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Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Colorado: How Does It Work?

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family and medical leave act colorado

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a crucial federal law that plays a significant role in the lives of Colorado employees and employers. In order to ensure one’s job security does not have to be sacrificed because of health or family circumstances, this legislation allows eligible employees to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specific family and medical reasons.

The purpose of this article is to clarify the FMLA in Colorado, providing a comprehensive guide to its workings, eligibility criteria, and rights and responsibilities.


What is Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?

As a landmark piece of legislation in the United States, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was enacted in 1993. In the beginning, it was recognized that workers facing health crises, without losing their jobs, needed help.

In essence, FMLA allows employees 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year while maintaining their health insurance coverage. All government agencies, elementary and secondary schools, and companies with 50 or more employees are covered by this law. FMLA covers a wide range of situations, including illness, childbirth, adoption, and military family circumstances.

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FMLA: Eligibility Criteria in Colorado

In Colorado, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) sets specific criteria to determine who is covered under its provisions.

eligibility criteria for FMLA in Colorado

  • Employer Eligibility: FMLA applies to private-sector employers with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius, for at least 20 workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year. It also encompasses all public agencies, including local, state, and federal employers, and public and private elementary and secondary schools, regardless of the number of employees.
  • Employee Eligibility: To be eligible for FMLA leave, an employee must have worked for a covered employer for at least 12 months (not necessarily consecutive). They must have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours during the 12 months prior to the start of the FMLA leave. The employee should be working at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius.

Colorado-Specific Regulations

  • Expansion of Family Members: According to the Colorado Family Care Act (FCA), employees can take leave to care for a wider range of family members, including siblings, grandparents, in-laws, and civil union partners.
  • Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FAMLI): A new program in Colorado provides paid leave benefits. While FAMLI does not change FMLA eligibility criteria, it may have its own eligibility requirements.
  • Additional Protections: Besides the federal FMLA, Colorado may have other state-specific laws that protect or benefit employees.

Qualifying Reasons under the FMLA in Colorado

Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in Colorado, employees are entitled to take leave for several significant reasons:

qualifying reasons under FMLA in Colorado

  • Personal: Leave for an employee’s own serious health issue
  • Family Member’s Serious Health Conditions:  This includes to care for a spouse, child, or parent suffering from a serious health condition.
  • Birth, Adoption, or Foster Care Placement of a Child: FMLA allows parents to take leave for the birth of a child, as well as for the adoption or foster care placement of a child, providing time for bonding and care.
  • Military-Related Exigencies and Caregiver Leave: Employees may take leave for reasons related to a family member’s military service, including exigencies arising from a family member’s deployment. FMLA also provides for a longer leave (up to 26 weeks) to care for a family member who is a service member with a serious injury or illness.

Comparison with Qualifying Reasons under Colorado-Specific Laws:

  • Additional family members can take leave under Colorado laws, such as the Colorado Family Care Act, including siblings, grandparents, in-laws, and partners in civil unions.

  • It operates alongside FMLA and does not replace it, although Colorado’s Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FAMLI) may also provide additional reasons for leave.

We will explain how these regulations work later.

Duration and Types of Family and Medical Leaves in Colorado

Duration of leaves under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

  • Maximum Duration of FMLA Leave: Employees are entitled to a maximum of 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a 12-month period. In the case of military caregiver leave, this duration extends to 26 weeks.

Types of Family and Medical Leaves in Colorado

  • Continuous Leave: This involves taking a continuous, uninterrupted leave period.
  • Intermittent Leave: This type of leave allows employees to take FMLA leave in separate blocks of time due to a single qualifying reason.
  • Reduced Schedule Leave: This allows an employee to reduce their working hours, either daily or weekly, for a period of time due to a qualifying reason.

Employee Rights and Employer Obligations Under the FMLA Leave

rights and protections under FMLA in Colorado

Job Security

Employees are guaranteed the right to return to the same or an equivalent position.

This protection ensures job security, even after an extended period away for qualifying reasons.

