What to know about the “Colorado WARNING Rules”
Every Colorado manager and supervisor must take note
It’s important for Colorado managers and supervisors to be trained for triggers of potential claims under Colorado’s new labor laws.
All of the new employment and labor rules have been bundled together called “The Colorado Whistleblower, Anti-Retaliation, Non-Interference, and Notice-Giving (WARNING) Rules.”
These rules implement Colorado’s various new labor acts of 2019 through 2021, which include:
- Public Health Emergency Whistleblower Act (PHEW) , effective July 11, 2020
- Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA) , effective July 14, 2020
- Equal Pay for Equal Work Act (EPEWA) , effective January 1, 2021
- Chance to Compete Act , effective August 2, 2019
- Clarifying enforcement of existing laws, including
- Colorado Wage Act 
- Colorado Overtime & Minimum Pay Standards (COMPS) Order 
These laws all provide new subject matter under which employers can see filed complaints from their employees. Every Colorado employer, manager, and supervisor must be aware of the prohibition for retaliation of complaints regarding the subject matter of each of these new laws.
If supervisors and managers are not trained on the Colorado WARNING Rules, employers will miss opportunities to appropriately investigate and respond, leaving exposure to claims Colorado employers have never seen before and completely unprepared to respond to such complaints.
A summary of the subject matter that employers need to introduce, train their supervisors and managers, and create policies for are:
Public Health Emergency Whistleblower Act (PHEW)
To start, there is a required poster titled “Colorado Workplace Public Health Rights Poster: Effective January 1, 2021, Paid Leave, Whistleblowing & Protective Equipment,” which summarizes employee rights and employer obligations under PHEW and HFWA.
Under PHEW, Employers cannot retaliate against employees complaining about workplace health concerns and the use of protective equipment.
This means employers must listen, respect and understand when employees express concerns about an employer’s safety plans.
Employers should be prepared and armed with answers to anticipated employee questions and concerns about safety, cleanliness and the ability to wear protective equipment in the workplace.
Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA)
Employers cannot retaliate against employees who: request or take HFWA leave; informs or assists another person in exercising HFWA rights; files an HFWA complaint; or cooperates / assists in the investigation of an HFWA violation.
Equal Pay for Equal Work Act (EPEWA)
Employers cannot retaliate against employees complaining about a perceived violation of the employer’s obligations under EPEWA, including obligations to post wage ranges and promotional opportunities.
Chance to Compete Act
Employers cannot retaliate against job applicants for complaining about violations of the Act, which includes asking for criminal history in the initial application or posting job descriptions discouraging those with a criminal history.
Colorado Wage Act
Employers cannot retaliate against employees making complaints of unpaid wages.
No employer shall intimidate, threaten, restrain, coerce, blacklist, discharge, or in any manner discriminate against any employee who has filed any complaint, instituted or caused to be instituted any proceeding for the protections under the Order including minimum wage, overtime, and required breaks.
Given the newness of these laws, many workers will have questions, and employers need to document such questions and their answers to ensure employee’s complaints do not become filed complaints to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.
Today, the best course of action to address these areas of potential retaliation is to update the employer’s policies for each of these laws and update its anti-retaliation policies to include the above subject matter.
It is imperative that employers then train each manager and supervisor on these policies and possible employee complaints that could be protected by these acts. Training, policy revisions, and time and attention to these matters will help mitigate and prevent administrative claims.
For example, if employers are not prepared, they can anticipate seeing potential claims when managers deny paid sick leave, prematurely ask for documentation regarding an employee’s paid sick leave, or fail to respond to employee’s inquires regarding employer’s pay practices under the EPEWA.
Employers must treat these new laws and acts as they treat harassment or other discrimination claims – with attention, investigation, and follow-up. This attention requires training and follow-up with all supervisors and managers so issues can be identified and responded to when they come up.
Clear policies and educated employees and managers will best allow for employees to be comfortable with their rights under these new laws knowing the employer has addressed them and incorporated them into the human resource practices. Colorado employers can best protect themselves by addressing these new laws among all ranks of employees with special attention to training its supervisors and managers.
Stephanie D. Loughner is a Partner at Denver-based law firm Moye White, where she serves as co-chair of the firm’s employment team. She can be reached at (303) 292-7934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.