In Colorado, the new year brings a number of new employment laws, many of which are set to take effect on January 1, 2022. Over the past year, Colorado has seen significant changes to employment law, from the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act (EPEWA) to the Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA). Many of these new laws have had major implications for job postings, benefits, and salaries.
Going into 2022, it is important to be prepared for the vast number of rules and regulations that Colorado employers will now face. Here is a closer look at the impact of employment laws in 2021 and what new employment laws will go into effect in 2022.
Impact Of 2021 Employment Laws
In 2021, Colorado employers faced a number of unprecedented challenges. New labor and employment regulations and statutes imposed discrete mandates on covered employees. Effective January 1, 2021, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment Division of Labor Standards and Statistics adopted several new sets of rules. Some of these new rules included the State Labor Relations Rules, Wage Protection Rules, Colorado Overtime and Minimum Pay Standards, and the Equal Pay Transparency Rules. Other new rules included the Colorado “Warning” Rules and the Direct Investigation Rules.
The impact of these 2021 employment laws was far-reaching, affecting how all Colorado businesses pay their employees, how they post job openings, and how much leave they must offer workers.
To become compliant under these new rules, employers were required to give employees written notice of their rights under the HFWA and adopt a written policy that sets out notification procedures. They were also required to display a poster listing employees’ HFWA rights and maintain records that document the hours worked by each employee, as well as any paid sick leave used or accrued.
Cost Of Compliance Issues
While the latest Colorado employee laws have resulted in countless advantages for employers and employees alike, these rules and regulations are not without problems. Colorado law now requires employers to disclose their targeted pay range in job postings.
However, some employers are choosing not to reveal this information and instead are excluding certain workers in the state from their search, particularly remote workers. Some employers in competitive industries remain concerned that their competitors could use their salary information to entice their employees to leave the company for a higher salary and better benefits.
Employers that do not comply with Colorado employment laws may be subject to civil penalties. Depending on the law and type of violation, an employer may face a lawsuit brought by individuals or the federal agency that is responsible for enforcing the law.
Making Sure You Are Compliant
Staying compliant with Colorado’s new and existing employment laws can help prevent costly penalties and reputational damage. First, employers must understand what labor laws apply to their business. Although some employment laws are applicable across the country, there are variations in terms that may only apply to certain businesses or industries. Become familiar with state-level requirements and create a compliance checklist for the organization.
Second, Colorado companies should also take the time to develop a comprehensive employee handbook or update their current handbook. An employee handbook is an invaluable tool for compliance and provides employees with helpful information about their benefits and rights as a worker. Develop an updated schedule to ensure that the handbook always contains the most accurate reflection of the company’s current policies. Also, have each employee sign a form that acknowledges that they received a handbook.
Preparing For Upcoming Laws
Today, many employers in Colorado are struggling to balance strict vaccine requirements and labor shortages with ongoing changes to local, state, and national labor laws. Some laws remain pending in the courts while others have been blocked and unblocked, causing confusion among employers and employees. Many employers also remain concerned about enforcing certain rules like mask and vaccine mandates when retaining workers is already difficult.
Moving into 2022, it is important for Colorado employers to refamiliarize themselves with existing employment laws and get updated about any changes or new laws that have recently gone into effect or will soon go into effect. Some temporary orders, such as COVID paid leave, will remain in effect going into 2022. However, a different type of paid leave will go into effect on January 1, 2022, for employers that have 15 or fewer workers. The HFWA will impact all Colorado employers, regardless of size.
Colorado’s Equal Pay For Equal Work Act
The EPEWA was signed into law on May 22, 2019, and became effective January 1, 2021. The Act amends Colorado law and delivers new employer and wage discrimination provisions that differ from both federal law and the equal pay laws of other states. The law mandates pay equality for employees performing the same jobs and impacts every employer, regardless of size.
The law currently provides six valid justifications for different pay, including seniority, quantity or quality-based system (sales number or commission), merit-based system (tied to performance reviews), geographic location, job-related education and training, and required travel.
Employees have the right to pursue civil or administrative proceedings for two years and may be awarded two times the damages for up to three years of pay. The EPEWA forbids employees from asking applicants information about their wage history and any self-disclosed wage information cannot be used to determine the rate of pay the employee is offered.
Healthy Families And Workplaces Act
The HFWA was signed into law on July 14, 2020. This law is an overhaul of the state’s paid sick leave statutes and requires employers to provide employees with paid sick leave under certain circumstances. The Act also expands COVID-19 specific paid sick leave.
While employers have been offering paid sick leave to employees since 2021, all employers in the state regardless of size will be required to provide paid sick leave starting in 2022. Employers will be required to offer employees a minimum of 48 hours or six days of sick leave.
Paid sick leave may be granted all at once or accrued as one hour per 30 hours worked. Any unused sick leave must be rolled over into the future with a limit of 48 hours. Employers are not required to pay out leave if an employee is terminated, but it must be reinstated if the employee is rehired.
Employees can also use paid sick leave under certain conditions, such as a mental or physical illness or domestic or sexual abuse. Documentation is not required for periods of leave that are less than four days. Employers must provide paid sick leave to employees that have been impacted by a public health emergency.
Family And Medical Leave Updates
Colorado employers must continue to comply with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) going into 2022. This Act allows eligible employees to take unpaid leave under certain conditions with the right to be reinstated. There have recently been some updates to the FMLA that employers should know to plan ahead.
The FMLA is expected to provide paid leave for extended medical and family reasons in 2024. While there is no direct impact in 2022, businesses should begin budgeting in 2023 for when those benefits begin in 2024.
The Colorado Secure Savings Program
Starting in 2023, many employees in Colorado may be automatically enrolled in a new state-run retirement savings program. The Colorado Secure Savings Program will offer retirement accounts for individuals who do not have a retirement account through their employer. The Colorado Secure Savings Program aims to help countless employees prepare for retirement by encouraging them to save money.
Employers will not be required to contribute to their employees’ retirement accounts, but will need access. Enrollment for the Secure Savings Programs will begin in 2023; therefore, employers should begin planning for these changes in 2022. Paycheck deductions will begin at five percent and the accounts will most likely be Roth IRAs.
Requirements And Implications Of Vaccine Mandate
On September 9, 2021, President Joe Biden issued an executive order that requires employees of federal contractors, including businesses that employ 100 or more workers, to receive COVID-19 vaccinations. Personal exemptions are no longer accepted and only religious or medical exemptions will be allowed. Employees that choose not to get the vaccine will need to undergo weekly testing beginning in January 2022.
Employees must receive either two doses of Pfizer or Moderna or a single dose of Johnson & Johnson. Any employee that remains unvaccinated must wear a mask and employers must provide time off for workers to get vaccinated.
Businesses that have fewer than 100 employees have not been impacted by the mandate yet and the mandate does not apply to fully remote employees. It also does not apply to employees that work exclusively outdoors.
Employers have the right to ask an employee if they are vaccinated and should have a process in place to deal with possible religious or medical exemptions. Employees that have not met these requirements should not be allowed in the office or at other activities. Businesses must have the proper progressive discipline steps in place to handle non compliant employees.
Work With New City to Make Sure You’re Ready For 2022
Businesses across Colorado are preparing for several significant changes in the state’s employment laws and regulations that are set to begin as early as January 1, 2022. To ensure a successful new year, employers must ensure that they are familiar with these new requirements and implement any necessary changes to their company’s current practices and policies.
For more information about preparing for Colorado employee laws in 2022, reach out to the experienced employee benefits consultants at New City Insurance.