Serving Colorado's Counties

The Healthy Families and Workplace Act (HFWA), signed into law in July 2020, gave Coloradans paid sick leave. The HFWA requires almost all public and private employers in Colorado to provide basic sick leave, plus an additional two weeks of supplemental leave should a public health emergency be declared, which the HFWA defines as “an act of bioterrorism, a pandemic influenza, or an epidemic caused by a novel and highly fatal infectious agent for which an emergency is declared by the governor or a federal, state, or local public health agency; or a highly infectious illness or agent with epidemic or pandemic potential for which a disaster emergency is declared by the governor.” CRS § 8-13.3-402(9).

How Much Leave to Allow

In the event of a public health emergency, the HWFA requires employers to provide supplemental sick leave in addition to basic paid sick leave. A full-time employee who works 40 or more hours per week is allowed 80 hours; other employees should receive leave equal to or greater than the hours they usually work in a 14-day period. For a full-time employee, 48 of the 80 hours may be the basic paid sick leave and used for any HFWA purpose.  The remaining 32 hours of supplemental sick leave would be reserved for emergency-related purposes.”

The supplemental leave is available from the start of the public health emergency until four weeks after it ends. Leave may only be used once during the emergency, no matter how long it lasts or how many times it is extended, reinstated, amended, or prolonged. Also, “an employer may count an employee’s unused accrued paid sick leave […] toward(s) the supplemental paid sick leave …” CRS § 8-13.3-405(2)(a).

When Leave Can be Used

An employee can take supplemental leave if they or a family member need to self-isolate, seek a diagnosis or medical care, or seek preventive care concerning the cause of the public health emergency. Leave may also be taken to care for a child whose child care provider is unavailable or whose school has been closed due to the public health emergency. This includes instances where the school is physically closed but is providing remote learning. Employees may also take supplemental leave if they have a health condition that makes them more susceptible to the cause of the health emergency, such as cancer or an immune disease.

Employees do not need to provide documentation to take supplemental leave; however, they should notify their employer of the need to take the leave as soon as possible.

What This Means for Counties

Counties should review their sick-leave policies to ensure they meet HFWA standards, including provisions for supplemental paid leave. This update cannot cover all aspects of the HFWA, so please consult your county attorneys for questions on implementing the HFWA. The basic paid sick leave provisions are discussed in Technical Update Vol. 26 no. 2 – Healthy Families and Workplace Act. As always, CTSI is here to assist our members. Please direct questions to CTSI at 303 861 0507.

A PDF of this Technical Update is available here.

When Governor Polis signed The Healthy Families and Workplace Act (HFWA) into law in July 2020, Colorado became one of 14 states and Washington DC to require paid sick leave. The HFWA requires almost all public and private employers in Colorado to provide basic sick leave, plus an additional two weeks of supplemental leave should a public health emergency be declared.

The HFWA’s basic paid sick leave provision went into effect on January 1, 2021, for employers with 16 or more employees. As of January 1, 2022, the HFWA also applies to employers with 15 or fewer employees expanding coverage to almost all in-state employers. All full-time and part-time employees within the United States, employees on leave, and employees in separate establishments or divisions of the business count when determining the number of employees. Federal employees and those subject to the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act are exempt from the HFWA.

Basic Paid Sick Leave

Employees accrue one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked up to 48 hours per year. Accrual begins upon employment, and sick leave hours can be used immediately. Employers may allow employees to use sick leave before its accrual. Unless the employer agrees to smaller increments, employees must use sick leave in hourly increments. Also, up to 48 hours of unused sick leave may roll at the end of the year. Note that employers may choose to offer more sick leave or a faster accrual rate than required in the HFWA. Unused sick leave does not need to be paid out upon the end of employment, “except that an individual may recover paid sick leave as a remedy for a retaliatory personnel action that prevented the individual from using paid sick leave.” 5(a)

Rate of Pay

The accrual for exempt employees assumes a 40-hour workweek; however, if an employee normally works less than 40 hours per week, the accrual rate should use the number of hours in their normal workweek. Leave should be paid at the same hourly rate or salary as non-leave hours and with the same benefits. Over time, bonuses or holiday pay do not need to be included when calculating the hourly or salaried rate.

