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 The Senate passed a bill that would have repealed all components of the 2013 law except for the expansion of age-based discrimination to individuals age 70 or older.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.