The Colorado legislature approved changes to the state’s workers’ compensation landscape during the 2022 legislative lession. The Workers’ Compensation Injury Notices Act (HB 22-1112) and the Protecting Injured Workers’ Mental Health Records Act (HB 22-1354) operate to update the notice and signage requirements for on-the-job injuries covered by workers’ compensation insurance as well as the handling and protection of mental health records related to workers’ compensation claims made under the Workers’ Compensation Act of Colorado, respectively. The new notice and signage provisions take effect on Aug. 10, 2022, while the laws concerning mental health records became effective on June 8, 2022.
Below is a summary of the most important changes about which all Colorado employers and employees should know.
New Workers’ Compensation Insurance Signage Requirements
First, the required signage notifying an employer’s workers about workers’ compensation insurance has changed. Beginning Aug. 10, 2022, signage must state the name and contact information of the workers’ compensation insurer, that the employer is responsible for the payment of workers' compensation insurance, that the injured employee has rights under the law if the employer fails to carry workers' compensation insurance, that the employee should seek medical attention if injured on the job, and that the injury must be reported in writing to the employer.
Extended Injury and Occupational Disease Notice Windows
The deadline by which an employee must notify their employer in writing about an on-the-job injury has been extended to 10 days. Prior to this change, the law only gave employees a four-day window to notify an employer of an on-the-job injury, whether that injury was their own or someone’s else’s about which the employee had knowledge. Moreover, a prior version of the law authorized a reduction in compensation to an injured employee for failing to timely notify the employer, and it tolled the four-day notice period if the employer failed to post workplace signage specifying an injured employee's notification deadline.
Not only has the notice period changed to 10 days, but the tolling and compensation-reduction provisions have likewise been altered. After Aug. 10, 2022, if an employer fails to provide a written acknowledgment of the receipt of notice of an employee’s injury, or the employer fails to post the new signage on the workplace premises, then the employee’s notice period is tolled for the duration of the failure. Additionally, if the employer has actual notice of the injury or the employee can make a showing of good cause for the failure to report the injury in writing, then the employee does not lose compensation.
The Colorado legislature also updated the employee and employer notice requirements for occupational diseases. Beginning Aug. 10, 2022, an employee is no longer obligated to notify an employer of an occupational disease within 30 days of contraction of the disease. Instead, manifestation of the occupational disease triggers the 30-day notice period. Failure to provide notice in the absence of good cause, or lack of the employer’s actual knowledge of the contraction of the disease, may reduce any compensation otherwise payable to the employee.
Prohibitions on the Disclosure and Use of Injured Worker’s Mental Health Records
Effective June 8, 2022, employers became responsible for additional obligations concerning their acquisition and recordkeeping of employee mental health records obtained during the course of the workers’ compensation process. For example, insurers and employers are entitled to the release of mental health records by mental health providers only for very limited purposes. Insurers and self-insured employers may only obtain from providers a claimant’s mental health records for the purpose of paying for medical services and adjusting or adjudicating claims involving psychological or psychiatric issues. A non-self-insured employer, on the other hand, may only access such records for the sole purpose of complying with applicable state or federal law, rules and regulations. Further, self-insured employers who come into possession of mental health records by way of the Workers’ Compensation Act must take special steps to segregate the claimant’s mental health records from its personnel files and also adopt clear policies and training to guard the claimant’s privacy.
These are only a few key takeaways about which employers should be aware so that they can modify their handling of employee mental health records.