Health Insurance Maintenance

Employers must maintain the employee’s health insurance under the same terms and conditions as if they had not taken leave.

Employees continue to be responsible for their portion of health insurance premiums.

Protection of Employee Benefits

Employee’s benefits are maintained as if the worker is actively working.

Employer’s Role in Granting Leave and Maintaining Compliance

Employers are required to grant leave to eligible employees for qualifying reasons under the FMLA.

They must also keep accurate records and comply with all aspects of the FMLA, including not interfering with, restraining, or denying the exercise of FMLA rights.

Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees for taking FMLA leave.

How To Request FMLA Leave in Colorado

Step-by-Step Guide on How Employees Can Request FMLA Leave

  1. Determine Eligibility: You must work at a location with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius and be employed for at least 12 months by a covered employer.
  2. Understand the Reason for Leave: Determine your FMLA qualifying reason, such as personal health issues, family member care, birth or adoption of a child, or military exigencies.
  3. Notify Your Employer: Notify your employer in writing or verbally of your need for FMLA leave. While immediate notice is not always possible, FMLA generally requires 30 days’ advance notice.
  4. Submit Required Forms and Documentation: Complete any FMLA leave request forms provided by your employer. Provide medical certification or other required documentation to support your leave request, such as a doctor’s note or military orders, if applicable.
  5. Await Employer Response: After submitting your request, your employer must respond within five business days, notifying you of your eligibility and detailing any additional information required.
  6. Coordinate Leave Details: Discuss with your employer the specifics of your leave, such as the start date, duration, and any potential need for intermittent leave or a reduced schedule.
  7. Understand Your Rights and Responsibilities: Review the rights and responsibilities under FMLA, including job protection, health insurance continuation, and any obligations you have during your leave.

Documentation and Notice Requirements

  • Medical Certification: If you need leave due to serious medical conditions (personal or family), provide a medical certificate. The certification should include the date the condition began, its expected duration, and relevant medical facts.
  • Advance Notice: In case of foreseeable leave, such as childbirth or planned medical treatment, provide at least 30 days’ notice.
  • Periodic Updates: Keep your employer informed about your status and intent to return to work, especially if the leave duration changes.
  • Fitness-for-Duty Certification: Provide your employer with a fitness-for-duty certification before returning to work from serious health leave.

Federal vs State Specifics: Comparison of FMLA and Colorado’s FAMLI Program

Purpose and Scope

FMLA: A federal law that provides eligible employees with unpaid, job-protected leave for certain family and medical reasons.
FAMLI: A Colorado state program that offers paid leave benefits for similar family and medical reasons.

Eligibility Criteria

FMLA: Employees are eligible if they have worked for a covered employer for at least 12 months, have 1,250 hours of service in the 12 months prior to the leave, and work at a location with 50 or more employees within 75 miles.
FAMLI: The specific eligibility criteria for FAMLI are set by the state of Colorado and may differ from FMLA, potentially including a broader range of employees.

Duration of Leave

FMLA: Up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period for most qualifying reasons, and up to 26 weeks for military caregiver leave.
FAMLI: The program is expected to provide 12 to 16 weeks of paid leave, depending on the circumstances, with potential variations in duration for different types of leave.

Type of Leave

FMLA and FAMLI: Both cover leave for personal health issues, care for family members, birth or adoption of a child, and military-related exigencies. FAMLI may also include additional types of leave, such as safe leave for victims of domestic violence.

Financial Benefits

FMLA: Provides job protection during leave but does not offer wage replacement.
FAMLI: Offers partial wage replacement during leave, with the amount based on the employee’s average weekly wage.

Job Protection

FMLA: Guarantees the same or an equivalent position upon return from leave.
FAMLI: The program is expected to work in conjunction with FMLA to provide job protection, but specific job protection provisions are governed by the FMLA.

How FMLA and FAMLI Work Together

Integration of Benefits: Employees in Colorado may be able to use FAMLI for wage replacement while also benefiting from the job protection provided by FMLA. This integration allows for financial support during leave without sacrificing job security.

