Maternity and Parental Leave Laws in Colorado

Colorado law gives pregnant employees the right to reasonable accommodations so they can work.

By , J.D.
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Do you need time off work for pregnancy, childbirth, or parenting? If you work in Colorado, the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives you the right to take unpaid leave for these reasons. The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) prohibits your employer from discriminating against you because of your pregnancy, which may give you the right to take time off work, in some cases. Colorado also has a separate law requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees.

Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnant Workers

Colorado's Pregnant Workers Fairness Act gives pregnant employees the right to reasonable accommodations: changes to their position or work rules that will allow them to do their jobs. Reasonable accommodations for pregnancy and childbirth might include more or longer breaks during the work day, light duty, job restructuring, modification of equipment (including seating), or modified work schedules. For example, if you are struggling with morning sickness early in your pregnancy or are unable to work a full day as you near your due date, you might be eligible for a modified schedule that gives you some time off or a shorter work day.

The law explicitly says that employers are not required to provide paid leave for pregnant employees. This law was passed in 2016; to learn more about it, see the New Laws page of the Colorado Civil Rights Division.

Unpaid Time Off During Pregnancy

While Colorado doesn't have any state laws specifically requiring employers to allow time off during your pregnancy, there are two federal laws that might help you if you need pregnancy leave: the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA).

Family and Medical Leave

The FMLA gives eligible employees the right to take up to 12 weeks off work in a one-year period for pregnancy and parenting leave (among other things). If you qualify, you may use the FMLA to take time off when you are unable to work because of your pregnancy and childbirth. You may also take FMLA leave for prenatal care, including routine check-ups and doctor visits. (Learn more about the FMLA, including eligibility requirements, in our article on FMLA leave for pregnancy and disability.) Some states have similar laws that allow employees to take time off while they are unable to work due to pregnancy. However, Colorado is not one of them.

Pregnancy Discrimination

The PDA does not require employers to give pregnant employees time off work. However, it does require employers to treat employees who are unable to work due to pregnancy just as it treats employees who are temporarily disabled for other reasons. For example, if your company lets employees take time off for other temporary disabilities, like a broken leg or a stroke, then it must allow pregnant employees to take the same time off when they are unable to work.

Similarly, Colorado has a state law that requires employers to make the same leave available to employees who are temporarily unable to work because of pregnancy and childbirth that they make available to employees who are temporarily disabled by other conditions.

Unpaid Parenting Leave

If you qualify, the FMLA gives you the right to take time off to bond with a new child, whether biological, adopted, or foster. This is part of your total 12-week leave entitlement. So, if you use two weeks of FMLA leave during your pregnancy, you will have ten weeks left to use for parenting leave.

Colorado has a parental leave law, but it applies only to adoptive parents. Under this law, employers that make parental leave available to biological parents must make the same leave available to adoptive parents (other than stepparents). However, this law doesn't require employers to provide time off in the first place; it requires only that employers treat adoptive parents as well as they treat biological parents.

Part-Time or Reduced Schedule Leave Under the FMLA

The FMLA allows employees to take their pregnancy or parental leave intermittently, if it's medically necessary. For example, if you have a prenatal check-up, you don't have to take a whole day off; you can use a couple of hours of your FMLA leave, then go back to work. The same is true for pregnancy-related ailments that don't last all day. If, for instance, you have morning sickness that lives up to its name, you might need a few hours off in the morning, but be able to come to work by lunchtime.

For parental leave, however, the rules are different. If you want to use your parenting leave a little at a time—for example, by returning to work half-time for a while, or by taking some of your leave when the baby is born and some at a later point when your partner returns to work—your employer must agree to it. If your employer agrees to let you use your parenting leave intermittently, you must finish your time off within one year after the baby is born.

Getting Paid During Your Time Off

FMLA leave is unpaid. However, you may ask—or your employer may require you—to use your accrued paid leave (like sick days, vacation, or PTO) to get paid during your time off.

Your employer may also offer maternity and paternity leave benefits, parental benefits, or short-term disability insurance. Talk to your HR representative or manager (and check your employee handbook) to find out what types of leave are available to you.

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