When Leave can be Taken

Leave may be used for any of the following reasons:

What This Means for Counties

The HFWA makes sweeping changes to how sick leave is treated in Colorado and applies to state governmental entities. Counties should review their sick-leave policies to ensure they meet HFWA standards. This update is unable to cover all aspects of the HFWA, so please consult your county attorneys for questions on implementing the HFWA. A future update will cover Supplemental Paid Leave in the HFWA. As always, CTSI is here to assist our members. Please direct questions to CTSI at 303 861 0507.

A PDF of this Technical Update is available here.

Like all other employers, local governments are required to post certain notices for their employees. The State of Colorado and the U.S. Department of Labor usually post a list of notices required and often have sample notices that can be downloaded for free. The new year and recent increase in the minimum wage mean that some posters will need to be replaced with updated versions.

State of Colorado

The State of Colorado posts a list of required federal or state law posters at: www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdle/posters. Required posters include Colorado Minimum Wage Order Number 35, Colorado Anti-Discrimination, Colorado Employment Security Act, Healthy Families & Workplaces Act and Public Health Emergency Whistleblower Law, etc.

Gold plated rooftop of The Capitol Building in Denver, Colorado.

For additional information, you can visit the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment Laws, Regulations, and Guidance page www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdle/laws-regulations-guidance. This site includes documents covering laws and regulations, complaint forms, employment eligibility forms, fact sheets, resources guides, and posters. There is also a section containing forms in Spanish. The following documents are an example of the site’s contents: Colorado Minimum Wage Order Number 35 Fact Sheet, the Employment Verification Law, General Employment Laws Fact Sheet, and Colorado Notice of Paydays Poster.

Some state posters do not specify that their content does not all apply to local governments. This varies, so for additional information on the applicable definitions, consult your HR representative or your county attorney.

Federal Posters

Federal lists and samples can be found at: www.dol.gov/general/topics/posters. Federal posters at this site include workplace posters such as the federal minimum wage (less than Colorado’s), workplace posters of special interest to special contractors, and a list of applicable laws and regulations. To help you determine what federal notices you need, you may use the elaws Poster Advisor at http://webapps.dol.gov/elaws/posters.html.

What This Means to Counties

Failure to post as required is a violation of Colorado and Federal laws and can result in fines and penalties. Generally, you can assume that a poster should be posted in the lunchroom, general meeting rooms, or places where all employees can view it, for each physical location or building in which county employees or contractors report. It is an easy violation for an auditor to check, so do not overlook this important requirement. For more information, contact CTSI at 303 861 0507.

A PDF of this Technical Update is available here.

People love their pets. As a result, we are seeing more and more pets, especially dogs, being taken on planes, to stores, and even into the workplace. A pet-friendly workplace may be a perk or a recruitment tool for some organizations; however, there are numerous things to consider before allowing pets into the workplace, such as liability. Pets should not be permitted without strict guidelines detailing what behavior is acceptable from the pet and the pet owner.

People Come First

As a general rule of thumb when making decisions about allowing pets on the job, people come first. If an employee is allergic to animals, then asking other employees to leave their pets at home is a reasonable accommodation for the allergic employee under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Other possible accommodations for allergies are creating sufficient separation between the pet and the allergic person, increasing ventilation, or limiting the pet to certain areas. Please note that a service dog or service miniature horse is not a pet. These types of service animals are allowed under the ADA and cannot be banned from the workplace even if all other animals are banned.

Liability Concerns  

Before an employee is allowed to bring a pet to the workplace, they should be required to verify in writing that they have sufficient insurance, home owner’s or renter’s, to cover any damage caused by the pet. Consider asking the employee to sign a paycheck deduction authorization to cover any potential property damage (e.g., carpet cleaning) caused by their pet.     

