Top five things new Colorado companies need to know

As Colorado’s growth rate continues to double the national average, more employers and employees are, now, Coloradans. One of the keys to success these employers is navigating Colorado’s employment laws.  After recently relocating to Denver from South Carolina, I thought that individuals and employers new to the state, like myself, would benefit from an overview of a few of the significant Colorado employment laws. Here are the top 5 things employers should know about Colorado employment law:

Does the Wage Order Apply to You?

Does your company perform work in Colorado in one of the following industries?

  • Retail and Service
  • Commercial Support Service
  • Food and Beverage
  • Health and Medical

If so, Colorado’s Minimum Wage Order applies to you regardless of the number of employees.  Minimum Wage Order Number 31 regulates wages, hours, and working conditions for employers engaged in these industries within the state.  In many cases, the Wage Order imposes higher requirements than federal wage and hour laws, including:

  1. A higher minimum wage (currently $8.23 per hour);
  2. A broader definition of “time worked,” which can result in increased compensability of travel time;
  3. A requirement to pay overtime for all hours worked over 40 hours in a workweek or 12 hours in a workday, whichever calculation results in the greater payment; and
  4. A requirement to provide meal and rest periods.

You Can’t Rely Solely on I-9

Many employers are already familiar with different states’ e-verify laws and the fact that those laws can place additional requirements on them beyond those imposed by the federal I-9 requirements.  But what about laws that go beyond e-verify?  Colorado has such a law—the Colorado Employment Verification Law.  Under this law, all Colorado employers are required to verify and document the work authorization of all newly hired employees within 20 calendar days after each new employee is hired.

 While the law mirrors many I-9 requirements, it differs in some important ways.  Unlike federal law, the Colorado law requires employers to retain copies of the documents used to complete the I-9 throughout the employee’s duration with the company.  Colorado employers must also complete the Affirmation of Legal Work Status form provided by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE).  The CDLE conducts random audits of employers to ensure compliance, so this is definitely a Colorado requirement not to overlook.

Curious About Credit History?

Colorado employers with four or more employees are prohibited from using “consumer credit information” for employment purposes, which broadly includes “evaluating a person for employment, hiring, promotion, demotion, reassignment, adjustment in compensation level, or retention as an employee.”   

The law exempts two categories of employers from the prohibition: (1) bank or financial institutions; and (2) employers required by law to obtain credit information.  If an employer does not fit under these categorical exemptions, there are additional limited exceptions.  Employers new to Colorado should review their background check policies to make sure consumer credit information is obtained and used in only these very few exceptional circumstances.

Don’t Forget About State Discrimination Laws.

Most employers are familiar with protections provided to employees against discrimination and retaliation under a variety of federal laws. However, Colorado employers must also comply with the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, age, national origin or ancestry. 

This law is broader than federal anti-discrimination laws in that it protects against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, including transgender status, and applies to all employers, regardless of the number of employees.  Additionally, as of January 1, 2015, the available remedies under CADA have expanded.  As CADA applies to more employers and prohibits discrimination on more bases than under federal law, employers must ensure that personnel policies are drafted or revised to accurately capture Colorado’s prohibitions on discrimination and retaliation.

What About Marijuana?

One of the most common questions I get from my friends and family back home is “what about marijuana?”  People across the country are curious as to how Colorado’s legalization affects our everyday life.  Employers are also concerned with how the legalization of marijuana affects their employment policies.  Right now, the jury is still out. 

The text of Amendment 64 provides that employers are not prohibited from having policies restricting the use of marijuana by employees.  However, Colorado law generally prohibits an employer from firing an employee for “engaging in any lawful activity off the premises of the employer during non-working hours.”  So, does an employer violate Colorado’s lawful off-duty activities statute if it terminates an employee for off-duty marijuana use?

 That is the question before the Colorado Supreme Court right now in Coats v. Dish Network, LLC.  The case is now on appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court, and oral arguments were heard Sept. 30, 2014.  Employers in Colorado should stay tuned as the decision in Coats could affect your “drug-free workplace” and “zero tolerance” policies.

Categories: Management & Leadership