The 2020 Legislative Session finally came to a close on June 15 after one of the most strange and unique sessions in Colorado history. As your Denver PEO, we feel it is important to provide you with information on new bills and legislation that impact your business and employees. This year, there are several that we would like you to be aware of.
Like everything and every one the Colorado Legislative session in 2020 was severely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, and several bills were impacted because of this. Many of the bills that we were expecting never showed up due to the pandemic. Those that did show up, were modified or killed because of the unique session’s timing.
The Legislature took a ten-week pause due to the COVID pandemic on March 14 and did not return to business until May 26. By then, Colorado was facing a huge budget deficit that caused many bills with a hefty price tag to be discarded until next year.
There were only two bills that will impact the small business community directly that made it to the Governors desks and were signed by Governor Polis that we need to be aware of. There were a few others that did not make it but will probably be back next session, or we will see them this fall on the November ballot.
This bill prohibits all employers (including those that use independent contractors) from discriminating, retaliating, or taking adverse action against any worker who raises concerns about workplace health and safety practices or those who voluntarily wear personal protective equipment. A worker may seek relief for a violation through CDLE or bringing an action in court. This bill was passed by both Houses and was signed by Governor Polis on July 11, 2020. It took effect upon the Governor’s signature on July 11.
Under this bill, employers must provide employees who normally work 40 or more hours a week with at least 80 hours of additional paid sick leave during a public health emergency. Beginning January 1, 2021, employers in Colorado must provide one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 48 hours per year for all employees. Governor Polis signed this bill on July 14, 2020. It took effect upon the Governor’s signature on July 14.
This bill would have created the Consumer and Employee Arbitration Fairness Act to establish new ethical standards for arbitrators and further disclosure and protection of information requirements. It would have also deemed some contractual terms unenforceable or void in standard form contracts and made numerous other onerous changes to arbitration in Colorado. This bill was postponed indefinitely in June; however, it seems poised to return next session.
This bill would have made it unlawful for an employer to terminate an employee for engaging in any activity that is legal under state law while off duty (e.g., marijuana). Despite strong advocacy from the term-limited sponsor, Rep. Jovan Melton, the bill was postponed indefinitely in committee.
This bill would have set a new standard that essential workers who work outside of the home and contract COVID-19 are presumed to have contracted the illness in the course of their employment. The bill received intense pushback from the business community and failed to pass out of the Senate Committee on Appropriations on June 10.
This bill was introduced in 2019 and ended up in its final version as a result of a task force that met over the summer and fall of 2019. This bill would have created a new program in Colorado that would allow employees to take paid time off for Family and Medical Leave. Governor Polis let the legislature know in early January that he preferred a program that relied on the private sector insurance industry to provide a program. Still, the task force had recommended a bill to create a new department under the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment that would oversee this leave program. The bill was never introduced in the 2020 session due to the threat of a veto from the Governor and the ensuing COVID-19 crisis. The supporter of this bill withdrew any further action on it and threw their support behind a ballot initiative for the November 2020 elections.
Please note: Supporters of this ballot initiative turned in more than 200,000 signatures on July 3 to get this on the November ballot.
This bill was also introduced in the 2019 Session, but the start date on it is for January 1, 2021. This act prevents unequal and discriminatory pay standards in Colorado based upon an employee’s sex. Please review this legislation as it will take full effect on January 1, 2021, and employees that feel they have been paid different salaries for similar work can sue in District Court beginning then. You will need to review your hiring policies and practices prior to January 1 to ensure you are in compliance with the new law.
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