Additional Considerations

In addition to allergies and liability concerns, consideration must also be given to pet health, cleanliness, and employee breaks to care for the pet, etc. Pets brought into work should be licensed, up-to-date on their vaccinations, and free of fleas, ticks, or other parasites. Designate areas where the pet can go to the bathroom and ensure that the pet owner knows that they are responsible for picking up after their pet and disposing of the waste appropriately. Will the employee be allowed extra breaks to take their pet outside to use the bathroom or for walks? Should the pet be kept on a leash or confined when visitors to the workplace? These are a few of the additional considerations that come with allowing pets in a work environment and should be addressed prior to allowing people to bring their pets to work.

What This Means for Counties

Because of the risks involved with bringing pets into the workplace, CTSI does not recommend it. Bringing a pet to work has the potential to be a distraction and, in the case of a poorly behaved pet, endanger employees. For more information about the risks of bringing a pet to work, please contact CTSI at 303 861 0507.

A PDF of this Technical Update is available here.

In November 2016, Colorado citizens voted for Amendment 70, which raises the state minimum wage. The minimum wage is the lowest wage that can be paid to most workers under the law. Since July 24, 2009, the federal minimum wage for covered nonexempt employees has been $7.25 per hour. The federal minimum wage provisions are contained in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The federal minimum wage law supersedes state minimum wage laws only where the federal minimum wage is greater than the state minimum wage. Alternatively, in states like Colorado, where the state minimum wage is greater than the federal minimum wage, the state minimum wage prevails, and employees are entitled to the higher minimum wage.

Amendment 70

Amendment 70 posed the following question to Colorado voters:

Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution increasing the minimum wage to $9.30 per hour with annual increases of $0.90 each January 1 until it reaches $12 per hour effective January 2020, and annually adjusting it thereafter for cost-of-living increases?

The Amendment passed by 55.4% resulting in the state minimum wage rising from $8.31 per hour to $9.30 on January 1, 2017. Because the Amendment raises the rate in stages, each year since has seen an increase, as shown in the following table.  

The minimum wage reached $12 in 2020, so from now on, the minimum wage will adjust based on the annual cost of living as measured by the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U). The cost-of-living adjustment increases by .24 for 2022.

Local Minimum Wage Laws

In May of 2019, Colorado lawmakers passed House Bill 19-1210, which gives local jurisdictions the power to set their own minimum wage, subject to certain restrictions. The bill went into effect on January 1, 2020. For more information, view the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment fact sheet on Authority of Local Governments to Enact Minimum Wages.

What This Means for Counties

Effective January 1, 2022, Colorado will raise its minimum wage rate to $12.56 per hour. Counties should begin paying all minimum wage employees the new rate of $12.56 for regular employees and $9.54 for tipped employees unless and until they enact a local minimum wage law. For more information, contact CTSI at 303 861 0507.

A PDF version of this Technical Update is available here.

Guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) may help employers figure out exactly how much they may pay their volunteers and on what basis, without compromising their exemption from the requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). In a non-precedential opinion letter, the DOL states that “a willingness to volunteer for 20 percent of the prevailing wage for the job is [… ] a likely indication of the spirit of volunteerism” that Congress intended to foster. Also, employers may pay a firefighter or other similar volunteer stipends on a per-shift or per-call basis, as long as such payments “may be fairly characterized as tied to the volunteers sacrifice rather than productivity-based compensation.”

The Nominal Fee Standard

The DOL first established the 20 percent standard in opinion letters dated August 7, 2006, and November 10, 2005. However, Congress failed to define the term “nominal fee,” leaving it up to the DOL to provide guidance in this area. The DOL regulations outline four factors the agency will consider when determining whether a payment is in fact “nominal”:

  1. the distance traveled;
  2. the time and effort expended by the volunteer;
  3. whether the volunteer has agreed to be available around the clock or only during certain specified time periods; and
  4. whether the volunteer provides services as needed or throughout the year.

