Colorado Revamps Existing Wage Discrimination Law

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By: Gillian McKean Bidgood and Mary E. Kapsak

On May 22, 2019, Colorado’s Governor Polis signed the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act (the “Act”), which brings significant changes to the existing Wage Equality Regardless of Sex Act. C.R.S. § 8-5-101 et seq.  Effective January 1, 2021, the Act will prohibit employers from paying an employee of one sex less than an employee of a different sex for substantially the same work. 

Employers will also be required to announce or post all opportunities for promotion to all current employees on the same calendar day, and include the hourly or salary compensation, prior to making a promotion decision. Additionally, employers will be required to keep records of job descriptions and wage rate history for each employee for the duration of employment plus two years after the end of employment.

Note that wage differentials between employees of different sexes who perform substantially similar work are allowed where the employer can demonstrate that the difference in wages is based upon one or more factors, including:

  • 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.

Also, the Act will prohibit an employer from:

  • Seeking the wage rate history of a prospective employee or relying on a prior wage rate of a prospective employee 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 asserting the rights established by the Act;

  • Prohibiting employees from disclosing their wage rates; and

  • Requiring an employee to sign a waiver that prohibits an employee from disclosing their wage rate information.

Importantly, the Act will remove the authority of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment to enforce wage discrimination complaints based on sex and permit aggrieved employees to file a civil action in district court, where a prevailing employee may recover liquidated damages and attorneys’ fees. 

Employers may wish to consider auditing their existing pay structures to make sure employees are receiving equal pay for equal work in compliance with the Act and would do well to post all opportunities for promotion to all current employees at the same time. Employers with questions regarding the Act, or pay audits generally, should consult with competent counsel.