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Q&A: What are my rights during COVID-19?

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Q: I am considered an essential worker. I have run out of paid sick leave, but now think I have the COVID-19. Can I ask for time off from work? Do I have any right to paid time off?

Qusair Mohamedbhai & Iris Halpern
A: In a nutshell, yes. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you are entitled to time off. For many workers, that time off has to be paid. In March, the state Division of Labor enacted the Colorado Health Emergency Leave with Pay Rules (Colorado HELP). These regulations temporarily require companies to provide up to four days of paid medical leave for individuals who need to self-isolate or exhibit symptoms of COVID-19. These regulations cover employers in leisure and hospitality, retail stores that sell groceries, food and beverage manufacturing, food services, childcare, education (including transportation, food service, and related work), home health care, nursing homes, and community living facilities.

Additionally, the United States Congress recently passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, including the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act. These laws require states, cities, and towns of any size, as well as private companies with fewer than 500 employees, to provide two weeks of paid leave to employees at their full rate of pay (up to $511 a day), if an individual is being told to self-isolate or exhibits symptoms of COVID-19 and is awaiting diagnosis. Although companies with over 500 employees do not fall under this law, larger companies must provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to any employee who has been with the company for more than a year.

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