Calculating 20 Percent

Employers generally will have the market information necessary to calculate 20 percent of the “prevailing wage” for the job that a given volunteer is performing. In the case of a firefighting agency, any driver or firefighter an employer has on its payroll would be a good benchmark for this calculation. However, if an employer does not have a given position on its payroll - for instance, a county with an all-volunteer fire department that lacks any paid firefighters - it may instead consider data from neighboring jurisdictions, the state in which it is located, or even national data from the DOL’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). The DOL’s letter also suggests that, before calculating whether a payment crosses the 20 percent threshold, employers may subtract the approximate cost of any out-of-pocket expenses that the payment is intended to compensate.

What This Means for Counties

While the DOL’s letter approves the practice of paying a firefighter or a similar volunteer stipends on a per-shift or per-call basis, it should be regarded as guidance and does not constitute a ruling or interpretation on which an employer is entitled to rely, and compensation is not the only consideration affecting whether an individual is a volunteer. However, the letter does offer insight into how the DOL interprets or would enforce the FLSA. For more information, contact CTSI at 303 861 0507.

A PDF of this Technical Update is available here.

County Technical Service Inc. (CTSI) has served Colorado counties for 37 years. County commissioners first envisioned CTSI as a way to empower counties by creating a collective purchasing pool. The County Health Pool (CHP) was founded in 1984 with the goal of lowering and stabilizing health insurance premiums. The success of this pool led to the creation of the County Workers’ Compensation Pool (CWCP) and the Colorado Counties Causality and Property Pool (CAPP) to address challenging market conditions in those areas, as well.

CTSI and its Pools represent a unique controlled-privatization model that allows for a nimble and responsive business, capable of adapting to the needs of member counties and changes in the insurance markets. Over the past three decades, CTSI has expanded its mission and scope “to provide Colorado counties with alternative risk management and other technical services that are progressive, competitive, and cost-effective.”

Our Services

There are currently five entities under the CTSI umbrella: CHP, which helps meet employee health benefit needs; CWCP, which meets workers compensation insurance coverage needs; CAPP, which meets property, vehicle, and liability coverage needs; 800 Grant Street Office Condominium Owners Associations, which owns and manages the common elements at the CTSI headquarters in downtown Denver; and CTSI, which manages and employs personnel to administer the four other entities as well as provide consulting and training services.

Welcome to Colorful Colorado roadside sign.

Pooling and Cost Control

Pooling gives CTSI members the ability to use their collective buying power to negotiate from a position of strength in often uncertain insurance markets, while member involvement in the management and operation of CTSI and the pools produces a responsive and adaptive organization that excels at controlling costs. We regularly provide our members with renewal rates below the national average,  consult with members about increased limits when needed, and provide coverage for new functions as required by members. Our commitment to continuous improvement means that we are constantly investigating ways to reduce the cost of insurance coverage and ancillary services for members. Our centralized purchasing power at a much larger volume has helped significantly control member costs over acquiring services and functions independently. The continued reliance on CTSI services by members and nonmembers further demonstrates the tremendous value provided by your county-owned organization. The stabilization of costs and additional benefits the commissioners sought when forming CTSI and the pools continue to be affirmed, along with the return of member equity to offset future operational costs.

What This Means for Counties

National and global insurance markets continue to harden as companies seek to protect their organizations from rising claims costs brought on by natural disasters and the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. Membership in CTSI gives Colorado counties leverage to negotiate favorable premiums and coverage in this challenging market. For more information, contact CTSI at 303 861 0507.

CTSI is always working with our member counties to reduce the number of days from the date the county is notified of a work-related injury until the claim is received by CTSI. Our goal is to have all claims reported within three days of the employer receiving notification of a claim.

Early Reporting Matters

Early reporting of claims tends to lower the overall cost of the claim. Studies have shown the following:

Because prompt reporting has such an impact on lowering costs, it is important that you do not save all of your county's workers' compensation claims to file at once. Each claim should be filed when the incident is reported. It takes no more time to report a claim the day it is received than it does to file it a week later, but even a week's delay can increase the cost of the claim.

An Important, Cost-saving Tool

Prompt reporting is one of the most important, readily available tools to lower worker's compensation costs. The sooner CTSI receives the claim, the faster we can move on medical treatment, claims management, and nurse case management.

