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Colorado PTO Laws: An In-depth Overview of Colorado Paid Time Off Laws

Paid Time Off (PTO) laws in Colorado lay the foundation for employers and employees to decide the terms of employment contracts. Whether you are a restaurant or a manufacturing unit, if your business is based in Colorado, you must understand the laws that govern various aspects of time off, including vacation days, medical leave, and other circumstances that may require employees to take time away from work.

Understanding Colorado PTO laws is beneficial for both employers and employees. That’s what this article is about. We explain various aspects of Colorado’s paid time off laws in detail.

Colorado PTO law does not mandate employers to provide paid time off to their employees. Companies are not obligated to offer paid vacation or sick leave, but it is a common practice to attract top talent into the workforce.

Employers can decide if they want to offer PTO and what type. However, when hiring, they must create transparent PTO policies and share them with the employees. These policies should address various aspects, such as accrual rates, carry-over limits, and payout rules.

Employers in Colorado must communicate these policies to employees through employment contracts, handbooks, or other written materials to avoid misunderstandings.

Laws for various types of leaves in Colorado

Colorado has several laws and regulations governing various types of leaves that employees may be entitled to under specific circumstances. While there are no particular PTO laws, these regulations provide guidelines for companies to create policies that provide employees with the necessary time off when faced with specific life events or emergencies.

1. Medical Leave

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) applies for medical leave in Colorado. It is an application for all employers who employ 50 or more employees.

Under FMLA, such companies should provide eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within 12 months for specific qualifying reasons. Medical leave is applicable for the birth/adoption of a child, caring for a seriously ill family member, or an employee’s serious health condition.

In Colorado, FMLA allows employees to take time off to participate in their child’s school activities. Employers with 50 or more workers should allow employees to take up to 18 hours off work (unpaid) to attend such academic events.

2. Jury duty leave

Colorado law prohibits employers from interfering with employees’ participation in jury duty. No employer can penalize employees summoned to serve on a jury, and they should pay regular wages of up to $50 a day for the first 3 days of jury duty. After 3 days, jury duty leave can be unpaid.

3. Voting

Colorado law allows employees to take up to two hours of paid time off to vote in general elections. However, employers can choose when they take the time off to vote. Furthermore, an employee who takes at least 3 hours off work when polls are open is not eligible for 2 hours of paid time off.

4. Military leave

Colorado follows the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), which provides job protection and reemployment rights for employees who serve in the military.

Under this law, an employee can take up to 5 years off work to serve in the military. When such an employee returns, the employer must rehire them in the same position. There cannot be any discrimination against them for their military service.

Employees called to active state service in the Colorado National Guard are entitled to unlimited leave and reinstatement. Also, members of the U.S. military or the Colorado National Guard in Colorado may receive up to 15 days of unpaid leave per year for training.

5. Domestic violence

Colorado Domestic Violence Leave Act requires companies with 50 or more employees to provide up to three days of unpaid leave per year to employees who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking or who have a family member who is a victim.

Employers should provide employees seeking medical attention, counseling, legal assistance, or to address safety concerns with time off.

6. Sick leave

Sick leave falls under the Colorado Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA). As per the law, employers have two types of paid sick leave for their employees: accrued leave and public health emergency (PHE) leave (not currently in effect).

Employees can accrue up to 48 hours of paid sick leave per year at 1 hour of paid sick leave earned for every 30 hours worked. Employees can use sick leaves for their or a family member’s illness, injury, medical care, or preventive care.

What is the accrual vacation system of employers in Colorado PTO law?

Colorado PTO law does not mandate accrual, and it’s entirely at employers’ discretion to allow vacation time accrual. As Colorado does not have specific state laws that require the accrual rates or systems for vacation or PTO, employers in the state have the flexibility to establish their methods and rates of PTO accrual.

They can also cap the vacation time earned. These caps are often set to prevent excessive accruals and may vary depending on the company’s policies.

Employers can also specify when employees are eligible to start using their accrued vacation or PTO days. Additionally, in Colorado, unless the company’s policies or employment contracts state otherwise, there is generally no legal requirement for employers to pay out accrued, unused vacation or PTO upon an employee’s termination from the company.

What happens to Roll Over (Carry Over, Brought Forward) Leaves?

