These are all of the labor bills proposed in the 2020 session. Each bill has its own bill number, please use your browser search feature to find the bill you are interested in. Return to the Colorado home page to pick a different bill category.

None of the text is the opinion of Engage. Each bill's description, arguments for, and arguments against are our best effort at describing what each bill does, arguments for, and arguments against the bill. The long description is hidden by design, you can click on it to expand it if you want to read more detail about the bill. If you believe we are missing something, please contact us with your suggestion. Some of these bills have the notation that they have been sent to the chamber's "kill" committee. This means that the leadership has decided to send the bill to the State committee even though it does not belong there based on its subject matter. This committee, in both chambers, is stacked with members from "safe" districts and the idea is to kill the bill without forcing any less safe members to take a hard vote. It is possible for a bill to survive the kill committee, but it is very rare.

Prime sponsors are given after each bill, with Senate sponsors in () and House sponsors in []. They are color-coded by party.

Some bills will have text highlighted in pink or highlighted in orange or highlighted in yellow. Pink highlights mean House amendments to the original bill; orange mean Senate amendments; yellow highlights mean conference committee amendments. The bill will say under the header if it has been amended.

Each bill has been given a "magnitude" category: Mega, Major, Medium, Minor+, Minor, and Technical. This is a combination of the change the bill would create and the "controversy" level of the bill. Some minor bills that are extending current programs would be major changes if they were introducing something new, but the entire goal here is to allow you to better curate your time. Something uncontroversial likely to pass nearly unanimously that continues a past program may not be worth your time (and please remember, you can still read all of the minor bills!). Technical bills are here to round out the list. They are non-substantive changes.

Senate

Click on the Senate bill title to jump to its section:

MEGA

SB20-200 Implementation Of CO Colorado Secure Savings Program PASSED AMENDED
SB20-205 Sick Leave For Employees PASSED AMENDED

MAJOR

SB20-207 Unemployment Insurance PASSED SIGNIFICANTLY AMENDED
SB216 Workers' Compensation For COVID-19 KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

MEDIUM

SB20-117 School Employee Paycheck Transparency KILLED BY SENATE COMMITTEE
SB20-192 Staffing Agency Requirements For Employees KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

MINOR+

SB20-026 Workers' Compensation For Audible Psychological Trauma PASSED AMENDED
SB20-170 Update Colorado Employment Security Act PASSED AMENDED

MINOR

SB20-057 Fire Prevention & Control Employee Benefits PASSED

TECHNICAL

HB20-1044 Modify Pension Plans Administered By FPPA Fire And Police Pension Association (Garcia (D), Ginal (D)) [Bird (D), Garnett (D)]

From the Pension Review Committee

AMENDED: Very Significant

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: $58 million next year None

Goal: Numerous changes to the Fire and Police Pension Association (PFPA) plan, including $58 million paid by the state for unfunded liabilities, increases in employer contribution percentages, more flexibility for the governing board, and the ability for some members to retire earlier.

Description:

  • Requires the state to contribute money to fund the unfunded liabilities in the death and disability benefits for members hired before 1997 (the state turned over funding for the plan in 1997). This totals $58 million and must be paid this year.
  • Increases the employer contribution rates to the plan by 4% over eight years to a total of 12% of the employee’s salary.
  • Changes the qualifications for retirement from age 55 with at least five years of service to either that or a combined 80 years of age+service starting at age 50 (so someone at age 50 could retire if they had 30 years of service). To cover the cost of the increase in retirees, the employer contribution rate is increase by another 1% over two years.
  • Allows the FPPA board to increase future contribution requirements so long as they are equal increases for both employees and employers, it doesn’t jeopardize the plan’s IRS status, and it is approved by at least 65% of employees and 50% of employers.
  • Increases the amount of contribution from employees who are eligible for death and disability benefits from 2.8% to 3% and authorizes the board to make increases in the amount more quickly than before (was every two years by .1%, now every year by .2%)
  • Allows the board greater freedom to determine contributions to what is called old-hire plans (for those hired prior to April 8, 1978) based on: stabilizing amount of annual contributions required over time, keeping funded ratio from declining, and reducing or eliminating contributions as needed based on actual actuary experience.
  • Changes the stabilization reserve account, which consists of separate retirement accounts employees who satisfy certain requirements have access to upon retirement, to defined benefit accounts, subject to self-direction by eligible employees. All money left in the stabilization account must be transferred to defined contribution accounts by the end of the year.

Additional Information:

Bill also codifies into law the existing plan benefit of the elimination on a 50% cap on pension benefits based on highest average salary. Specifies that for counties who decide to opt-into the plan now, the board can determine contribution rates for all new members from those counties to keep the overall plan adequately funded. Authorizes the board to decrease the penalty rate employers who leave the plan but then re-enter at a later date are obligated to pay in order to account for the increased costs of this action. Can only be done if the board determines the rate is higher than associated costs.


