Posted: August 13, 2013
When family meets business
How a new state law helps working parentsBy Lorrie Ray
The topic of women in the workplace is becoming interesting again. Recent census data indicates that women are breadwinners in 23 percent of families – a significant increase from 1976 when the number was just six percent. Wives are also out earning their husbands 28 percent of the time when both work – 25 years ago, this was only the case 16 percent of the time.
This could be explained by the college gap between men and women – in 2010, women earned 57 percent of college degrees, and 60 percent of master’s degrees. Or by the recent economic challenges – job losses in traditionally male workforces, like construction, could also be playing a role in the shift.
Landscapes and roles in workplaces and families are changing, but there is good news for Colorado’s professional families – lawmakers are taking note and reevaluating policies, and families are in better position than ever to balance the needs of home and office.
Recent Updates to FMLA Laws
In addition to tackling the needs of their employers, customers and co-workers, women often balance their professional roles with highly-interactive relationships with family members. Even with a reliable day care situation or in-home care provided by another family member, working mothers may still feel the pull of attending school events or being at home to care for a sick child. Increasingly, Colorado and federal laws offer protection for women balancing critical relationships at home and in the office.
The Colorado Family Care Act (FCA) took effect Aug. 7 and allows eligible employees working for covered employers to take up to 12 weeks of leave to care for their civil union or domestic partners with serious health conditions. The FCA follows the federal Family and Medical Leave Act’s requirements for employer coverage, employee eligibility, serious health condition, medical certification, and remedies available, but does not address other important leave administration issues such as intermittent leave, continued health benefits, temporary transfer, and guaranteed reinstatement.
If you work for an employer with 50 or more employees, you’re entitled to family and medical leave to care for a parent, spouse or child, or for the birth or adoptions of her own child, under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Since 2009, Colorado has also required employers to provide leave for unpaid, job-protected leave to attend academic activities of a child enrolled in public or private school or in a nonpublic home-based educational program in Colorado in any grade from kindergarten through twelfth grade, under the Colorado Parental Involvement Act. The employee is eligible if they work in a nonexecutive or nonsupervisory capacity.
More and more, fathers are also taking advantage of the protections of such laws. Certainly men are also covered by the law, and may take time off to provide care to for an ill child, parent, or spouse. Fathers are also allowed to miss work for up to twelve weeks to bond with a newborn or adopted child, and employers are finding that fathers are taking advantage of the law, so long as it is affordable, as the leave is unpaid, unless the employee has accrued time off.
Finally, the Colorado legislature, sensitive to the needs of those dealing with women has passed two other laws they view as helpful. The Workplace Accommodations for Nursing Mothers Act provides women with privacy at work when expressing milk when they are nursing. The Colorado Domestic Abuse Leave Law is available to both men and women who are, sadly, victims of domestic violence. If their employer has 50 or more employees, these employees can request up to three days of leave to contend with matters surrounding their difficult domestic relationship, such as court appearances, enlisting in security services, or physical or mental health assistance as a result of violence.
Quick Tips for Compliance in Colorado Workplaces
To maintain compliance with all of these laws, keep these simple tips in mind:
- Understand the laws’ requirements and whether your organization must follow them.
- If your organization is covered, know which employees are eligible and which are not.
- If the law applies to you as an employer, create clear policies so that all know how the process works at your workplace.
Lorrie Ray is a director of the Membership Development Department at Mountain States Employers Council, Inc. (MSEC) headquartered in Denver, Colo. MSEC provides advice, counsel, information, representation, training and education in Employee Relations, Labor Relations, Management, Human Resources, Research and Employment Law matters. Lorrie's experience in the variety of problems typically facing employers includes resolution of civil rights cases before state and federal administrative agencies, federal wage and hour disputes and state law claims, employment discrimination, wrongful discharge and health and safety laws. She is also a frequent lecturer on employment law matters, and can be contacted at email@example.com.