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Colorado expands FMLA leave to cover civil unions, domestic partners

Under a law signed by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper on May 3, the state has expanded the circle of family members for whom Colorado employees are entitled to take leave from work under the federal FMLA. The law will be effective following 90 days after the general assembly adjourns (which would be August 7, 2103, if adjournment takes place May 8 as expected) unless a referendum petition is filed against the act. If that happens, the act would not take effect unless approved by the electorate at the November 2014 general election.

Under HB 13-1222, an employee in Colorado is entitled to leave to care for a person who has a serious health condition (as defined under the federal FMLA) if the person is the employee’s partner in a civil union or is the employee’s domestic partner and (1) has registered the domestic partnership with the municipality in which the person resides or with the state, if applicable; or (2) is recognized by the employer as the employee’s domestic partner. The same reasonable documentation and certification requirements apply as they would under the federal FMLA.

The Colorado Civil Union Act (S. 11, L. 2013) was signed into law on March 21. Effective May 1, civil unions were authorized in the state. A civil union means a relationship established by two eligible persons that entitles them to receive the benefits and protections and be subject to the responsibilities of spouses. A party to a civil union is included in any definition or use of the terms “dependent”, “family”, “heir”, “immediate family”, “next of kin”, “spouse”, and any other term that denotes the familial or spousal relationship, as those terms are used throughout the Colorado Revised Statutes. Rights, benefits, protections, duties, obligations, responsibilities, and other incidents under law as are granted to or imposed upon spouses, that apply in like manner to parties to a civil union under this section, include, specifically, family leave benefits.