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

These changes all came directly from the FPPA board, based on a process involving both employees and employers. The big ticket item is obviously the large shortfall. The state turned this plan over to employers and employees in 1997, putting money into the plan at that time to cover everyone prior to 1997. At this point that funding provided by the state is insufficient, by $58 million, in part because of more people being eligible for disability than was originally thought would happen. Because this is to cover the period of time when the state was entirely responsible for funding this plan, it is only proper that the state cover the shortfall. We also are increasing the contributions to the disability fund. For the increases in employer contributions, the plan is closed to fully-funded but it is on very shaky ground and actuaries believe it will rapidly become underfunded if no changes are made. This change would actually match the contribution employees are already making (they started doing so in 2014), so it would actually make the situation more fair than it is currently. Phasing in the change over time will allow employers, which in this case means local governments, will give them time to cushion the blow (and they were participants in the task force that came up with these proposed changes). For the change in retirement age, basically if someone has worked for 30 years in public safety at age 50, we believe full retirement is warranted. At age 55 anyone can retire. For the old hire plans, the board simply needs more flexibility to set the requirements, especially since a lot of these plans now only have a few people in them and thus the volatility of the plans is pretty high. This change will allow the board to better manage the risks of these plans as they wind down. The bottom line is that we promised the people who keep us safe every day a safe and secure retirement. We owe all retired and current firefighters and police officers a full retirement and this is what needs to be done to make that happen.

Arguments Against:

Sometime you just have to admit that the retirement plan envisioned is just not feasible. This is one of those times. Rather than putting immense strain on local governments by dramatically increasing their costs (in the millions for some cities at the full 4% increase), we need to scale back here to something realistic. Of course that definitely means not increasing benefits when you are coming to the legislature for over $50 million. We also should not delegate the ability to increase benefit requirements to the board. That must remain with our elected legislatures. We need to bring the employees, retirees, and employers together and come up with a more realistic set of retirement benefits than currently exist. It will be painful, but sometimes reality is. If we do not, it seems like we will continue to have this conversation every year about some state employee retirement plan or another requiring yet more taxpayer money.


This is too much of a shock to the system all at once for something that may not require quite such an emergency reaction. Spread the $58 million the state owes out over several years and lengthen the time for local governments to increase their contributions.


We now are not funding the shortfall for pre-1997 employees and it will have to be overcome by the plan itself.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1044

HB20-1089 Employee Protection Lawful Off-duty Activities [Melton (D)]

KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Make it illegal for employers to fire employees for using marijuana when not at work.

Description: Changes the law banning employers from firing employees for engaging in lawful activities while not at work to any activities that are legal in the state of Colorado, regardless of whether it is legal federally or not. Existing exceptions for bona-fide occupational requirements or reasonable and rational requirements related to employment activities and responsibilities of particular employees are left in place.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For: Employers are not allowed to fire employees for legal activities done in their free time that does not impact their ability to work. With one glaring exception: employers can fire anyone for marijuana usage. This ambiguity in our current law was resolved with a court decision in 2010, after a company fired an employee who was using legally using medical marijuana to control seizures while not at work. This bill address this decision with a simple addition: anything that is legal to do in the state of Colorado is something an employee cannot be fired for. Of course any job that is subject to additional federal restrictions or state restrictions regarding drug use is exempt as it can be already for other restrictions on legal activity done during off-work hours. The testing for detecting impairment due to marijuana is improving all the time and should not be a problem for detecting impairment while at work.

Arguments Against:

The problem here is that marijuana intoxication is much thornier than alcohol. We know that marijuana lasts longer in the system than alcohol does. So, yes, an employer could still fire someone for coming to work intoxicated with marijuana. But how do you determine that? For businesses in high-risk areas with heavy equipment, safety is on a knife’s edge. And some employers want to set zero-tolerance illegal drug policies (and in this case illegal means federally illegal), particularly those that operate across multiple states including some where marijuana is illegal; this bill would make that impossible.


Marijuana remains illegal federally. At the moment the federal government is turning a blind eye to all of the illegal activity occurring in Colorado, but that could change. We should not be moving any further down the road of committing federal crimes unless marijuana become legal on the federal level.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1089

HB20-1109 Tax Credit Employer Contributions To Employee 529s (Gardner (R), Todd (D)) [Van Winkle (R), Garnett (D)]

PASSED

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Minimal

Goal: Extend tax credit for employers that make donations to 529 savings accounts owned by their employees by 10 years

Description:

Extends the tax credit for employers that make donations to 529 savings accounts owned by their employees by ten years. Was due to expire at end of 2021. Credit is 20% of the donation with a maximum of $500 per employee.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: January 2032

Arguments For:

College is becoming more and more expensive and 529s are a great way for families to grow money tax free over time to help pay for it. This bill will continue to incentivize employers to help. In just one year the program is already a great success, with 83 companies contributing a total of $403,791 to their employees’ 529 plans. This is a great way for employers to provide another bonus to their employees and stand apart from other potential employers. No need to wait, this is working and it should continue.

