2023 Colorado Employment Laws & Regulations
Last year, many new Colorado laws and regulations were signed into effect—this year employers can expect more.
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 regarding discriminatory or unfair employment practices. Specifically, you must continually evaluate and redesign your policies, procedures, and programs to avoid risk or penalties.
Larger organizations have entire compliance departments devoted to staying compliant. Some use external legal support that can become expensive and difficult to manage. Smaller businesses often don’t have access to these kinds of resources.
In Colorado, employment laws and regulations aimed at eradicating unfair employment practices 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.
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. It’s likely there will be updates around the terminology of “vacation pay,” how it is “earned,” and what this means for unlimited PTO policies, which could well run the risk of becoming an unfair employment practice. We’ll continue to keep you informed as this law evolves.
In August 2023, the Colorado Healthy Families and Workplaces Act expanded to include the following new triggers that allow an employee to use paid sick leave:
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.
Pre-employment screening includes everything from background checks to drug screening to reference checks and education and verification of personnel or employment records. Essentially any step that a job candidate takes before being hired is a part of the screening process.
Candidate screening and hiring practices are undergoing more scrutiny than ever before as states strive to eradicate discriminatory or unfair employment practices that prevented certain prospective employee candidates from advancing in the hiring process.
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 Colorado Equal Pay for Equal Work Act requires a lot from Colorado employers and adjusting how to be compliant.
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 went into effect in Connecticut on 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 providing remote job opportunities and 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.
As you’re probably aware, President Biden wanted to double the federal minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour freshly off the peak of COVID in early 2021. In 2022 he signed an executive order for federal employees to be paid this amount, but the original legislation wasn’t passed. So, the federal minimum wage still sits at $7.25 per hour–which has not increased since 2009.
That being said, states across the country have increased their minimum wage. In total, twenty-six states increased their minimum wage in 2023–some as high as $15 per hour (Washington and California). Colorado’s minimum wage currently stands at $13.65 per hour–this is a reasonable boost from its previous 2021 minimum wage increase to $12 per hour. That being said, 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.).
Although there is a federal law against sexual workplace harassment, there are no specific requirements for sexual harassment training at the federal or state level for Colorado. However, workplace sexual harassment training is strongly recommended.
Workplace harassment training laws 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 harassment and discrimination 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 legal cases involving discriminatory or unfair employment practice or sexual workplace harassment claims.
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:
In Colorado, the Healthy Families & Workplaces Act (HFWA) was signed into effect in 2020. 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.
No small business owner wants to get into trouble for discriminatory or unfair employment practices. However, keeping up with workplace compliance trends and getting compliant is an uphill battle for many small businesses in Colorado. Without expert legal counsel, financial and legal matters like these 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 download our guide below on 2023 Colorado laws and regulations.