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Posted: April 28, 2014

Legislature has mixed bag of labor and employment bills

Businesses should watch for these

Sarah Wisor

The Colorado General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn its 2014 Legislative Session on May 7 with mixed results on employment-related bills.  A few bills, including a modification of a tax credit for newly hired employees, continue to progress through the legislative process.  Other bills, including an employee-friendly wage protection measure, have stalled and may not make it through both the House and the Senate before the session ends.  Colorado employers should take note of these developments as the legislation may affect their employment policies and create additional risk management concerns.

Credit Report Use By Financial Institution Employers – Senate Bill 14-102 – Enacted and signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper on March 27.  This law amends last year’s Employment Opportunity Act which restricts an employer’s use of credit reports for employment purposes.  The new amendment specifies that all jobs at a bank or financial institution are positions for which credit information is deemed to be “substantially related to the employee’s current or potential job,” meaning banks and financial institutions are free to obtain and use credit information on employees and applicants when making employment decisions.

Wage Protection Act – Senate Bill 14-005 – Passed the Senate and awaiting a House committee hearing. This bill speeds up the process by which workers can claim they are owed additional wages and expands wage claims to include violations of the state minimum wage law.  It also establishes an administrative procedure to adjudicate wage claims.  This bill was reintroduced this year after significant changes were made from a prior version of the bill killed by the business community.  The changes include the removal of proposed criminal penalties for employers.  With the revisions, most business associations appear to take a neutral stance on the bill.

Job Growth Incentive Tax Credit Modification – House Bill 14-1014 – Passed in House; assigned to Senate committee.  This bill expands the job-growth incentive tax credit for hiring new employees that is offered to employers after the new employees have worked for a year.  It provides incentives to employers to move projects to Colorado or retain them in the state.  This bill is poised to make it to the governor’s desk this session.

Drug Testing Misdemeanor – House Bill 14-1040 – Passed in House; Senate committee postponed indefinitely.  This bill would impose a drug misdemeanor on any 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.  It also establishes a misdemeanor for any other person who knowingly defrauds a drug test, or manufactures, sells, or possesses a device designed to defraud the administration of a drug test.  Because the Senate committee postponed this bill indefinitely, it is essentially dead.

Anti-Union Bills – House Bills 14-1087 and 1098; Senate Bill 14-113 – Committees postponed indefinitely.  House Bill 1087 prohibits collective bargaining for the state’s public employees.  House Bill 1098 and Senate Bill 113 prohibit employers from bargaining with unions to require employees to join the union.  Given the democratic majority in the legislature, the quick defeat of these anti-union bills was to be expected.

Workers’ Compensation – Draft – This draft bill would make changes to three areas of the state workers’ compensation law.  It would allow injured workers more choices of doctors, address the issue of job separation when a workers’ compensation claim is made, and add a penalty provision for employers that willfully put employees in a dangerous work situation.  If it is introduced, it is expected to be controversial with business groups likely to oppose the employer penalty provision.

Paid Sick Leave – Draft – The Colorado 9 to 5 chapter is pushing for introduction of a draft bill that would create an insurance program to provide pay to employees who take unpaid sick leave due to their own illness or that of a family member.  The draft bill is different from previous paid sick leave bills advocated by the 9 to 5 group as it does not require employers to pay for the sick leave but instead establishes a program that is funded by all workers in the state.  The bill would also require employers in Colorado to allow employees unpaid sick leave without the risk of losing their jobs.  It is unclear if the bill will be introduced this session.

Colorado businesses should watch for these bills during the remaining few weeks of the legislative session.  Employers that feel strongly about any of the pending bills are encouraged to contact their state legislators.

Sarah R. Wisor is a labor and employment attorney at Holland & Hart LLP in its Denver office.  She represents employers in litigation involving discrimination, retaliation and whistleblower actions as well as advises businesses on employee disciplinary issues, terminations, employee policies, leaves of absence and other workplace issues.

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