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United employee claims airline isn't abiding by Colorado's COVID paid sick leave rules

United Airlines plane landing at DIA
Posted at 10:03 AM, Aug 09, 2022

DENVER — A United Airlines employee claims the company isn't abiding by Colorado law after not receiving pay for several work shifts while recovering from COVID-19.

The employee, who wants to remain anonymous, said she tested positive at the end of June. She felt pressured to come into work the following day because she had only one attendance point left.

"A lot of people told me to come in because they thought I would get fired," the employee said.

After several discussions, she said her managers decided to send her home after only working a few hours. She spent another two workdays at home but said the airline only paid for one of them.

"By law, employers have to pay you, so I figured I was covered," she said.

Under Colorado's Healthy Families and Workplaces Act, "employers must provide employees with up to two weeks... of paid leave for COVID-related needs," according to Colorado Department of Labor and Employment's website. This applies even to companies not headquartered in Colorado.

"As of now, there are virtually no exceptions except for employees of the federal government or certain railroad-related employees," said Scott Moss, division director of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment's Division of Labor Standards and Statistics.

Moss said his office has only received one complaint about United, but the employee who filed it never followed through, so no action was taken.

"Sometimes, it means it got resolved. Other times, it means the worker lost interest," Moss said.

Overall, paid sick leave complaints make up just under 20% of CDLE's annual wage complaints, so about 600 out of 3,500 or so a year.

"It's either that you took the time off and didn't get paid for it or you were required to work when you should have been able to have paid wages for your time off," Moss said.

Denver7 asked United Airlines about its COVID-19 absences policy, its paid sick leave policy and whether it was breaking state law. Our questions went unanswered, but a spokesperson sent along the following statement:

"The safety of our employees is our top priority. United provides all employees with generous allotments of time off including paid sick leave, vacation, and holidays. United’s dependability policies vary by workgroup, but all allow employees significant flexibility and opportunity to stay home when they are ill, and none count absences protected by federal, state, and local laws, such as the Colorado Healthy Families and Workplaces Act."

The employee said she's just thankful she had a support system she could rely on after going unpaid for nearly two shifts.

"If I lived by myself, since I didn't get a full check, I don't think I would have been able to pay rent," she said.

Anyone who feels their employer owes them money under state law after taking time off for COVID-19 can file a complaint at ColoradoLaborLaw.gov. The form is available in both English and Spanish.

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