Colorado Revised Statutes C.R.S. 24-34-401 et seq.: Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act

Colorado employees enjoy strong legal protections in the workplace, including protections against many forms of employment discrimination. Employment discrimination happens when an employer treats an employee or job applicant less favorably than a similarly situated employee or applicant on the basis of a trait or characteristic unrelated to the job. Employment discrimination is only illegal when a federal, state, or local law prohibits less favorable treatment on specific traits or characteristics. In Colorado the state enacted an anti-employment discrimination law that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of several traits and characteristics. That statute is codified as Colorado Revised Statutes C.R.S. 24-34-401 et seq. C.R.S. 24-34-401 et seq is part of the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA) that prohibits many types of discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. If you believe you have an employment discrimination claim then you should contact Colorado employment lawyers right away.

Table of Contents


Employment discrimination under Colorado Revised Statutes C.R.S. 24-34-401 et seq.

The employment discrimination components of the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA) codified in Colorado Revised Statutes C.R.S. 24-34-401 et seq. prohibit discrimination in the workplace against the following traits and characteristics:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Creed/Religion
  • Race/Ethnicity
  • National origin
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • Pregnancy and childbirth

When was the colorado anti discrimination act passed? The Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act was passed in 1957, before any of the Civil Rights Era federal anti-discrimination statutes, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Colorado has long recognized the civil right to apply for and work in a job free from invidious forms of discrimination.

This employment law prohibits adverse employment actions on the basis of a protected trait or characteristic including:

To prove a claim for employment discrimination under Colorado Revised Statutes C.R.S. 24-34-401 et seq. the employee or job applicant must prove the adverse employment action occurred because either:

  1. The employer acted with a discriminatory intent against a protected trait or characteristic; or
  2. The employer has a policy that is non-discriminatory on face but has a discriminatory impact against employees or applicants who share a protected trait or characteristic.

Colorado Revised Statutes C.R.S. 24-34-401 et seq. also prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee for complaining about unlawful employment discrimination or participating in an investigation of an employment discrimination complaint. Read the statute here.

Let’s discuss each of the protected traits and characteristics in greater detail.

Age discrimination under Colorado Revised Statutes C.R.S. 24-34-401 et seq.

Colorado Revised Statutes C.R.S. 24-34-401 et seq. prohibits discrimination on the basis of age over forty. In many ways the Colorado age discrimination prohibition mirrors the federal prohibition under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Under the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA) an employer is prohibited from conducting any of the adverse employment actions listed above against employees or applicants over the age of forty. This is because employers sometimes discriminate against older workers who may command a higher salary due to experience, knowledge and skills, because they are perceived to be physically less capable of performing the job, or because they are perceived to be out of touch with younger generations.

Disability discrimination under Colorado Revised Statutes C.R.S. 24-34-401 et seq.

Disability discrimination under Colorado employment law is similar to federal law. Federal law prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) and the Rehabilitation Act for certain employees. Most employees enjoy protections under the ADA/ADAAA and Colorado law closely follows these statutes. Federal and Colorado law defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity. An employer may not discriminate against a qualified individual with a disability. A qualified individual with a disability is a person with a disability who is able to perform the essential functions of the job with or without a reasonable accommodation.

Prohibitions on disability discrimination are unique because they do not just prohibit adverse employment actions against a disability. Under Colorado Revised Statutes C.R.S. 24-34-401 et seq. and the ADA an employer may not discriminate against a qualified individual with an actual disability, a record of a disability, or the perception of a disability. Additionally, federal and Colorado law requires an employer to provide a reasonable accommodation to qualified individual with a disability.

A reasonable accommodation is one that changes the conditions of the job or the workplace to allow a disabled person to perform the essential functions of the job, to gain meaningful access to the workplace and to enjoy the benefits of the job similar to other employees. An accommodation is reasonable if it does not incur an undue hardship to the employer. (See Colorado regulations 3 CCR 708-1 et seq.)

Religious discrimination under Colorado Revised Statutes C.R.S. 24-34-401 et seq.

Colorado Revised Statutes C.R.S. 24-34-401 et seq. prohibits discrimination on the basis of an employee’s bona fide religious belief or practices. This mirrors federal law under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Like disability discrimination, an employer must provide a reasonable accommodation to a religious practice although the standard for an undue hardship is much lower. Common reasonable accommodations to a religious practice include time off work to attend religious ceremonies, adjusting break schedules to accommodate prayers or breaking fasts.

employment discrimination lawyers

Racial discrimination under Colorado Revised Statutes C.R.S. 24-34-401 et seq.

