Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has signed into law the “Family Care Act” (“FCA”), expanding coverage of job-protected medical leave to include an employee’s partner in a civil union or domestic partner. The FCA will take effect on August 7, 2013. However, if a referendum petition is filed against it, the FCA would not become effective unless approved by the electorate in the November 2014 general election.

Summary of Law

Under the FCA, an employee in Colorado is entitled to take leave to care for a person who has a “serious health condition,” as defined under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), if that person is the employee’s partner in a civil union (effective May 1, 2013, civil unions were authorized in Colorado) or is the employee’s domestic partner and:

  • has registered the domestic partnership with the municipality in which the person resides or with the state, if applicable; or 
  • is recognized by the employer as the employee’s domestic partner. 

An employer may require the employee requesting leave to confirm the relationship by providing reasonable documentation or a written statement of family relationship in accordance with the FMLA. The FMLA’s other certification and documentation requirements also apply to leave taken to care for a civil union partner or domestic partner.

Employers who violate the FCA or interfere with an employee’s exercise of his or her rights under the FCA are subject to damages and equitable relief as specified in the FMLA, and an aggrieved employee may bring an action in state court to recover damages and equitable relief.

Colorado employers should review their leave policies to determine whether any revisions are necessary to ensure compliance with the FCA.