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New employment policies taking effect in 2021

Dec 30, 2020

As 2020 concludes, several new policies will be taking effect that impact how nonprofit organizations negotiate pay rates and hire employees. These policies also impact employment opportunities and rights for current and prospective nonprofit employees.

We suggest that nonprofit organizations consult with human resources experts where possible and necessary to update their practices accordingly.

Searching our business member directory is an easy way to find help with HR matters. Many nonprofit organizations can take advantage of our pro bono legal assistance program for answers to important employment law questions. 

Here is an overview of some of the key changes to employment law and regulations happening for 2021.

Equal Pay for Equal Work Act

The Colorado General Assembly adopted the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act (SB 19-085) in 2019 but gave employers an extra year to prepare for the changes made by the act. The intent of the act is to help "... close the pay gap in Colorado and ensure that employees with similar job duties are paid the same wage rate regardless of sex, or sex plus another protected status."

For most employers, compliance with the act will require more than watching for pay disparities. The act requires employers to engage in practices to prevent wage discrimination and ensure wage transparency in the workplace. 

Here are some of the significant changes made by the act:

  • Employers must demonstrate a basis other than sex, or sex plus another protected status, for wage rate differentials between employees.
    • Differentials must be based on systems of seniority or merit, earnings by quantity or quality of production, geographic location, related education or experience, or travel (if regular and necessary)
  • Employers must not seek or rely on wage rate histories to determine wages for prospective employees
  • Employers may not prohibit or punish employees if they disclose or discuss their wage rates in the workplace
  • Employers must announce or post opportunities for promotion to all employees on the same calendar day when a vacancy occurs
  • Job postings must include a salary range and listing of all benefits other than minor perks
  • Employers must keep records of job descriptions and wage rate history for all employees for at least two years      
  • Persons aggrieved by violations of the act may file a civil action in district court and/or a complaint with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE)
    • If a court determines a violation has occurred, an employer is liable for the employees reasonable costs (including attorney fees) and legal and equitable relief (which may include employment, reinstatement, promotion, pay increase, payment of lost wages, and liquidated damages for delayed pay).
    • Employer liability is reduced if the employer can demonstrate acting in good faith. The court may consider a pay equity audit as evidence of good faith
    • CDLE shall establish a process for investigating complaints and issue fines up to $10,000 depending on the type of violation

The following resources provide more information about the act and regulations, as well as steps that employer can take to ensure pay equity and transparency.


Healthy Families and Workplaces Act

During the 2020 legislative session, the Colorado General Assembly passed SB 20-205, otherwise known as the Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA). The act sets minimum standards for paid sick leave provided to employees as follows:

  • 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked up to 48 hours per year 
    • Starts Jan. 1, 2021 for employers with 16 or more employees
    • Starts Jan. 1, 2022 for all employers
  • During a declared public health emergency, at least 80 hours of paid sick leave for employees who normally work 40 hours per week
    • For employees who normally work less than 80 hours per week, this is the greater of either:
      • the amount of time the employee is scheduled to work in a 14 day period; or
      • the amount of time the employee actually works on average during a 14 day period
    • Employers may count unused accrued paid sick leave toward satisfying the 80 hour requirement during public health emergencies
    • Paid sick leave must allow employees to be absent for the following reasons related to the communicable illness that caused the emergency declaration
      • Self-isolating and caring for oneself due to experiencing symptoms or receiving a diagnosis 
      • Seeking a medical diagnosis or treatment or preventive care
      • Caring for a family member self-isolating, seeking a diagnosis, or preventive care for the communicable illness

Through March 31, 2021, employers who provide paid sick leave related to the COVID-19 pandemic may also claim a refundable tax credit under the Families First Act.

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) has provided several fact sheet that gives an overview of paid sick leave requirements under HFWA:

Colorado Overtime and Minimum Pay Standards (COMPS)

Even though the COMPS order will not change much in 2021, nonprofit organizations should be aware of a few developments. As of Jan. 1, 2021, the minimum salary for exempt employees increases to $40,500. Currently, the minimum salary is $35,568 (same as the federal amount).

Colorado's minimum wage increases to $12.32 per hour. If a nonprofit operates in a community with a higher local minimum wage, such as Denver, nonprofits must pay the higher local minimum wage.

Although the COMPS order resembles the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) in many ways, all nonprofit organizations must pay minimum wage with very few exceptions in law or regulations. Categories for exemptions from overtime pay are narrower than the "white collar" exemptions in FLSA.

COMPS does not provide any exceptions or exemptions for types of nonprofits or nonprofit organizations in general.

Check out the following resources for more information on the COMPS order: