2021 Update for Colorado Employers

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2021 Update for Colorado Employers

As many are aware, Colorado businesses will be subjected to numerous changes the beginning of 2021. This email below outlines changes you should be aware of.

Minimum Wage in the state of Colorado will increase to $12.32 on January 1, 2021.

The Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (SB 20-205): 

Starting July 14th, 2020 through December 31, 2020, all employers in the state (regardless of size) are required to provide each of their employees paid sick leave for reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic in the amounts and for the purposes specified in the federal “Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act” in the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act”.  Those reasons were published by the Department of Labor (DOL) in March of 2020.

Starting January 1, 2021, for employers with 16 or more employees, and starting January 1, 2022, for all employers, the act requires employers to provide paid sick leave to their employees, accrued at one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 48 hours per year.

An employee begins accruing paid sick leave when the employee’s employment begins, may use paid sick leave as it is accrued, and may carry forward and use in subsequent calendar years up to 48 hours of paid sick leave that is not used in the year in which it is accrued. An employer is not required to allow the employee to use more than 48 hours of paid sick leave in a year.  Each employer is to notify its employees that they are eligible to paid sick leave.
Employees may use accrued paid sick leave to be absent from work for the following purposes:

  • The employee has a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; needs a medical diagnosis, care, or treatment related to such illness, injury, or condition; or needs to obtain preventive medical care;
  • The employee needs to care for a family member who has a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; needs a medical diagnosis, care, or treatment related to such illness, injury, or condition; or needs to obtain preventive medical care;
  • The employee or family member has been the victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or harassment and needs to be absent from work for purposes related to such crime; or
  • A public official has ordered the closure of the school or place of care of the employee’s child or of the employee’s place of business due to a public health emergency, necessitating the employee’s absence from work.

In addition to the paid sick leave accrued by an employee, the act requires an employer, regardless of size, to provide its employees an additional amount of paid sick leave during a public health emergency in an amount based on the number of hours the employee works.

The act prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee who uses the employee’s paid sick leave or otherwise exercises the employee’s rights under the act. Employers are required to notify employees of their rights under the act by providing employees with a written notice of their rights and displaying a poster, developed by the division of labor standards and statistics (division) in the department of labor and employment (department), detailing employees’ rights under the act.

The director of the division will implement and enforce the act and adopt rules necessary for such purposes. An employer found in violation of the act is liable to the employee for back pay and other equitable damages.

The act treats an employee’s information about the employee’s or a family member’s health condition or domestic abuse, sexual assault, or harassment case as confidential and prohibits an employer from disclosing such information or requiring the employee to disclose such information as a condition of using paid sick leave.

$206,566 is appropriated to the department for use by the division to implement the act, based on the assumption that the division will require an additional 2.7 FTE for such purpose.
Equal Pay for Equal Work Act (SB19-085):  Wage discrimination based on sex – complaints – civil action – exceptions to prohibitions against wage differentials – prohibited acts of employer – employment announcements required – enforcement – rules.

The act removes the authority of the director of the division of labor standards and statistics in the department of labor and employment (director) to enforce wage discrimination complaints based on an employee’s sex and instead authorizes the director to create and administer a process to accept and mediate complaints of, and provide legal resources concerning, alleged violations and to promulgate rules for this purpose. An aggrieved person may bring a civil action in district court to pursue remedies specified in the act.

The act allows exceptions to the prohibition against a wage differential based on sex if the employer demonstrates that a wage differential is not based on wage rate history and is based upon one or more of the following factors, so long as the employer applies the factors reasonably and they account for the entire wage rate differential:

  • A seniority system;
  • A merit system;
  • A system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production;
  • The geographic location where the work is performed;
  • Education, training, or experience to the extent that they are reasonably related to the work in question; or
  • Travel, if the travel is a regular and necessary condition of the work performed.

The act prohibits an employer from:

  • Seeking the wage rate history of a prospective employee or requiring disclosure of wage rate as a condition of employment;
  • Relying on a prior wage rate to determine a wage rate;
  • Discriminating or retaliating against a prospective employee for failing to disclose the employee’s wage rate history;
  • Discharging or retaliating against an employee for actions by an employee asserting the rights established by the act against an employer; or
  • Discharging, disciplining, discriminating against, or otherwise interfering with an employee for inquiring about, disclosing, or discussing the employee’s wage rate.

The act requires an employer to announce to all employees’ employment advancement opportunities and job openings and the pay range for the openings. The director is authorized to enforce actions against an employer concerning transparency in pay and employment opportunities, including fines of between $500 and $10,000 per violation.

Employers are also required to maintain records of job descriptions and wage rate history for each employee while employed and for 2 years after the employment ends. Failure to maintain these records creates a rebuttable presumption, in a lawsuit alleging wage discrimination based on sex, that the records not maintained contained information favorable to the employee’s claim.

Colorado Proposition 118, Paid Medical and Family Leave Initiative (2020):  

Proposition 118 mandates 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave funded through a payroll tax paid by employers and employees in an equal split. An additional four weeks of leave are allowed for pregnancy or childbirth complications. The first premiums will be paid beginning on January 1, 2023, and benefits will begin to be available on January 1, 2024. Under Proposition 118, employers cannot take disciplinary or retaliatory actions against employees for requesting or using paid leave.
For the first two years of the program (2023 and 2024), the premiums are set to be 0.9% of the employee’s wage (0.45% paid by the employer and 0.45% paid by the employee). Employers can choose to pay a larger percentage of the cost up to 100%. The initiative exempts businesses with less than 10 employees from paying the premium. Sole proprietors can opt in to the program.


HB20B-1004 – Qualified Retailer Retain Sales Tax For Assistance
This bill concerns a temporary deduction from state net taxable sales for certain retailers (alcoholic beverage drinking places industry, the restaurant and other eating places industry, and the mobile food services industry) in the state in order to allow such retailers to retain the resulting sales tax collected as assistance for lost revenue as a result of the economic disruptions due to the presence of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Colorado.

SB20B-001 – COVID-19 Relief Small And Minority Businesses Arts Organizations
The bulk of this bill provides funding for direct relief payments, up to $7,000, to small businesses hit hard by pandemic restrictions (for example, restaurants, bars, salons, movie theaters and gyms) so long as the businesses are in counties that complied with the state-imposed COVID-19 restrictions unless the businesses chose to comply with the restrictions on their own volition.  Various certifications are involved to qualify for the grants, which are too numerous to mention here, and the grant amounts are stratified based on the amount of gross revenue of the business (if gross revenues for 2019 were less than $500,000, the maximum grant is $3,500; if gross revenues for 2019 were more than $500,000 but less than $1,000,000, then the maximum grant is $5,000, and the maximum of $7,000 applies to business with gross revenues in excess of $1,000,000 but less than $2,500,000). This program is to be administered by “each eligible local government,” so pay attention to notices from your local jurisdictions.


As always, contact us here with any questions. We continue to update you as more is learned and more information comes out!