Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed Colorado's paid sick leave program into law Tuesday afternoon, the latest step in a long journey for advocates.
Senate Bill 205 passed in the second half this year's legislative session, after a two-month break because of the coronavirus pandemic. Before the statehouse shutdown, legislators already had effectively shelved a longer term paid family leave program that would have allowed people take time off for a new baby or to care for their own longterm illness or that of a loved one.
The paid sick leave bill is for shorter illnesses, continuing the federal pandemic allowance that lasts until the end of the year.
"This is especially important for so many workers who go to work sick, because they miss out on their hourly wage if they stay home," the governor said at the bill signing ceremony Tuesday at the History Colorado museum. "They simply don't get paid. So many salaried employees in Colorado take this for granted. They have a week or two weeks, and if they're sick they just don't go to work, but too many Coloradans have that pressure to go to work while they have symptoms and while they're contagious."
The new law provides those who work at businesses with 15 or more employees one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours up to 48 hours. Smaller businesses will be required to provide the benefit starting n 2022. Advocates said about 40% of the state's workforce currently has no paid sick leave benefits, meaning those who might be coming down with something, including COVID-19, often go to work and spread their germs rather than suffer the economic setback of not showing up.
The Democratic bill was sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg and House Speaker KC Becker, both of Boulder, with Sen. Jeff Bridges of Greenwood Village and Rep. Yadira Caraveo of Thornton.
“No one, especially during a pandemic, should be forced to go to work sick in order to make ends meet and doing so jeopardizes the progress we’ve made in Colorado to safely reopen,” Becker said in a statement Tuesday. “COVID-19 has shown just how badly workers in our state need guaranteed paid sick leave, and with the governor’s signature today, we’ll be better prepared to weather this pandemic and anything that comes our way in the future.”
Caraveo is a pediatrician, the legislature's only current physician.
“As a pediatrician, I know how important it is for Coloradans to access the care they need, and guaranteeing paid sick leave means more workers and their families will stay healthy during this pandemic and be able to care for their loved ones without risking their job,” she stated.
Jake Williams, executive director of Healthier Colorado, called the legislation a win for working families.
“We are truly leading the way in pandemic recovery and long term economic resilience," he said in a statement. "This legislation will help protect our communities and keep our workplaces safe and open by ensuring that people can stay home when they are sick.”
A Better Balance, a national nonprofit legal advocacy group, also applauded Colorado's new law, after cowriting the bill.
“Across the United States, far too many workers are forced to make impossible choices between their jobs and their personal or family well-being,” Jared Make, the Colorado-based vice president of the organization. “Colorado’s new paid sick time law will help to ease this burden, especially for low-wage workers who are struggling to make ends meet during the COVID-19 pandemic.”