When a claim is filed, an adjuster evaluates the claim right away to determine the best course of action. They can work with the claimant to get appropriate medical treatment and implement an efficient return-to-work program that can bring employees back to a productive work status. Litigation is less likely for claims reported immediately. A National Council on Compensation Insurance study showed that the percent of litigated claims doubled when reported more than 31 days after the injury. 

How to File a Claim

Claim forms are available at www.ctsi.org, or you can contact the CTSI workers compensation or property and liability claims staff for copies. Claims of a serious nature are to be reported by phone immediately. We do not need all of the information before reporting the loss; additional information can be submitted once reported. Once available, include the police report, driver statement (for auto accidents), and photos. Send new CAPP claims to cappclaims@ctsi.org and new CWCP claims to wcclaims@ctsi.org. 

What This Means for Counties

When an injury occurs on the job, a workers' compensation claim should be filed when an injury is reported. Filing early allows CTSI to manage the claimant's treatment more effectively and offers significant cost savings to the CWCP, CAPP, and you as a member county. For more information on filing claims, contact CTSI at 303 861 0507.

A PDF of this Technical Update is available here.

As winter approaches and temperatures drop, it is an excellent time to look at county buildings for areas that could be damaged by freezing temperatures and snowy weather, such as roofs, gutters, and pipes.

Ice Dams

Ice dams occur when water freezes near the edge of a roof or around drains, preventing melting snow from draining properly. The water can back up and leak into a building causing damage to roofs and walls. To prevent ice dams, keep drains, gutters, and downspouts free of debris. You may also increase ceiling insulation or add self-regulating heating cables to problem areas.

Roof Damage

An ice dam on a roof.

Snow and ice can build up on roofs causing structural damage. According to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, 10-12 inches of fresh snow or 3-5 inches of packed snow equals one inch of water or about 5 lbs per sq. ft. of roof space. An inch of ice equals about a foot of fresh snow. Snow and ice buildup can stress the limits of roofs, even those designed for winter weather. Know the snow load of your buildings, something that can be determined by a structural engineer, and take steps such as snow removal before snow levels reach those limits.

Frozen Pipes

Frozen and burst pipes are a major source of property damage during winter weather. Pipes freeze when the heat in the water flowing through the pipes is transferred to below-freezing air. The best way to prevent this from happening is to ensure that pipes are placed in heated spaces and by keeping them out of attics, crawl spaces, and away from outside walls. Of course, this is not always possible, especially in existing structures, so pipes at risk of exposure to freezing temperatures should be well insulated. Insulation sleeves or wrapping, usually made of foam rubber or fiberglass, can be placed around pipes to slow heat transfer. Check that there are no gaps in the coverage.

Also, check a building’s foundations for cracks or holes near water pipes. Use caulk to seal these areas and keep cold wind out. Closed cabinet doors in bathrooms and kitchens can block warm air from reaching pipes. During a cold spell, open the doors and let the faucet drip. A dripping faucet will not prevent a pipe from freezing, but it can relieve pressure buildup when ice blocks a pipe and keep it from bursting. 

What This Means for Counties

Prepare county buildings for winter weather by evaluating vulnerable areas such as roofs, gutters, and exposed pipes. Take proactive steps to prevent damage.  For more information about preparing buildings for winter weather, contact CTSI at 303 861 0507.

A PDF of this Technical Update is available here.

Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), Health Reimbursement Accounts (HRAs), and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are tax-advantaged accounts used to pay for certain qualified medical expenses such as co-pays, prescriptions, dental, and vision costs. Employers can offer any or all of these accounts as a benefit to offset healthcare costs. These accounts use pre-tax dollars and must adhere to specific rules and limits set by the IRS. The table below provides a general overview of how these accounts differ:

What This Means for Counties

 Each type of account offers benefits depending on your health insurance needs. Understanding the differences can help you determine which account or combination of accounts is the best fit for your situation. For more information, contact CTSI at (303) 861 0507.