Arguments Against:

We have no information on the companies that provided these contributions other than they did it. This bill might provide an incentive for employers to change their benefit structure not by adding new payments to 529 accounts but by reducing some other outlay, salary, bonus, etc. that employees are counting on, since straight salary isn’t giving the company a tax cut. 529s are great, but employees need what they are making now to live on. This also sets up companies to discriminate either against employees without children (who have to earn less than their fellows with children in the form of these 529 donations) or those with children, who have to put part of their earnings toward 529s instead of taking it home. Did these 83 companies do any of this? Without knowing for sure we should not continue the program.


It has only been two years since this was signed into law and it is not set to expire for another two years. This is too early to jump on a ten-year extension. Let another year go by and then we will see.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1109

HB20-1153 Colorado Partnership For Quality Jobs And Services Act (Garcia (D), Pettersen (D)) [Esgar (D)]

AMENDED: Minor

PASSED

Appropriation: $2.3 million
Fiscal Impact: In addition to appropriation, up to $4.4 million at full implementation

Goal: Allow state employees to organize into a union.

Description:

Allows state employees to create a single union. Management, employees with access to confidential employer-employee relations, employees within division of labor who manage this plan, administrative law judges and lawyers hearing officers, employees of the legislative branch, and temporary employees (less than 6 months) are excluded. The currently existing certified employee organization, Colorado WINS, will start as the certified employee organization representing all state workers. This organization is to negotiate partnership agreements with the state around wages, hours, and terms and conditions of employment, including a grievance procedure to resolve disputes that must end in binding arbitration. It must also have reasonable access to areas where its member employees work to hold meetings, post notices, and provide information, as well as attend new employee orientation.

Employees in a partnership agreement are forbidden to go on strike, a work stoppage, or group sickout. Employees may opt-out of providing their personal information to the certified organization and paying dues appears to be optional. The state must make payroll deductions for union dues, notify the organization of employee changes, and submit requests to the general assembly for funding if it is necessary. If the general assembly fails to fund what is necessary for the agreement, the state and certified employee organization must go back into negotiations. If the state and the organization cannot come to an agreement over a work contract, the process goes to mediation. The state personnel director is tasked with enforcing partnership agreements.

Additional Information:

  • Decertification election can be triggered by a petition of at least 30% of covered employees. This must occur no earlier than 120 days and no later than 90 days before the expiration of the partnership agreement or after the fourth year of a partnership agreement. When no agreement is in effect, no decertification can be made until two years from the date of the certification. A majority vote is required to decertify an employee organization
  • If there is no certified organization, qualifying non-profits may request election for representation by submitting a petition of at least 30% of covered employees
  • Multiple organizations can submit and the winner of a majority vote becomes certified
  • No subsequent elections for a year
  • Violating labor stoppage ban can result in decertification or any another sanctions or fines determined by division of labor. Employees who participate may be subject to termination.
  • State may not:
    • Encourage or discourage membership in partnership agreement or take a position on any available choices for organizations to represent employees
    • Expend any public resources in a campaign against an employee organization
    • Interfere or restrain employees from exercising their rights to form a partnership agreement
    • Retaliate against an employee for filing a complaint or for joining a partnership organization
    • Refuse to participate in the partnership process
  • Bill specifies that the nothing in the bill impairs ability for state to carry out core functions of any department or agency, establish and oversee budgets and finances, determine technology utilization, make, amend, enforce, or revoke reasonable personal conduct rules, or take actions such as may be needed to carry out any government functions in an emergency
  • State must also provide specific employment information for each covered employee every month as well as personal contact information unless the employee has opted-out. Information is confidential and personal contact information is not subject to the open records act. State must provide 30 day notice to new hires of ability to opt-out and one-time 60 day notice to current employees when law is enacted. State must provide at least 10 days notice to certified organization of any new employee orientation unless there is an urgent need critical to state operations that was not foreseeable
  • Anything that requires statewide uniformity will involve negotiating with the governor. Sole agency or department negotiations will be handled by the director of the department or agency. The agency or department and employee organization can move solo items to the statewide negotiation by mutual agreement.
  • Only the partnership agreement submitted for ratification is subject to state open records laws
  • If no agreement is reached after 90 days the state and employee organization may enter mediation, with mediator selected from a list of five candidates provided by a respected, national, non-profit entity that provides alternative conflict resolution services. If no agreement after another 30 days the mediator will issue a recommendation on all outstanding issues within 15 days. Parties may enter agreement on the issues they do agree about.
  • State and employee organization must split all mediation costs
  • Only the mediator’s final recommendation is subject to state open records laws
  • Both the state and the certified organization can seek judicial review over elections, unfair labor practice charges, and disputes arising from the agreement including arbitration decisions. Court is to uphold arbitration unless if finds the arbitrator came to a decision by corrupt, fraud or undue means or exceeded their authority or did not adhere to the essence of the partnership agreement or violated the law
  • Bill also removes the limit on number of senior executives serving in state, eliminates the separate state employee funds for merit pay by bringing them all into one fund, and specifies that in a disciplinary action against an employee for violence or threatened violence, the safety of others gets predominant weight over the interests of the employee


