On November 1, 2011, Denver voters will decide the fate of Ballot Initiative 300, Denver’s Paid Sick and Safe Time Ordinance. This Ordinance, if passed, will require every employer in the City and County of Denver – except for state and federal employers – to provide paid sick and safe time to its employees. “Small businesses” – those with fewer than ten employees – will have to give employees 40 hours of paid leave in a given year, while all other employers will have to provide 72 hours of paid leave. Paid leave will begin to accrue “at the commencement of employment” at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked, but can only be used after the employee has worked for 90 days. Employees may use the leave, without advance notice, to address their own mental and physical health conditions as well as the health conditions of family members, which is broadly defined. Employees may also use the leave to address matters relating to domestic abuse, sexual assault, and stalking.

If approved by the voters, the Ordinance will prohibit employers from: (1) imposing unreasonable barriers to employees’ use of paid leave, including requiring employees to find replacement workers; (2) retaliating against employees for their use of paid leave; (3) requiring documentation justifying the use of paid leave unless an employee misses more than three consecutive days of work; or (4) requiring employee disclosure for matters relating to domestic abuse, sexual assault, stalking, and mental health conditions. Further, the Ordinance will require employers to comply with several notice requirements and document for five years the hours worked and paid leave time taken by employees. Failure to maintain these records may lead to a presumption that the employer has violated the Ordinance. Denver’s Agency for Human Rights and Community Relations will have the power to conduct investigations and impose fines for violations of the ordinance, and employees will be entitled to sue for damages and equitable relief.  

The Ordinance also creates a rebuttable presumption of unlawful retaliation when the employer takes adverse action against an employee within 90 days after the employee has informed “another person” about his/her rights under the Ordinance or has alleged a violation of the Ordinance.