Colorado Lawmakers Eye Labor and Employment Matters in First Weeks of Session

The Colorado General Assembly hit the ground running in its first weeks of the 2023 session. 

Lawmakers have introduced over 200 bills since the session began Jan. 9, including several that take aim at labor and employment law in Colorado. 

Hiring and Scheduling 

Lawmakers have introduced two bills that would create significant changes to employment law in Colorado around hiring and scheduling. 

A bill introduced Jan. 17 would block employers from asking about a job candidate’s age or when they graduated school during interviews. Senate Bill 23-058, the “Job Application Fairness Act,” was introduced by Democrat Sens. Jessie Danielson and Sonya Jaquez Lewis and Reps. Jenny Willford and Mary Young. 

Starting in 2024, the bill would prohibit prospective employers from asking a job candidate about their age, date of birth or when they graduated from school. Exceptions would be allowed when an employer needs to know someone’s age to comply with federal or state regulations, or if their age is relevant to assess occupational or public safety. 

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment would be in charge of enforcing the law and violations, which would result in warnings and potential fines of up to $2,500 for repeated violations. 

A slate of Democrat lawmakers have also put their support behind House Bill 23-1118, which would create new protections for hourly workers in Colorado and requirements of employers. 

The “Fair Workweek Employment Standards” bill, introduced Jan. 24 by Rep. Emily Sirota, Sens. Julie Gonzales and Faith Winter and former Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez, would apply to a range of businesses across industries that hire hourly employees in Colorado. The bill also has sponsorship from Reps. Monica Duran, Elisabeth Epps, Iman Jodeh, Cathy Kipp, Mandy Linday, Javier Mabrey and Stephanie Vigil and Sen. Jessie Danielson. 

The current bill would, among other things, require covered employers to publish schedules two weeks in advance, budget 12 hours between shifts and pay workers for the full length of their scheduled shifts, even if they’re cut early. Employees would also be entitled to increased hourly pay if they work a shift before the 12-hour mark, if an employer gives a newer hire more hours over an existing worker or when an employer changes the location or number of hours for an already posted shift. 

Colorado workers would be allowed to make a civil claim under the law or report their employer to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. Statutory damages available to workers for violations of the proposed law would range from $200-500 per employee and per instance. 

Government NDAs and Direct Hire Disincentives

Legislators have also introduced two laws that take aim at employment contract clauses. 

A proposed bill would outlaw an employment disincentive clause that penalizes workers hired by staffing agencies from taking a permanent position in the healthcare industry. Democrat lawmakers Rep. Emily Sirota and Sen. Nick Hinrichsen introduced House Bill 23-1030 on Jan. 9, which would ban direct-hire fees for Colorado health care workers. 

Under the bill, healthcare staffing agencies wouldn’t be allowed to charge a worker a penalty fee for accepting a job at the facility they’re placed at during or after their contract ends. Breaking the law could result in a $500 fine per infraction and repeat violations would allow the director of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment to increase fines and impose other sanctions. 

A bill introduced by Republican Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer takes aim at the use of non-disclosure agreements by state government employers. Senate Bill 23-053, introduced Jan. 17, would ban “the state, counties, cities and counties, municipalities, schools districts and any of their departments, institutions or agencies” from requiring employees to sign NDAs as a condition of employment. 

Exceptions would exist when an NDA covers information that must be kept confidential under law or due to security concerns or when an NDA is needed to prevent the disclosure of privacy interests of the employee. 

Government employers would be barred from retaliating against employees who don’t sign NDAs that would be unenforceable. The bill would also put the government employer on the hook for attorneys fees and costs if an employee hires counsel in response to any retaliation. 

Changes to Existing L&E Law

A number of bills introduced would change existing laws around workers’ compensation, minimum wage violations and more. 

Colorado voters in 2020 passed Proposition 118 creating the Family and Medical Leave Insurance program. As of Jan. 1, employers and workers in the state have begun program contributions and starting in 2024 workers will be eligible for up to 12 weeks of paid leave for major life events including the birth of a baby, medical recovery and taking care of sick family members. 

The amount of compensation available to workers under FAMLI is calculated on a sliding scale from someone’s average weekly wage. However Senate Bill 23-056, introduced Jan. 12 by Democrat Sen. Faith Winter and Rep. Monica Duran, points out, FAMLI benefits are calculated based on the pay employees receive at the time they take leave, not the average amount they made in recent years. 

The proposed bill would require FAMLI benefits to consider the average amount of money someone made during the most recent five-quarter period. According to the bill draft, the proposed law would make sure FAMLI compensation would reflect someone’s true earnings and account for a changing economy where “more workers find themselves relying on insecure jobs, piecing together multiple types of jobs to make ends meet or changing jobs.”

After lawmakers passed the “Health Families and Workplaces Act” in 2020, employers in Colorado are required to provide paid sick leave for their employees. 

A new bill, introduced Jan. 10, would allow workers to use accrued sick leave to take care of family if work or school is closed unexpectedly or take bereavement leave. Senate Bill 23-017, introduced by Democrat Rep. Jenny Willford and Sen. Faith Winter, would add provisions to existing law to allow workers to use accrued sick leave for bereavement leave and to care for family members after unexpected school or work closures like in cases of bad weather or loss of utilities, at a family member’s school or work. 

A bill introduced Jan. 19 by Democrat Rep. Lindsey Daugherty would strengthen employee protections in Colorado law around workers’ compensation. 

The proposed law, House Bill 23-1076, would extend the maximum leave for mental impairment from 12 weeks to 36 weeks. It would also require employers to cover artificial members (hearing aids, dentures, glass eyes, etc.) that are reasonably required to improve the function of an affected body part. The bill would let employees on workers’ compensation that is about to end file an application for an expedited hearing on the attending physician’s workers comp length determination. 

The proposed law would also tweak the role and powers of independent medical examiners in a workers comp case. Medical records available to the investigator would be limited to only those relevant to the injury and a prehearing administrative law judge would be authorized to resolve disputes around an independent examiner’s findings and costs. 

The bill would also increase the contingency fee cap for attorneys from 20% or the amount of contested benefits to 25%. 

Previous articleVictim Awareness Training for Judicial Staff, Extending the Office of Public Guardianship Bills Introduced
Next articleCourt Opinions: Colorado Court of Appeals Opinions for Jan. 26


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here