Colorado Supreme Court upholds expanded paid-leave program

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
The Colorado State Capitol.

The Colorado Supreme Court has upheld Proposition 118 which requires most employers give workers 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave starting in 2024.

The ballot initiative was approved by voters in 2020 passing by nearly 60 percent.

Chronos Builders LLC challenged Proposition 118, titled the Colorado Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FAMI) Act.. The Grand Junction-based home builder claimed the Act violated the Section (8)(a) of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) which requires a flat tax rate for incomes. It also claimed the premiums are an unconstitutional added tax charge.

In an email to CPR, Advance Colorado, the conservative advocacy group that petitioned for Chronos Builders said it's reviewing the decision. 

Justice Monica M. Marquez wrote in her opinion that FAMI does not violate TABOR because it is not an income tax law or change in any such law. The premiums collected are fees held in the Family and Medical Leave Insurance Fund.

State Sen. Faith Winter (D-Westminster) wasn’t surprised by the ruling.

“Proposition 118 is extremely important to insure that no Coloradans have to make a decision between taking care of themselves and a loved one and a paycheck,” Winter said.  “Right now, only 80 percent of Coloradans have access to paid family leave. Once we implement [Proposition] 118, all Coloradans will have access to paid family and medical leave.” 

Proposition 118 received 58 percent of the vote statewide in 2020. It created FAMI to provide what Justice Marquez called a “necessary safety net” for all Colorado workers to tend to personal and family caregiving needs. 

The program includes:

  • Birth, adoption, foster care placement
  • Caring for a family member with a serious health condition.
  • Serious health condition
  • Qualifying exigency leave
  • Victim of domestic violence

The proposition also requires employers to give workers one hour of sick leave for every thirty hours of work. 

Employers with nine or fewer employees must only pay half of the premium and can deduct up to that amount from that employee's wages. Employers with ten or more are responsible for the full premium and can deduct half from the employee’s wages. The Division of Family and Medical Leave Insurance was created under FAMI to administer the program.