With reports of rising respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza transmission, some of these public health emergency provisions are in play, including in both Colorado and Oregon. In such jurisdictions, employees have additional rights, including paid sick leave and job protection for covered absences.
Colorado expands public health emergency leave to include absences related to RSV, influenza and other respiratory illnesses
Under the Colorado Healthy Workplaces and Families Act (HFWA), employers are required to provide employees with access to up to 80 hours of paid sick leave when a public health emergency (PHE) occurs.1 It has been declared. Employees can access PHE leave (PHEL) if they:
- Self-isolation or exclusion from the workplace due to exposure, symptoms, or diagnosis of communicable disease in PHE;
- seeking a diagnosis, treatment, or care (including preventive care, such as vaccination) for such disease;
- Unable to work due to a health condition that may increase exposure or risk of such disease; or
- Caring for a child or other family member of category (1)-(3), or whose school or child care is not available because of PHE.
Colorado’s governor first declared COVID-19 a public health emergency on March 11, 2020, and that emergency declaration—which has since been amended dozens of times—is still in effect. This means that since January 1, 2021 (when the Public Health Emergency Leave portion of the HFWA went into effect), Colorado employees have access to PHEL regarding COVID-19.
The latest amendment to the Governor’s November 11, 2022 emergency declaration expands this public health emergency to include not only COVID-19, but also RSV, influenza, and “other respiratory illnesses” in Colorado—a non-specific term that could, in theory, include any Anything from whooping cough to the common cold.
This means that all Colorado employers must provide up to 80 hours of payment to PHEL for absences related to all of these illnesses. Notably, the state Department of Labor emphasized in a statement on its website that this amendment does not create a new 80-hour set of PHEL: “The post-COVID expansion does not give employees an additional 80 hours for these conditions, it just means they can use the 80 hours in wider range of circumstances.”
However, if Colorado employees have not yet exhausted their 80-hour benefit for PHEL, that leave can now be used in connection with influenza, RSV, or other respiratory illnesses in addition to COVID-19. Furthermore, absences for reasons related to a PHE qualification are protected by employment, and employers cannot request documentation from employees to prove that the leave is for PHE related needs. Thus, all Colorado employees are now entitled to up to 80 hours of paid sick leave for any respiratory illness. This entitlement will remain in effect until four weeks after the current public health emergency declaration ends.2
RSV emergency declaration triggers protection under Mini-FMLA in Oregon
The Governor of Oregon declared a public health emergency on November 14, 2022, in response to an increase in RSV cases in children. The proclamation will remain in effect through March 6, 2023, unless the governor extends or terminates it earlier.
In January 2022, changes to the Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA) went into effect that established a public health emergency and expanded children’s sick leave. The amendments made it clear that a “public health emergency” requires a declaration from the governor to protect public health. A child’s sick leave, under the Public Health Act, is leave that requires home care (like you might see with RSV, cold, flu, etc.), but that doesn’t meet the definition of a serious health condition. The amendments expanded a child’s “sick leave” to include the need to provide home care due to the closure of a child’s school or childcare provider due to a public health emergency and included requirements for verification of school closure. The amendments also changed Oregon’s labor law so that employers in Oregon are required to provide child sick leave to eligible Oregon employees after only 30 days of work, instead of 180, if the employee has worked an average of 25 hours per job in 30 days. Before taking leave during a public health emergency.
Employers in Colorado and Oregon operations now have additional leave obligations. However, absences due to RSV, influenza or other respiratory diseases will not be contained in these two cases. In addition to monitoring advertisements from other states and cities, employers may want to consider reacquainting themselves with existing laws such as paid sick leave, paid (or unpaid) family and medical leave, time off for school activities, “emergency” leave, and caring for relatives. , which may cover absences due to COVID-19, RSV, influenza, and similar illnesses.