Distinct Features: While FMLA is primarily focused on job protection and applies nationwide, FAMLI is a state-specific program providing financial support during leave. The eligibility criteria, duration, and types of leave may vary between the two, with FAMLI potentially offering broader coverage in certain aspects.

Coordination of Leave: Employees will need to navigate both FMLA and FAMLI to maximize their benefits. This may involve coordinating the timing and duration of leave under both programs.

Employer Compliance: Employers in Colorado must comply with both federal FMLA regulations and the state-specific requirements of FAMLI, ensuring that employees receive all entitled benefits.

Impact of Other Colorado Laws in the FMLA

Healthy Family and Workplaces Act (HFWA)

Interaction with FMLA: Colorado law requires employers to provide paid sick leave. While FMLA provides unpaid leave for specific family and medical reasons, HFWA allows employees to accrue and use paid sick leave for a broader range of health-related reasons, including preventive medical care and mental health. In Colorado, HFWA benefits can be used to supplement FMLA leave and situations not eligible for FMLA.

Distinct Features: Employers in Colorado are covered by the HFWA regardless of size, and it provides additional protections and benefits beyond FMLA.

Domestic Abuse Leave

Interaction with FMLA: In Colorado, victims of domestic abuse, stalking, sexual assault, or other crimes have specific leave rights. Although FMLA covers some aspects of domestic abuse, particularly when it results in serious health problems, Colorado’s domestic abuse leave law provides more tailored support and protection. Domestic abuse leave can be used for legal proceedings, medical treatment, or safety planning.

Distinct Features: In Colorado, domestic violence leave is specifically designed to meet the needs of abuse victims, including confidentiality and safety provisions. It complements FMLA by providing specialized support.

Colorado Family Care Act (FCA)

Interaction with FMLA: With the FCA, employees can take leave for family members other than those covered by FMLA. Employees can take leave under the FCA to care for siblings, grandparents, in-laws, and civil union partners. Employees in Colorado will have more options for family care leave than under federal FMLA with this expansion.

Distinct Features: This law enhances Colorado’s family care options by broadening the scope of family care beyond the federal FMLA.

Resources about FMLA in Colorado

Here are other important Colorado related articles

FMLA per State

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FAQ about Family and Medical Leave in Colorado

1. Who is eligible for FMLA leave in Colorado?

Employees who have worked for a covered employer for at least 12 months, have 1,250 hours of service in the past 12 months, and work at a location with 50 or more employees within 75 miles.

2. How does Colorado’s FAMLI program differ from FMLA?

FAMLI provides paid leave benefits, while FMLA offers unpaid, job-protected leave. FAMLI may have different eligibility criteria and can complement FMLA benefits.

3. Can I take FMLA leave to care for a grandparent in Colorado?

Under federal FMLA, leave to care for a grandparent is not typically covered unless they stood in loco parentis. However, under the Colorado Family Care Act, you may be eligible for leave to care for a grandparent.

4. What are the notice requirements for taking FMLA leave?

Employees should provide 30 days’ advance notice for foreseeable leave. If the leave is unforeseeable, employees should notify their employer as soon as practicable.

5. Are FMLA leave benefits in Colorado paid or unpaid?

FMLA leave is unpaid, but employees in Colorado may be eligible for paid leave under the FAMLI program or other state-specific laws like HFWA.

6. How long can I take FMLA leave in Colorado?

Eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of FMLA leave in a 12-month period for most qualifying reasons, and up to 26 weeks for military caregiver leave.

If you have any questions, please leave a comment here, and our HR Specialist will respond as soon as possible.

HR Expert | Talent Management Enthusiast. You've found the right place! I'm Jose Sanchez, your expert HR guide with extensive experience in HR insight and talent management. I write about how businesses can thrive by nurturing and leveraging their talent. When I'm not immersed in HR, I love to explore the fascinating worlds of physics and psychology.

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