Schools are closing out of caution. Also, the NBA has cancelled games through the end of the season. Now, we’re finding out celebrities have tested positive for the coronavirus. To top things off, Disneyland has closed its gates for a month. All this data points to one conclusion: stuff’s getting real. At the very least, stuff’s getting real enough to prompt decision makers to take action. That’s also evident at the state level. Recently, we saw Colorado declare a coronavirus state of emergency. Then, the state rolled out the new emergency rules to take effect immediately.
Obviously, the emergency rules are brand new, so what do they mean? In other words, who do the rules cover, and what are the details?
We answer all of these questions here, so read on to gain some insight.
Colorado Emergency Ruling – HELP
Everything starts with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE). This is the entity that protects workers in the state of Colorado. Therefore, the purpose of the set of rules is to protect the wellbeing of workers in the state. Thus, the CDLE named the rules the Colorado Health Emergency Leave with Pay (HELP) Rules.
Now, the emergency ruling is due to Colorado Governor Jared Polis declaring a coronavirus state of emergency on March 10, 2020. The governor decided this based on the increase in coronavirus cases in Colorado and the United States.
First, the citizens of Colorado need to know that this is a temporary rule. Next, citizens of the state need to be aware of the rule’s specifics. Notably, it does not currently extend to all workers.
Sick Time and Pay for Certain Employees
In summary, the ruling states that its purpose is to provide time for COVID-19 testing. Additionally, it is for those infected to receive sick time and pay. So, this means that the CDLE now requires certain industries to provide up to four days of sick time.
More specifically, the employees eligible for paid sick time during the coronavirus state of emergency are those who meet the following criteria:
- employees with flu-like symptoms
- any employee who is being tested for the COVID-19 virus.
Once an employee receives a negative test result, that employee is no longer eligible to receive further paid sick leave.
Unfortunately, the emergency rule does not cover every industry. Still, the rule does extend to a fairly large population of workers. These workers include the following:
- leisure and hospitality
- food services
- childcare services
- all levels of education workers
- school food service and transportation
- home healthcare workers with elderly, disabled, or high-risk patients
- nursing homes and community living facilities
The emergency rule applies to all sectors of workers. The rule does not distinguish between private, governmental, school district, or public authority. The CDLE adds that the ruling will expire once the coronavirus state of emergency ends. Otherwise, it will expire up to 120 days after adopting the temporary rules.
Now, it is noteworthy to mention that a company’s sick policy is still the first line of coverage. So, in the case of coronavirus infection, employees will use their sick time or PTO. However, the emergency rule is a backup. It will take over if an employee exhausts his bank of sick time or PTO prior to infection.
Next, the employee’s rate of pay will be his normal rate of pay. In other words, the during the coronavirus state of emergency, the employer cannot underpay the employee during leave. In cases where employees receive tips as part of their wages, the employer must pay the employee minimum wage. Employees who work inconsistent hours will receive pay in line with the average of his hours worked.
Furthermore, employers should expect a penalty if they don’t abide by the rule. This would constitute failure to pay wages. Therefore, they should err on the side of caution. Thus, they should carefully review cases of ill employees and those being tested for COVID-19.
The Purpose of the Ruling
The Colorado Emergency HELP Rules emphasize the seriousness of the state of emergency. The hope is that the rules will encourage people to stay home and recover. Also, ideally this will make employers aware that their employees are protected. Otherwise, it would be tempting for workers to forgo their own diagnosis and recovery in favor of receiving pay. Also, they might go to work sick out of fear of losing their jobs.
Unfortunately, there are many workers who feel their only choice is to show up at work. This includes even when they are ill. The coronavirus outbreak is not the only time employees operate this way. Actually, workers often show up with other contagious illnesses. However, going to work when infected with the coronavirus would only continue the rapid spread of the disease. Consequently, this would prolong the lifespan of the disease. Meanwhile, health officials are trying their best to squelch the outbreak.
Keep Calm and Make Healthy Choices
Although it may seem redundant to say so, but it’s important to remember to keep this situation in perspective. Government agencies and health officials are using the best data they have available to devise strategies for preventing the further spread of COVID-19. Declaring a state of emergency and Releasing the Colorado Emergency HELP Rules to allow people to maintain their livelihood. Meanwhile, it will provide an opportunity for diagnosis and recovery, which is essential.
Still, if you must go to work or venture out, use caution. Remember to continue to be mindful of the ways you can play your part in helping stop the spread of the disease.