Colorado Revised Statutes C.R.S. 24-34-401 et seq. prohibits employment discrimination on the basis or race, ethnicity and skin color. Colorado employment law mirrors federal law, specifically Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It is not always easy to distinguish whether discrimination was motivated by race, ethnicity, or color as these terms are defined by the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act. For this reason, employees often include all as a possible basis for discrimination.

Sex discrimination under the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act

Discrimination on the basis of an employee or applicant’s sex or gender is prohibited by Colorado Revised Statutes C.R.S. 24-34-401 et seq.. This includes physical sex, gender and sex stereotypes. Sex discrimination under Colorado law mirrors federal law including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Equal Pay Act. Many people first think about sexual harassment as sex discrimination; however, sex discrimination includes any other adverse employment action prohibited for other types of employment discrimination.

Federal and Colorado employment law also prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions. This is unique among employment discrimination law because it is a protected trait or characteristic that an employee can voluntarily assume and definitely goes away (aside from some pregnancy or childbirth-related medical conditions). Pregnancy discrimination protections prohibit employers from treating an employee less favorably because she is pregnant, because she will give birth to children, or because she suffers a medical condition from the pregnancy or childbirth. It also requires an employer to provide the same accommodations to pregnancy or childbirth that the employer would provide other employees who have short term medical limitations.

Sexual orientation discrimination under Colorado Revised Statutes C.R.S. 24-34-401 et seq.

The Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination against employees on the basis of their sexual orientation. Federal law does not explicitly include sexual orientation at this time although the EEOC asserts it is covered by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 under prohibitions on sex discrimination. This includes heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality and transgender status. Transgenderism is not a sexual orientation but this is how regulations under Colorado Revised Statutes C.R.S. 24-34-401 et seq. classifies this form of unlawful employment discrimination.

Remedies for employment discrimination under the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act

Remedies for employment discrimination often begin with calculating lost wages and other compensation as a result of the employer’s unlawful acts. The employment relationship is built on exchanging labor for pay so it is unsurprising that recovering lost wages is an important part of employment discrimination remedies. An employee or applicant may recover both back pay and front pay.

Additionally, an employee or applicant may recover non-compensation monetary relief. For age discrimination a plaintiff can recover liquidated damages, which is like punitive damages but limited to doubling the amount of lost wages. In all other types of discrimination a plaintiff may recover relief for emotional distress, out of pocket losses and other compensatory damages. The plaintiff can also recover punitive damages. However, plaintiffs in any type of disparate impact claim cannot recover punitive damages or for failure to provide a reasonable accommodation to a disability if the employer made a good faith effort to identify and provide a suitable reasonable accommodation.

Plaintiffs can also recover attorney’s fees and litigation costs upon prevailing in an employment discrimination lawsuit under the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act.

Colorado Revised Statutes C.R.S. 24-34-401 et seq. authorizes a court to award reinstatement and other equitable relief; however, this is a rare remedy. Courts acknowledge that reinstating a terminated or demoted employee often means displacing the innocent employee who replaced the plaintiff. It is easier to avoid harm to innocent third parties by awarding financial compensation from the defendant employer.

Administrative procedures under Colorado Revised Statutes C.R.S. 24-34-401 et seq.

The Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act includes an administrative procedure for employment discrimination. This procedure mirrors the EEOC charge process and the charge processes of many other states. An employee or applicant must file a charge alleging discrimination within six months of the discriminatory act. The charging party cannot pursue remedies under Colorado Revised Statutes C.R.S. 24-34-401 et seq. otherwise. (The EEOC permits a charge filed within 300 days for federal law claims.)

Charges filed with the Colorado Civil Rights Division may resolve through an administrative process within the agency. This might be through mediation, conciliation or an administrative trial. If the agency declines to pursue the charge through an administrative trial or the charging party requests it, the agency can issue a right to sue notice giving the charging party the right to pursue the claims in a judicial court. Once the agency issues the letter the charging party has ninety days to file suit.

Hiring Colorado employment lawyers for employment discrimination claims

If you believe you have an employment law claim under Colorado Revised Statutes C.R.S. 24-34-401 et seq. then you should contact Denver employment lawyers right away. This is especially true due to the administrative charge process because your time to file a charge is limited. If the Colorado Civil Rights Division issues a right to sue letter you have even less time to find an employment lawyer and allow him or her to research your claims. Additionally, the charge may limit your claims in a lawsuit so it is important to put your best foot forward. Start your search for employment lawyers near you as soon as you believe you may have an employment law claim.