August 23rd, 2021

5 Colorado Workplace Compliance Trends to Watch: 2021

Keeping up with workplace compliance trends is a full-time job. Every business or employer is responsible for ensuring their workplace is compliant with new laws and regulations. Specifically, you must continually evaluate and redesign your policies, procedures, and programs to avoid risk or penalties.

Larger organizations will have entire compliance departments devoted to staying compliant. Or some will use external legal support that can become expensive and difficult to manage. Smaller businesses don’t often have these kinds of resources. And in Colorado, employment laws and regulations are becoming even more stringent. So we wanted to share some of the compliance trends happening in Colorado and how you can prepare for them.

5 Workplace Compliance Trends

1. Time and attendance laws have changing definitions

Time and attendance laws can involve the minimum wage, vacation and sick time, overtime, child labor, and record-keeping laws. A recent supreme court ruling regarding Colorado’s Wage Claim Act makes vacation pay policies that take a “use-it-or-lose-it” approach void.

Colorado employers aren’t required to offer paid vacation, but if paid time off is earned, it becomes wages under Colorado law. You can read more about the Colorado Wage Claim Act here — including what’s required and steps to update your vacation policy. The conversation around vacation pay and the Colorado Wage Claim Act will continue to develop. Likely there will be updates around the terminology of “vacation pay,” how it is “earned,” and what this means for unlimited PTO policies. We’ll continue to keep you informed as this law evolves.

No matter what state you do business in, you should be clear in your vacation policies and have a means for time and attendance tracking to make future guidelines in this space easier to follow.

2. Pre-employment screening legislation is combatting discrimination

Pre-employment screening includes everything from background checks to drug screening to reference checks and education and employment verification. Essentially any step that a job candidate takes before being hired is a part of the screening process. But this process is undergoing more scrutiny than ever before.

In 2019, Colorado enacted the “ban the box” legislation that prohibits employers from asking about a candidate’s criminal history in a job application. Similarly, New York has proposed a Clean Slate bill that follows suit but takes it a step further. Their legislation would clear conviction records as candidates become eligible.

Other laws shaping this trend include the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, signed into law in Colorado this year. As part of this law, employers can no longer ask previous salary history of job applicants and must provide salary ranges in their job postings. The Equal Pay for Equal Work Act requires a lot from Colorado employers — learn more about it and how to be compliant here.

Changes are taking place at the federal level too. The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act or MORE Act is new legislation proposing the deschedulization of marijuana and the removal of criminal sanctions regarding its manufacturing, distribution, and possession. In other words, it wipes certain marijuana-related offenses from an individual’s criminal records. This law comes from the increasing legalization of marijuana — such as in states like Colorado. For employers looking to learn more about marijuana testing and how it factors into their drug screening policies, read more here.

Pre-employment screening and discrimination are evolving in other states as well. Recently, Connecticut banned inquiries into job applicants’ age. Employers in that state can no longer ask anything that gets at an applicant’s age, date of birth, or even attendance or graduation from an educational institution. This new law goes into effect in Connecticut in October 2021. More states will likely follow suit.

Employers should look closely at their job application requirements and pre-employment screening to ensure they’re removing bias and being fair to the applicant when it comes to their criminal history, pay, and age. And with remote work becoming more common, if you’re an employer accepting applications from other states, you’ll need to make sure you’re up to date on pre-screening labor laws in those locations as well.

3. The minimum wage is increasing

As you’re probably aware, President Biden wants to double the federal minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour. This year he signed an executive order for federal employees to be paid this amount, but the original legislation wasn’t passed.

In total, twenty-four states increased their minimum wage in 2021 — but not by much. Colorado’s minimum wage currently stands at $12 per hour. The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment has proposed increasing the 2021 minimum wage in Colorado to $12.32 per hour, and for tipped employees, $9.30 per hour. Any increase can significantly impact small businesses.

In a recent survey by the NFIB research center, 74% of small businesses feel they’d be negatively impacted by a federally mandated minimum wage of fifteen dollars. In case the legislation eventually passes, you should prepare your business for increased labor costs. Evaluate what costs you can reduce or how to offset the increase in wages in other ways (i.e. raise prices, reduce the number of employees or hours, etc.).

4. Companies will have to focus more on harassment protections

Currently, there are no specific requirements for sexual harassment training at the federal or state level for Colorado — though it’s strongly recommended. This could change in the future. For example, Colorado proposed a hostile work environment bill this year, but it didn’t pass. This bill would have defined a hostile work environment as anything that undermines a person’s sense of well-being.

As an employer, you should take steps to prevent discrimination and harassment from occurring in the workplace. Providing access to resources where your employees can get ongoing training is the first step to protecting your business and employees from harassment cases.

5. Employee leave programs are expanding

Labor laws around leave refer to any short or long-term paid or unpaid leave of absence that can occur in a workplace. With COVID sticking around and mental health becoming more important in society, employee leave law will be a big trend throughout the rest of the year.

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), signed into law in 1993, was the starting point for much of the evolution in this space. Specifically, at the state level, California just made multiple revisions to their California Family Rights Act (CFRA), including:

  • Expanding the coverage from 50 or more employees to small employers with only 5 or more employees
  • Expanding the definition of “family member” to include siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, domestic partners, and adult children

In Colorado, the Healthy Families & Workplaces Act (HFWA) was signed into effect this year. It requires 48 hours of paid sick leave for all employees of Colorado businesses with more than 15 employees and 80 hours of paid leave for all employees during public health emergencies. Learn more about HFWA here.

Employers in states dealing with updated leave laws should look at their policies and procedures around leave, educate their management, and inform their employees of any changes.

We’ll Keep You Updated on Workplace Compliance Trends

Keeping up with workplace compliance trends and getting compliant is an uphill battle for many small businesses in Colorado. Without a legal team of experts, it can feel overwhelming. Our goal is to keep you updated on Colorado laws and regulations, help you understand how they impact you, and how you can be compliant. We can even support you in developing policies that meet or exceed compliance requirements. To talk to our team of experts, contact us. Or access our list of resources on this topic below:

Download Our eGuide: New Employment Laws & Regulations for 2021

New employment laws and regulations in Colorado went into effect on January 1, 2021. Understand what the new laws mean for your business.

download link