Is Your Business Ready for Mandatory Sick Leave?

A ballot measure being proposed for the City and County of Denver would require that all employers provide a certain amount of paid sick and safe time leave to their employees, including part-time and temporary workers. Similar ordinances already exist in San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

The initiative, known as the Denver Paid Sick and Safe Time Ordinance ("Ordinance"), obtained the requisite number of signatures for submission at the next citywide scheduled election, set for November 1, 2011.

If passed, the Ordinance will mandate accrued sick leave for all employees who are employed within the geographic boundaries of Denver, including employees of small businesses (i.e., less than 10 employees). New small businesses would not be obligated to pay sick and safe time until they have been in operation for at least one year.

Employees would accrue one hour of paid sick and safe leave for every thirty (30) hours worked. Employees who work for businesses with 10 or more employees would be permitted to accrue up to nine days (72 hours) of sick and safe time annually. Businesses with less than 10 employees (including part-time or temporary employees) would be required to allow employees to accrue up to five days (40 hours) of sick and safe leave. Sick and safe leave would begin to accrue immediately upon employment, but an employee must work for at least 90 days before he or she could use the accrued leave. Accrued but unused sick and safe time would not be required to be paid out upon termination of the employment relationship.

The Ordinance also has anti-retaliation provisions which would make it unlawful for an employer to interfere with an employee's use of sick and safe time or from raising potential violations. Notably, the Ordinance would also establish a rebuttable presumption of retaliation if the employer takes an adverse action within 90-days of the employee's protected activity.

The Ordinance would provide employees with the right to file complaints with the Agency for Human Rights and Community Relations, the Denver agency who would be responsible for enforcement.

If this Ordinance passes, employers should be prepared to review their current policies for compliance, and to establish the record-keeping obligations which will be required.


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