Tag Archives: Colorado employment laws

June 2, 2016

Colorado Bill Will Give Employees Right to Review Their Personnel Files

Williams_BBy Brad Williams

Most employees in Colorado currently have no legal right to review or copy their personnel files. But that is about to change. A bill awaiting signature by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper will require private employers to allow employees to inspect and copy their personnel files at least annually upon request. If enacted, House Bill 16-1432 will also grant former employees the right to inspect their personnel files one time after termination of employment. Once signed, the bill will become effective on January 1, 2017.

Employers Must Allow Access to Pre-Existing Personnel Files

Under the bill, employers are not required to create or keep personnel files for current or former employees. They are also not required to retain any particular documents that are – or were – in an employee’s personnel file for any particular period of time. However, if a personnel file exists when an employee asks to inspect it, the employer must allow access.

The inspection should take place at the employer’s office and at a time convenient for both parties. Employers may have a manager of personnel data, or another employee of their choosing, present during the inspection. If an employee asks to copy some or all of his or her file, the employer may require payment of reasonable copying costs. Because the bill is silent regarding whether employees may bring others (such as their lawyers) to inspections, employers should likely limit inspections to only the requesting employees.

What Constitutes a “Personnel File”?

The bill defines a “personnel file” as an employee’s personnel records which are used to determine his or her qualifications for employment, promotion, additional compensation, employment termination, or other disciplinary action. This encompasses both records kept in an actual file, and those employers may collect through reasonable efforts. Put differently, employers cannot avoid the bill’s mandates by simply scattering employee records amongst multiple file cabinets. 

The bill provides numerous exceptions to the documents that must be made available for inspection. The following are not included in the definition of “personnel files” and need not be made available:

  • documents required to be placed or maintained in a separate file from the regular personnel file by federal or state law;
  • records pertaining to confidential reports from previous employers;
  • an active criminal or disciplinary investigation, or an active investigation by a regulatory agency; and
  • information which identifies another person who made a confidential accusation against the requesting employee.


May 6, 2015

Colorado Legislators Fail to Pass New Employment Laws in 2015

Hobbs-Wright_EBy Emily Hobbs-Wright 

The 2015 Colorado legislative session is ready to adjourn and few substantive bills related to labor and employment were passed by both chambers this session. Numerous bills on topics such as minimum wage, overtime and discrimination were introduced but with Republicans controlling the Colorado Senate and Democrats controlling the House of Representatives, it’s no surprise that little was enacted. Here's a look at employment-related bills that were considered this session.  

  • Raise Colorado’s Minimum Wage – Concurrent resolutions in both the House and Senate sought to put Colorado’s minimum wage on the November 2016 ballot to allow voters to decide whether to amend the Colorado Constitution to increase the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour on January 1, 2017 with annual increases of $1.00 per hour until 2020, which would see a $12.50 minimum wage. In years thereafter, the minimum wage would be increased annually for inflation (which is the current adjustment provided in Colorado’s Constitution). Both bills failed. (HCR15-1001 and SCR15-003)


  • Overtime Fairness Act – This bill would have set a minimum salary requirement for administrative, executive, supervisor and professional exemptions at 120 times the state minimum hourly wage rate. At the current $8.23 minimum wage, the salary threshold would be $987.60 per week. This bill failed to pass. (HB15-1331)


  • Repeal of the Job Protection and Civil Rights Enforcement Act of 2013 – The 2013 law that established compensatory and punitive damage remedies for unfair employment practices under Colorado law was under attack in two bills. The Senate passed a bill that would have repealed all components of the 2013 law except for the expansion of age-based discrimination to individuals age 70 or older. (SB15-069) The House killed that bill. A separate bill introduced in the House sought to eliminate the punitive damage provision of the 2013 law. (HB15-1172) That bill never got out of the House.