Colorado is one of the rare states that prohibit employers from using the Use It or Lost It policy after the June 2021 judgment by the high court. In the state, any accrued but unused vacation days from one year must be allowed to carry over into the new year.

Employees cannot be forced to use their vacation days within a specific time frame, often by the end of the calendar year. They can roll over the accrued PTO to next year if they do not use these days within the designated period.

However, employers may limit how many days can be carried over. For example, an employer may permit employees to carry over up to five unused vacation days from one year to the next.

Colorado State Holidays for 2024

Here is a tentative list of state holidays in Colorado in 2024. Please note that the holidays falling on a Sunday are observed on Monday, and those falling on a Saturday are observed on Friday. 

Date Holiday
January 1 New Year’s Day
3rd Monday in January Martin Luther King Birthday, Jr. Day
3rd Monday in February President’s Day
Last Monday in May National Memorial Day
July 4 Independence Day
1st Monday in September Labor Day
1st Monday in October Frances Xavier Cabrini Day
November 11 Veterans Day
4th Thursday in November Thanksgiving
December 25 Christmas Day

Payment of accrued, unused vacation on termination

The payment of accrued, unused vacation or paid time off (PTO) upon termination is mandatory per the Colorado paid time off laws. These laws mandate employers to provide a payout for accrued but unused vacation or PTO upon an employee’s termination. However, unpaid sick leave doesn’t have to be paid at termination.

No employer can establish policies regarding the payment of accrued, unused vacation or PTO that prevent payout upon an employee’s termination. The same should be outlined in the company’s employment contracts, employee handbooks, or other written materials.

Colorado PTO payout laws mandate that an employer pay out PTO within 14 days of receiving the employee’s written demand. Failure to comply with this timeline makes the employer liable to pay double the amount of unpaid PTO or up to 10 days of the employee’s average daily wages starting from the date of receiving the written demand, whichever amount is more significant.

If the failure to pay is willful, the penalty can be increased by 50%. Employers not responding to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage complaint for unpaid wages of up to $7,500 will be issued a citation, a notice of assessment for the amount owed, and penalties. 

How much PTO can an employee carry over?

Colorado Wage Act governs policies regarding PTO carry-over. While it mandates PTO payout upon separation from employment, it doesn’t specifically address the issue of carry-over from year to year.

Therefore, the employer’s policies typically determine how much paid time off an employee can carry over from one year to the next. Employers can limit the carry-over days based on their company’s needs and practices.

For example, Apple only allows to carry over up to 10 days of unused vacation time for eligible employees. These policies are also significantly affected by employee tenure and seniority.

How can Truein help with paid time-off management?

Truein is a robust time and attendance management system offering comprehensive time-off and absence management capabilities. It comes with face recognition-based attendance and GPS geofencing for accurate attendance capturing.

It eliminates errors by accurately recording employee attendance, including clock-in and clock-out times, making tracking PTO accruals and usage easier. Offering over 70 customizable policy templates, Truein can be extensively customized to automate the calculation of PTO accruals based on your company’s policies and predetermined rules.

Employers can set up and customize PTO policies within Truein to align with their specific needs and requirements. This includes defining accrual rates, carry-over limits, blackout periods, and other policy parameters to suit the organization’s unique structure and culture. 

It can also be configured to ensure that PTO policies comply with federal, state, and local employment regulations. This helps companies avoid legal issues related to PTO management, such as violating labor laws or not providing legally mandated benefits.

One of the most robust leave management features in Truein is its time-off request process. Employees can submit PTO requests digitally, specifying the dates they wish to take off.

Supervisors and managers can review, approve, or deny these requests through the system. Such automation ensures that employees and employers have real-time visibility into the PTO balances.

Its additional features include seamless integration with payroll software, robust reporting and analytics for data-driven insights, automated notifications, and reminders, and centralized control.

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Familiarity with Colorado PTO law is essential for employers to establish clear and fair policies regarding paid time off. Understanding and following these policies ensures that employers and employees are on the same page and don’t infringe on the law.

To ensure compliance with Colorado paid time off laws, employers can use tools like Truein that facilitate PTO management. Truein can streamline PTO management and make it more efficient, ultimately contributing to a more productive and satisfied workforce.

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