In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, some Coloradans are entitled to unemployment insurance compensation and paid leave for COVID-19 testing. Employees on COVID-19 leave will be paid at their regular rate or average daily pay over the past month; unemployment benefits are paid at roughly 55% of an employee’s 12-month average wage.

Paid Leave: Who Is Affected

Employees in the following industries who exhibit flu-like symptoms are entitled to up to four days of paid leave: leisure and hospitality, food services, child care, education, home health, nursing homes, and community living facilities. The education sector encompasses employees working in transportation, food service, and related work with educational establishments. Home health is specific to employees working with elderly, disabled, ill, or otherwise high-risk individuals. Employees in qualifying industries who have exhausted their employer-offered sick leave are nonetheless entitled to this benefit; in other words, those employees get up to four additional days of paid leave. Persons who have tested positive for COVID-19 are not covered by this temporary paid-leave measure.

Paid Leave: For How Long

An eligible employee may be on paid leave for four days or until they receive a negative COVID-19 test result, whichever is sooner.  This rule is effective until April 9, 2020 or until Colorado’s State of Emergency is lifted, whichever is later.

Paid Leave: Enforcing This Right

Legal recourse is available to eligible employees who have been denied this important benefit or who have suffered retaliation for pursuing their right to paid leave. Employees may recover unpaid benefits, attorneys’ fees, and in some cases, additional monetary penalties levied against their employer.

Unemployment Compensation

Persons unemployed or underemployed due to no fault of their own are entitled to collect unemployment benefits if working fewer than thirty-two hours a week and earning less than their weekly unemployment benefits allowance (55% of 12-month average wage). Employers and employees have a right to appeal unemployment claim decisions, with or without legal representation.

Developing: Sick Leave, Unemployment, Workplace Safety

Effective April 2, 2020, emergency paid sick leave and expanded family medical leave (FMLA) will become available. Still under consideration, unemployment insurance benefits may be extended from 26 weeks to 39 weeks and made available to those unable to work because of COVID-19. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) may require some employers to establish infectious disease exposure control measures to protect health care workers.