  • Expand and Extend Parental Involvement in K-12 Education Act – The current Colorado law that entitles parents to take time off of work to attend their child’s academic activities is set to expire on September 1, 2015. This bill sought to extend the law indefinitely and to expand the types of academic activities for which parents could take this leave. The bill passed in the House but never got out of the Senate committee to which it was assigned. (HB15-1221)


  • Limit on Audits Performed by the Department of Labor and Employment – This bill sought to amend Colorado’s employment verification law by limiting audits by the Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE). Under this provision, the CDLE would be permitted to investigate only an employer’s compliance with the employment verification and examination requirements. This bill never got out of the House committee to which it was assigned. (HB15-1176)


  • Right of Private-Sector Employees to Inspect Their Personnel Files – This proposal would have created a right for employees and former employees to inspect or request copies of their personnel file within 30 days of a written request. This bill failed to pass the House. (HB15-1342)


  • Independent Contractor Determinations – Two bills sought to change the determination of independent contractor status under Colorado’s unemployment insurance law. The first sought to eliminate the requirement that the individual’s freedom from control and direction of the company must be shown “to the satisfaction of the division.” (SB15-107) This bill never got out of committee. The second bill before the Senate sought to create a bright-line test for whether an individual is an employee or an independent contractor. That bill proposed to establish a numerical standard so that an independent contractor relationship would be recognized if at least six of eleven factors listed in the proposed provision were found to exist. This bill, SB15-269, was introduced rather late in the session and at the time of writing (and with just one week before the session adjourns), was still in committee.


Additional bills were introduced that would have affected some Colorado employers, including a bill to require that youth sports organizations conduct criminal history checks on persons who work with children and a bill that would create an income tax credit for employers who assist employees in repaying their student loans for degrees in certain fields, such as science, technology and math. These bill also failed to make it to the Governor’s desk.

Wrap-Up: A Quiet Session for Colorado Employers 

Colorado's legislative session adjourns for the year today, May 6th, and it concludes without Colorado employers having to learn new employment-related laws. Accordingly, on the state level, most of our labor laws are remaining status quo for another year. However, with so many recent changes related to federal employment laws, most Colorado employers will consider the lack of any new state employee protections good news.

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May 9, 2014

Colorado Legislative Wrap-Up: Wage Theft, Disability Definition and Workers’ Comp Physician Choice Bills Pass

By Emily Hobbs-Wright 

The Colorado General Assembly wrapped up its 2014 Legislative Session this week, passing a number of bills that change the landscape for Colorado employers.  Here is a look at the significant employment-related bills that passed and are expected to be signed into law by Governor Hickenlooper as well as other bills that were introduced but did not make it through the legislative process. 

Bills that Passed This Session. 

Wage Protection Act of 2014.  Senate Bill 14-005 establishes an administrative procedure to adjudicate wage claims under Colorado law. For wages and compensation earned on or after January 1, 2015, the Colorado Division of Labor may receive complaints and adjudicate claims for nonpayment of wages or compensation of $7,500 or less.  The written demand for unpaid wages to the employer may come from or on behalf of the employee and is satisfied if a notice of complaint filed with the Division is sent to the employer.  In addition to existing fines that may be levied against employers who fail to pay wages, the new law allows the Director of the Division of Labor or a hearing officer to impose a fine of $250 on an employer who fails to respond to a notice of complaint or any other notice from the Division when a response is required.  All fines collected will be credited to the State Wage Theft Enforcement Fund to be used for enforcement of this law. 

The Wage Protection Act also requires Colorado employers to keep payroll records, including the information contained in an employee’s itemized pay statement, for at least 3 years after payment of wages and to make such records available to the employee and the Division of Labor. (C.R.S. §8-4-103 (4.5)).  Employers who violate this record retention requirement are subject to a fine of $250 per employee per month, up to a maximum fine of $7,500.  

This new law also provides for the recovery of reasonable attorney fees and court costs for an employee who recovers unpaid wages under Colorado’s minimum wage requirement.  Additionally, the new law sets forth procedural requirements for employers responding to a demand for payment and procedures for resolving wage disputes through the administrative procedure.  The majority of the new provisions in this law go into effect on January 1, 2015. 

