2017 Colorado Employment Law Update
This week we focus on the employment-related bills that passed, and will become law, as a result of the 2017 Colorado Legislative Session. Colorado employers should ensure compliance with these new laws as they take effect.
The Colorado Uninsured Employer Act
House Bill 17-1119, Payment of Workers’ Compensation Benefits, creates the Colorado Uninsured Employer Act (“the Act”), which provides payment for covered workers’ compensation claims to employees injured on the job when their employers do not have workers’ compensation insurance. Money to cover the uninsured workers’ compensation claims primarily comes from additional penalties to employers who do not carry workers’ compensation insurance. The bill also creates the uninsured employer board, which will establish criteria for the payment of benefits, among other things. Compensable claims for uninsured employers will be paid under the Act beginning January 1, 2019.
Government Employees May Share Wage Information
House Bill 17-1269, Prohibition of Wage Sharing Information, makes it unlawful for Colorado employees who work for federal, state and local governments to be discharged or disciplined for inquiring about, disclosing, or discussing their wages. Previously government agency workers were exempted from a Colorado law that makes it an unfair labor practice for an employer to discharge, discipline, discriminate, or interfere with employees who inquire about, compare, or discuss their wages. House Bill 17-1269 strikes the exception, thereby extending wage transparency protections to all employees, even those working for governments.
Wage Information is No Longer Automatically Trade Secret
Although Colorado law previously required employers to release requested information during a Colorado Department of Labor (“CDOL”) investigation, and allowed access to employers’ premises and all books, records, and payroll, under existing law, the CDOL prohibited the release of such information that might be considered a trade secret.
House Bill 17-1021, Wage Transparency Act, clarified that information obtained by CDOL related to a violation of wage laws is not confidential and shall be released to the public or for use in a court proceeding, unless the CDOL makes a determination that the information is a trade secret. Employers submitting information to the CDOL in response to a wage claim should plainly identify what information it considers to be confidential and trade secrets, in an attempt to provide the CDOL with some guidance in deciding whether the information should be treated as a confidential trade secret.
There are also a number of other bills that lacked sufficient legislative support and were postponed during the 2017 Legislative Session. These bills, which may be re-introduced next session, include the following:
· HB17-1001 - Employee Leave to Attend Child’s Academic Activities
If passed, this bill would essentially have reenacted the 2009 Parental Involvement in K-12 Education Act, which allowed an employee to take up to 18 hours of leave to attend academic activities for the employee’s child. The law would have applied to an employer subject to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”).
· HB17-1307 - Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program Wage Replacement
If passed, this bill would have provided partial wage-replacements to an eligible individual who takes leave from work to care for a new child or a family member with a serious health condition or who is unable to work due to the individual’s own serious health condition. To fund this program, each employee in the state would have paid a premium determined by the CDOL.
· HB17-1305 - Limits on Job Applicant Criminal History Inquiries
If passed, this bill which would have applied to employers with 15 or more employees, would have prohibited employers from (1) advertising that a person with a criminal history may not apply for a position; (2) placing a statement in an employment application that a person with a criminal history may not apply for a position; or (3) making an inquiry about an applicant’s criminal history on an initial application.
· SB17-055 – Prohibition of Discrimination Against Employees Based on Labor Union Participation
If passed, this bill would have prohibited an employer from requiring any person, as a condition of employment, to become or remain a member of a labor organization or to pay dues, fees, or other assessments to a labor organization or to a charity organization or other third party in lieu of the labor organizations. The bill created civil and criminal penalties for violations.