in advance when possible. If the need for leave comes up suddenly, the worker should let the company know of the need at the earliest possible opportunity. The company then has up to five business days from the leave-request date, or when it is determined that the leave qualifies under FMLA, to inform a worker of their responsibilities under the laws.

The worker is required under the FMLA to state the reason for the leave so the company can determine the kind of leave to approve and meet its legal duty to possibly designate the leave as valid under the FMLA. The worker could describe the situation to whomever makes the FMLA designation and that person could note on an official form that the leave is certified and designated. However, calling in sick is not enough under the law. The worker must say why they need to use leave so the company can correctly designate the leave and satisfy its obligations under the law.

All medical or health data must be kept in strict confidentiality at all times by anyone in the company. Leave-relevant documents should be held in files with limited access, as some medical conditions are very sensitive and the worker may be uncomfortable sharing certain data with a manager. Usually, an FMLA Coordinator can be trained to handle these kinds of highly-sensitive situations.

The worker ultimately controls if they will or will not give the reason why they need leave, or if they turn in the necessary, completed documents on time. However, the worker should think about the decision to not provide information and be prepared to accept the results. Consequences can include rejection of requested leave.

A return-to-work validation may be necessary for absences of 30 days or less when it is relevant to the job. Such a form cannot be requested from the using intermittent FMLA leave.

FMLA and Colorado State Workers

Colorado does make explicit some leave-related policies for state workers. According to state law, accrued leave must be used before the use of unpaid FMLA leave, meaning FMLA/Colorado and accrued leave run at the same time.

If FMLA leave and/or short-term disability leave apply, a state worker may not be terminated. If a worker is dismissed because of a disablement, they must be put on a waiting list for re-employment.

State workers in Colorado can also use up to 40 hours of paid time off when a relative passes away. The decision to allow leave as well as the quantity of leave is to be established by the connection to the deceased, the distance to any services and travel time required.

Colorado state workers who are members of the military service or National Disaster Medical Service are allowed up to 15 paid workdays in a calendar year, after which they can still use any other paid leave.

Colorado FMLA-Related Laws

In addition to FMLA protections, Colorado workers can take unpaid leave from work in several other circumstances.

Organizations with a minimum of 50 workers must allow qualified workers who have been victims of domestic or sexual violence, including stalking, to have up to three days off in a 12-month period. This leave is to allow an employee the ability to seek treatment for themselves or their child obtain, an order of protection, or to attend court or other related issues.

Colorado law also states organizations that supply parental leave after the birth of a biological child must provide the same quantity of leave to adoptive parents, excluding step-parent adoptions.

Colorado also allows workers the ability to take unpaid time off for certain special circumstances. Under Colorado law, businesses with 50 workers or more must allow their employees time off to go to parent-teacher conferences or meetings affiliated with school-related issues or to participate in an intervention involving their non-adult child.

In these instances, employees can take up to six hours of unpaid leave in any month and as many as 18 hours of unpaid leave in any school year. However, they must make every effort to schedule these appointments so that they do not disrupt the company’s workflow.

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