Definition of Disabled Individuals Aligned with Americans With Disabilities Act. Senate Bill 14-118 conforms state law definitions of a disability to match definitions under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  Specifically, the terms “disability” and “qualified individual with a disability” under Colorado Revised Statute section 24-34-301 are given the same meaning as under the ADA. This bill also moves the definition of “sexual orientation” out of the Employment Practices definition section (C.R.S. § 24-34-401) and into the general definition section for the Civil Rights Division (C.R.S. § 24-34-301.) It also changes the term “assistance dog” to “service animal” and provides additional penalties for violations of the rights of an individual with a disability who uses a service animal and for persons who cause harm to service animals.  The law also expanded the available remedies for retaliation and violations of the fair housing and public accommodations discrimination prohibitions.  Once signed into law by the Governor, these provisions will go into effect on August 6, 2014. 

Expanded Doctor Choice for Workers’ Compensation. House Bill 14-1383 changes the Colorado workers’ compensation law to allow injured workers more choice of doctors.  Currently, an employer or workers’ compensation insurer must provide a list of at least 2 physicians or corporate medical providers from which an injured employee may select a treating physician.  This bill expands that number to 4.  There are additional provisions related to the location and shared ownership status of the health care providers.  After signed into law by the Governor, this law will become effective on April 1, 2015. 

Clarification of Credit Report Restriction Allowing Employment Use By Financial Institutions.  Senate Bill 14-102 amends last year’s Employment Opportunity Act which restricts an employer’s use of credit reports.  This amendment clarifies that all positions at a bank or financial institution are jobs for which credit information is deemed to be “substantially related to the employee’s current or potential job.” As a result, financial institutions will be able to obtain and use credit information on employees and applicants when making employment decisions for all job positions.  Governor Hickenlooper signed this bill into law on March 27, 2014 and it became effective immediately. 

Bills that Failed to Pass This Session. 

Paid Sick Leave.  Called the Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act (FAMLI), Senate Bill 14-196 sought to create an insurance program to provide pay to employees who take unpaid FMLA or sick leave.  The program would be paid for by employees who pay premiums into a “fund” in the state treasury; employers would not be funding it.  Eligible employees would be able to receive a percentage of their pay while on leave, not to exceed $1,000 per week. The bill would have prohibited Colorado employers from discharging, discriminating or retaliating against employees who seek to use benefits under the program or assist in a related-proceeding.  Advocated by the Colorado chapter of 9 to 5, this bill, introduced on April 15th, differed from previous paid sick leave bills as it did not require employers to fund the program.  On May 1, this bill was postponed indefinitely in committee and therefore, did not make it to a vote. 

Drug Testing Misdemeanor. House Bill 14-1040 would have established a drug misdemeanor for an employee who is legally required to undergo drug testing as a condition of his or her job and either tests positive for a controlled substance without a prescription, or knowingly defrauds the administration of the drug test by an employer.  To “defraud the administration of a drug test” is defined in the bill to include submitting a sample from someone else or a sample collected at a different time or some other conduct intended to produce a false or misleading outcome.  This bill passed the House but the Senate sent it to committee where it was postponed indefinitely. 

Anti-Union Bills. – House Bills 14-1087 would have prohibited collective bargaining for the state’s public employees.  House Bill 14-1098 and Senate Bill 14-113 would have prohibited employers from entering into agreements to require employees to join a union.  All three bills failed shortly after introduction as expected due to the democratic majority in both chambers of Colorado’s legislature. 

The bills that passed in the 2014 Legislative Session reflect a continued trend at the state level to implement new or refine existing employment-related laws.  We will keep you posted on any further developments.    

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December 17, 2013

Colorado Raises Minimum Wage for 2014: Checklist for Complying with New Employment Developments

New YearBy Jude Biggs 

A new year is just around the corner.  Along with champagne toasts and resolutions to lose weight, January 1 typically brings new laws and regulations in Colorado.  2014 is no different.  Colorado employers should plan now for the changes going into effect in 2014. It is also a good time to make sure you are in compliance with the new laws that took effect in 2013.  Here is a checklist to help you stay on the right side of the law. 

