Most workers have the right to paid sick leave under a recent Colorado law, and that includes time off work to get a COVID-19 vaccine and deal with the side effects.
"As an employee, if you get an appointment scheduled during working hours, you have a right to get that covered," said Joe Barela, executive director of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.
The state requires employers to allow employees to take four hours of paid time off for a vaccine appointment and use PTO for recovery time, Barela said. All regular employees are eligible for PTO under the recent law.
State lawmakers passed the Healthy Families and Workplaces Act last year. It required employers to immediately grant their workers a bank of paid sick leave hours. The law applies to full- and part-time workers, but it does not apply to gig workers and other independent contractors.
Employers were immediately required to grant a bank of paid time off to their workers -- up to 80 hours -- because of the pandemic. Employers were required to refill that bank on Jan. 1, 2021 due to the continuing public health emergency. Paid leave is paid at the same rate, with the same benefits, as regular work.
Those hours can be used for preventive health care, including both the vaccination appointment and any time needed for recovery. Employers cannot stop their workers from taking appointments during the workday. And for COVID-19 issues, the employer can only ask for documentation if the person is absent for four consecutive days.
For their part, workers are required to notify their employer "as soon as practicable" about their absence.
The law offers paid leave for a variety of issues, including: preventive health care; injuries and mental illness; domestic abuse, sexual assault or criminal harassment; caring for a family member; closure of the person's employer or their child's school due to a public health emergency.
In normal times -- when there's not a public health emergency -- workers will have to build up their paid leave hours over time. It must accumulate at a rate of at least one hour of leave for every 30 hours worked. Workers must be allowed to accumulate at least 48 hours, or six standard workdays, of paid leave per year. People with questions and complaints can call CDLE's Division of Labor Standards and Statistics at 303-318-8441.