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There’s no question these are unprecedented times. Among the panicked calls, we’ve been receiving from business owners are a lot of questions about employer rights.

“Money’s tight. Can I lay off employees? Can I furlough? What are my options?”

Today, we’re going to help you get the important answers to those questions as they pertain to employers in Colorado.

It’s important to keep in mind that this situation is rapidly evolving. This includes the rules and regulations around employer rights, wage subsidies, and more. Please contact us directly if you’d like to discuss your specific concerns.

Employee rights in Colorado

On March 11, 2020, the State Labor Department released emergency rules on paid sick leave for COVID-19.

These rules temporarily require employers in many industries to provide some paid sick leave to employees with flu-like symptoms while they wait for COVID-19 testing.

The industries this applies to include leisure and hospitality, retail stores that sell groceries, food and beverage manufacturing, food services, child care, education (including transportation, food service, and related work with educational establishments), nursing homes, home health (if working with elderly, ill, or high-risk people) and community living facilities.

Now you know a bit about employee rights during COVID-19. But what about employer rights?

Employer rights in Colorado

Like many business owners in Colorado and across America, you could be experiencing significant financial strain. In fact, many industries are near collapse under the financial strain brought on by the pandemic. If your business isn’t earning enough money or even operating at all, it will be increasingly difficult to pay your employees.

The decision to lay off employees is never an easy one, especially in times like this. But is it within your rights to do so?

The short answer to whether you can lay off employees during COVID-19 is yes, this is within your employer rights. Just remember, doing so could trigger a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) and equivalent state acts. WARN was created to offer some protection to workers and their families by requiring employers to provide notice 60 days in advance of covered plant closings and covered mass layoffs.

But due to the rapidly changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, specific laws surrounding WARN may not be as clear as they once were.

In fact, they can vary from business to business. This is one reason it’s vital to seek legal counsel before making layoffs. The specific guidance you receive will depend on things like the nature of your business and how many people you employ.

Are you also interested in learning what you need to know about the CARES Financial Relief Act for your small business? We’ve covered what you need to know in this post.

Exceptions to the WARN notice requirements

Under normal circumstances, employers with 100 or more full-time workers (total) must provide written notice at least sixty calendar days in advance of covered plan closings and mass layoffs. But as we know, we are not dealing with normal circumstances.

There are a few exceptions to WARN notice requirements that are especially important during COVID-19:

  • Natural disasters
  • Unforeseeable business circumstances (i.e., a pandemic)
  • Faltering business

Given that COVID-19 was a sudden and dramatic event that has impacted many American business owners, it falls under the category of an unforeseeable business circumstance.

While this may result in an exception to the WARN notice requirements, it does NOT mean you’re not required to give notice to affected employees. Instead, your notice should include information regarding why the employee didn’t receive the full 60-day notice. In this case, that information would pertain to COVID-19.

It’s also important to understand there are civic penalties and extensive legal liabilities you expose yourself to as an employer who violates WARN.

Be sure to gain a comprehensive understanding of WARN. This includes any mini-WARN acts in your own state with different notice thresholds and requirements. Many states have their own WARN acts, however, Colorado is not one of them.

Employers should also have a look at this post where we discuss seven reasons you’re breaking the law in your small business for more information.

We understand that you’re faced with many difficult decisions each day as an employer. Call the team at Contiguglia Law Firm today to set up a strategy session and learn more about your employer rights.

If you learned a lot from this article, have a look at these articles you might like:

Is It Legal To Pay Employees Cash?
7 reasons you are breaking the law in your small business
The 5 Biggest Mistakes to Avoid When Starting Your New Corporation