  • Colorado Minimum Wage Goes Up to $8.00 per Hour on January 1.  The Colorado Division of Labor has adopted Minimum Wage Order 30 which raises the state minimum wage from $7.78 (2013) to $8.00 per hour, effective January 1, 2014.  The state minimum wage for tipped employees increases to $4.98 per hour, also effective January 1, 2014.  Colorado’s minimum wage is adjusted annually for inflation pursuant to the Colorado Constitution.  If this applies to any of your workforce, update your payroll practices to comply with the new rate on the first of the year.
  • Marijuana may be Legally Purchased and Possessed on January 1.  Adults may legally buy, use and possess small amounts of marijuana in Colorado beginning January 1st.  Because marijuana is still illegal under federal law, Colorado employers may continue to have workplace policies banning its use by employees and prohibiting possession of marijuana on company premises.  Review and if necessary, update your policies to reflect that use of controlled substances and drugs that are illegal under either state or federal law are not permitted.  The new year is a good time to communicate this to your employees.
  • Rules Implementing Employment Opportunity Act (Credit History Law) Effective January 1.  Colorado’s Employment Opportunity Act, section 8-2-126, C.R.S., was enacted last spring and went into effect on July 1, 2013, restricting an employer’s use of credit history information on employees and applicants.  (See our post on that new law.) The Division of Labor has adopted new rules, 7 CCR 1103-4, that go into effect on January 1 to implement the provisions of the act.  The new rules include a couple of new definitions and clarifications not found in the act itself, including that “consumer credit information” does not include income or work history verification and that “prevailing party” means the employee who successfully brings, or the employer who successfully defends, the complaint.  The new rules also describe the enforcement mechanism for violations, including how complaints must be filed, the investigation process, initial decisions and appeals.
  • Rules Implementing Social Media and the Workplace Law Effective January 1.  Last spring, Colorado enacted a law, found at section 8-2-127, C.R.S., that restricts an employer’s access to personal online and social media sites of employees and applicants.  (We previously wrote on that law here.)  The law went into effect on May 11, 2013 but new rules implementing the law go into effect on January 1, 2014.  In large part, the rules, 7 CCR 1103-5, mirror the act itself but add that it is OK for an employer to access information about employees and applicants that is publicly available online.  The new rules also detail the complaint, investigation, decision, appeals and hearing process.
  • 2013 Family Care Act Extends FMLA Coverage to Care for Civil Union and Domestic Partners.  Effective August 7, 2013, Colorado’s Family Care Act, section 8-13.3-201 et seq., C.R.S., extends leave benefits under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to eligible employees to care for their civil union and domestic partners with a serious health condition.  If you are a covered employer under the FMLA, ensure that your FMLA forms, policies and practices provide that eligible employees may take leave to care for a seriously ill or injured civil union or domestic partner.  Also, for multi-state employers subject to the FMLA, remember that if you have employees in states that recognize same-sex marriages, the FMLA definition of “spouse” will include employees’ same-sex spouses due to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor (further discussed here).
  • Age 70 Cap on Colorado Age Discrimination Claims Eliminated in 2013.  Colorado’s legislature enacted changes to the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA).  Effective August 7, 2013, there is no longer an upper age limit of 70 years old for age discrimination claims under CADA, section 24-34-301, et seq..C.R.S.  This brings Colorado’s age discrimination law in line with the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act which makes it unlawful to discriminate against employees and applicants on the basis of age 40 or older with no upper age limit.
  • Prepare for Changes in Remedies Available for Colorado Discrimination Claims Beginning January 1, 2015.  Colorado added new remedies, including punitive damages, that may be recovered for violations of CADA for claims alleging discrimination or unfair employment practices that accrue on or after January 1, 2015, section 24-34-405. C.R.S.  With a year to prepare, now is the time to get policies in place to address reasonable accommodations, complaint procedures and other good faith measures to resolve workplace discrimination issues. 

Start the year off right by making sure you comply with these new developments in Colorado employment laws. We wish you a happy, healthy, prosperous and compliant 2014! 

For more information, contact Jude at 303-473-2707 or jbiggs@hollandhart.com.

Disclaimer: This article is designed to provide general information on pertinent legal topics. The statements made are provided for educational purposes only. They do not constitute legal advice and are not intended to create an attorney-client relationship between you and Holland & Hart LLP. If you have specific questions as to the application of the law to your activities, you should seek the advice of your legal counsel.

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