Quick links: 3,606 workers file to take family leave | Who pays for FAMLI | New minimum wages | Wage transparency law part 2 | Other 2024 labor laws
For the past year, many Colorado workers and their employers have built up a $775 million fund that will someday allow workers paid leave to care for a newborn, sick loved one or themselves. That day starts Jan. 1.
It’s the next stage of a state law that goes into effect in 2024, and it’s joined by a handful of new labor laws and rules for the workplace. Another limits age discrimination of job applicants, another increases the minimum wage while another has employers facing higher payroll costs. There’s even something new for the 2019 law requiring companies to post salaries for new jobs.
But the paid family plan known as Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program, aka FAMLI, is one that has kept lawyers like Liz Hartsel busy addressing various scenarios, even if the client or employer isn’t in Colorado.
“I’m getting a lot of requests from clients, both employers and employees, about how to deal with (new laws). For instance, ‘My employer’s in Chicago and I’m pregnant,’ and they’re like ‘We don’t know what to do,’” said Hartsel, an employment lawyer at Fortis Law Partners in Denver. “With any new law, there’s a lot of uncertainty and I think that it behooves employers to just be up to speed on what is allowed under the upcoming laws.”
Here’s what’s coming in 2024 with links to past stories that go more in depth.
Paid family leave finally begins
Even though workers can’t start paid leave until Jan. 1, they can apply for one. Since the application portal opened in late November, 3,606 claims were submitted as of Dec. 19 with 74% being parental leave claims, according to the state Department of Labor and Employment.
Workers on leave are eligible for up to 90% of their regular wages, but that’s for the lowest-wage earners. The maximum benefit is $1,100 per week. Eligible workers can get up to 12 weeks of paid leave, or 16 for those with complicated pregnancies and child births.
So far, 209,000 employer accounts have been created, or nearly all of those eligible. Employers with their own paid leave program can request an exemption. The federal government, employers with fewer than 10 workers and local governments can opt out. Approximately 1,322 of local governments, or more than 85% eligible, have opted out.
Voters passed FAMLI in 2020 after Colorado Democrats tried unsuccessfully for six years to pass a statewide paid leave program for workers to take care of a newborn or sick loved one. While they could use the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, that is unpaid leave. The two run concurrently.
➔ Earlier: More than 80% of local governments have opted out of Colorado’s new paid family, medical leave
Who pays for FAMLI and how to get started?
Employers and employees started feeling the financial pinch of FAMLI a year ago to help build a statewide benefits fund. For a worker making $50,000 a year, they paid $4.33 a week for insurance. Employers paid up to 0.9% of a worker’s wage. Companies with fewer than 10 employees aren’t required to pay the employer share, but their workers could still contribute.
As of Dec. 19, the fund had collected $775 million in insurance premium payments and was “right on track based on our projections,” according to an emailed response from the state Department of Labor and Employment.
It will operate similarly to the state unemployment fund, which also relies on employer and employee contributions — not statewide taxpayers. When a worker needs paid leave, they apply to the state program. The employer, meanwhile, doesn’t pay the worker on leave but must cover any health insurance premiums and let them return after the leave ends.
“Coloradans with approved claims can begin taking leave starting (Jan. 1), and we expect to distribute the first payments the following week,” a labor department spokesperson said.
An added note from the labor department: Workers approved for paid leave in advance still must let the department of labor know when the leave starts. The process can be done online on the My FAMLI+ dashboard, at myfamliplus.state.co.us/Core/Login
➔ Earlier: Behind the new fee many Colorado workers and employers will see in 2023
State minimum wage rises to $14.42, higher in Denver
Colorado’s minimum wage starts at $14.42 an hour Jan. 1, up 5.6%. The annual increase is based on the prior year’s first six months of inflation, which has been relatively high for the past two years.
The city of Denver has its own local minimum wage and follows a similar annual metric so workers within city limits will see their minimum rise to $18.29 an hour.
For the first time, the city of Edgewater and Boulder County adopted local minimum wage, at $15.02 and $15.69, respectively.
➔ Earlier: How Colorado’s wages increased for 10 years — until they were adjusted for inflation
Pay transparency law amended
Colorado’s Equal Pay for Equal Work Act was the start of something big when it went into effect on Jan. 1, 2021. It aimed to close the gender pay gap by requiring job postings to disclose salaries. Today, 80% of Colorado job postings post the wage compared with 25% in 2020, according to a study by job site Indeed.com. Other states have since followed suit, including California, Washington and New York.
But there was still confusion about the law itself in Colorado, such as must a company advertise a job intended as a promotion — such as a Technician 1 to Technician 2 role — to outsiders? Even the labor department had some confusion as to how to enforce the law.
That’s getting cleared up in an amendment that goes into effect Jan. 1. If it’s a “regular or automatic movement” from one role to another, that’s a “career progression,” and needs to only be shared with eligible employees. Meanwhile, the labor agency is officially tasked with accepting, mediating and investigating complaints and enforcing the law with fines.
➔ Earlier: Get ready for Colorado’s wage transparency law, part 2
Pay transparency complaints still coming in
The labor department has pursued violators of the law and gone after companies that blackballed workers living in Colorado for remote jobs. While the frequency of Equal Pay-related complaints regarding pay transparency has dwindled, there have been 1,436 to date, according to the labor department’s latest estimate shared with The Colorado Sun.
Since the law went into effect in January 2021, 1,436 Equal Pay-related complaints have been submitted with most failing to include compensation and benefits.
About one-quarter, or 387, were notified they were out of compliance and 74.2% resolved the matter before it became a formal investigation. There have been 162 formal investigations with 19 citations issued, five companies fined and four paid the fine. Those were:
➔ Earlier: Colorado women earned 85.4 cents for every dollar a man made in 2021
➔ Spot a job listing in violation of the Equal Pay law? >> File a complaint
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More labor laws
2024 unemployment premiums rise
Filling up the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund has been a goal of lawmakers since before the pandemic, which depleted the fund and caused Colorado to borrow more than $1 billion from the federal government to pay unemployment benefits.
That debt was paid in 2022 and the fund has a balance estimated to be $250 million, said Ryan Gedney, senior economist with the state labor department. The goal is to get it to a range of $1.7 billion to $2.9 billion by the end of 2028, according to the Trust Fund Status Report. Typically, the fund gets a deluge of money when employers’ quarterly payments are due, so expect the fund to rise.
“I anticipate that the (trust fund) balance at the end of March will be a little under $200 million, but will bounce back in the following quarter, because that’s when we’ll start receiving our first quarter 2024 premiums,” Gedney said.
Because the fund is still relatively low, there are added fees employers must pay until it’s considered solvent. That solvency surcharge was suspended through 2023 but now takes effect in 2024. The rates depend on the employer’s history and can be found here.
There’s also a built-in measure (passed in 2022) to help the fund increase faster. Employers now must pay premiums on the first $23,800 of a worker’s pay. Three years ago, the base wage was $13,600.
Thanks for sticking with me for this week’s report. Remember to check out The Sun’s daily coverage online. As always, share your 2 cents on how the economy is keeping you down or helping you up at cosun.co/heyww. And have a Happy New Year! ~ tamara
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