Colorado has two new and important employment laws taking effect with the beginning of 2021. 2021 hasn’t started great for many people but for Colorado employees it’s not so bad. Workers in Colorado now enjoy the benefits of the Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA) and Equal Pay for Equal Work Act. Today’s post will break down these two new laws and how they will benefit employees in Colorado workplaces. These laws went into effect on January 1, 2021 so if your employers is covered by these new laws and already failing to meet their obligations under these laws then you should talk to a Colorado employment lawyer right away.
Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA) in Colorado
Colorado employees now enjoy the benefits of the Healthy Families and Workplaces Act in 2021 and beyond for paid sick leave. In 2021 the HFWA applies to employers with sixteen or more employees. In 2022 it will begin to apply to all Colorado employers. This statute allows employees to stay home for forty-eight hours, or six days, of paid sick leave. This law generally applies to both full time and part time employees; however, there are a few exempt employers. Employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement with more generous terms are exempt. The federal government and employers covered by the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act are also exempt.
Employees under the Healthy Families and Workplaces Act accrue paid sick leave rapidly. Employees earn one hour of paid sick leave for every thirty hours of work up to the forty-eight hour limit. If a public health emergency, like covid-19, is announced then the accrual is supplemented to eighty hours for a full time employee and for part-time employees a slightly more complicated formula of approximately their normal work time for two weeks. The public health emergency applies even if the employee has exhausted all other paid time off under other policies. Because covid-19 is an active pandemic, the supplement applies for 2021.
The HFWA includes many of the same legal protections and causes of action as other labor and employment laws. The statute requires employers to provide notice in the workplace of these rights in a conspicuous place so look forward to a HFWA notice in your breakroom. The employment law also includes a private cause of action for employees who are denied paid sick leave compliant with the statute and a private cause of action for employees who suffer retaliation for requesting leave under the statute. This means employees denied paid sick leave under the law or retaliated against for requesting it can sue their employer in Colorado courts. There is no grace period for your employer. If you have been denied paid sick leave under the HFWA or your employer retaliated for requesting it then you should talk to Colorado employment lawyers right away.
Colorado’s Equal Pay for Equal Work Act
Prior to 2021, Colorado employees were protected from sex-based and gender-based pay discrimination under federal and Colorado law. The federal Equal Pay Act prohibits sex and gender as a basis for pay discrimination (in addition to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964). Colorado law also prohibited pay discrimination under a bare bones statute giving a nod to the language of the federal Equal Pay Act. With the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission‘s focus on pay discrimination in the 2010s there has been a focus on beefing up the regulations and statutes prohibiting pay discrimination on the basis of sex or gender.
The new Equal Pay for Equal Work Act strengthens Colorado law and assist employees in pursuing claims for pay discrimination. This statute requires equal rates of pay for similar work across sex, gender and gender-identity. The statute aligns more closely with the federal Equal Pay Act by carving out exceptions for permissible wage discrepancies when based entirely on:
- (1) a “seniority system”;
- (2) a “merit system”;
- (3) a “system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production”;
- (4) the “geographic location where the work is performed”
- (5) “education, training, or experience,” but only “to the extent that they are reasonably related to the work”; or
- (6) “travel,” but only if the travel is a “regular and necessary condition of the work.”
The employer’s reliance on these factors must be reasonable and cannot factor in wage history, which may be affected by a history of pay discrimination.
Wage-based sex and gender discrimination is certainly not a new issue and not one that will go away any time soon. Increasing the tools for regulators to stamp out these practices and for employees to pursue claims when they are the victim of this form of discrimination is critical to reducing its harmful effects. If you believe you have suffered pay discrimination on the basis of sex, gender, or gender identity then you should contact an employment lawyer in Colorado right away. This form of employment discrimination can involve claims under several federal and Colorado employment laws which have their own statutes of limitations and administrative requirements that must be met. Experienced Colorado employment lawyers can help you navigate this system.