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

We already allow our teachers, police officers, and firefighters to organize into unions, so this does not set some sort of new precedent in terms of government employees able to collectively bargain for themselves. Our state employees technically have a union, Colorado WINS, but it cannot negotiate binding contracts and its existence was not protected by state law, which leaves approximately 28,000 state employees without the strong protection a union can provide. Changes in technology, the nature of the workforce, and demands for state services require the state to modernize the way it manages its employees. Our state workforce is aging and the state has struggled to effective recruit and retain younger employees. As in all industries, high turnover costs money: the state is losing millions in recruiting and training. Part of changing this dynamic is allowing our state employees to dialogue collectively with the state to improve their working conditions and possibly compensation. Through the process in this bill, the state will benefit from the innovations and creativity of front-line employees and at the same time will provide a mechanism for these employees to prosper, which will help keep them in their jobs (or advance to higher level jobs within the state). The bill protects against work stoppages, so we will never lose state services due to labor disputes. No one is forced into the union against their will and the bill language seems to indicate that employees have the ability to not pay dues to the union by not authorizing or canceling payroll deductions.

Arguments Against:

The decision over state employee wages, benefits, and working conditions is a matter of public concern, since the ultimate employer of every person who works for the state government is the citizens of Colorado. This bill removes the citizens of the state, through their elected representatives, from their ability to exercise any oversight into this process. Right now the legislature and governor, through laws and the state budget, make these determinations. Last year’s budget, for instance, featured a 3% pay increase for state employees. If this bill becomes law, unions and the state itself will be making these decisions, but of course the legislature still has to fund them which could lead to a big mess.


Unions are all or nothing propositions. The protections, wages, and other benefits that unions negotiate are for all employees, thus all employees need to contribute. In many ways, this is similar to numerous forms of taxes and fees: we all vote, then we have to abide by what the decision is. The bill needs to allow for all-union employment if majority of eligible voters or ¾ of those who actually voted agree. It also pulls the rug out from underneath workers by prohibiting work stoppages, one of the only tactics that ever really works in a collective bargaining situation.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1153

HB20-1154 Workers' Compensation (Marble (R), Bridges (D)) [Kraft-Tharp (D), Van Winkle (R)]

KILLED ON HOUSE CALENDAR

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Minimal in first year

Goal: Make numerous changes to workers’ compensation laws, including lowering impairment thresholds, greatly reducing the ability to apportion blame for injuries to non-work related factors, raising earnings thresholds for disqualification from permanent disability benefits, adding guardians or conservators to list of things that must be provided if necessary, and other smaller changes.

Description:

Makes numerous changes to the state’s workers' compensation laws:

  • Changes the percentage of impairment for determining maximum amount of combined temporary disability and permanent partial disability payments from 25% impaired to 19% impaired. This moves the $75,000 maximum ceiling down to that 19% level.
  • Changes the law regarding non-permanent disability benefits not being reduced based on previous injuries to not being reduced based on any apportionment of blame for the injury at all. Adds health at time of accident and family history to the list of things that cannot be used to reduce benefits for permanent disability. Puts the burden of proof on employers and employer’s insurers at any hearing that may result in reduction of benefits due to apportionment of blame.
  • Changes the amount of yearly earnings someone claiming permanent disability must be earning in order for the permanent disability award to end from $400,000 to $750,000 and ties the amount to changes in average state weekly wages in the future.
  • Adds guardian or conservator services as items employers must furnish if required to cure and relieve the employee from the effects of the injury that qualified for workers’ comp. This is to be a flat fee based on a schedule determined by the state to cover reasonable attorney fees and costs as well as reasonable costs for the guardian or conservator.
  • Changes the circumstances under which an employer or insurer may request an independent medical examiner to determine if the employee has reached maximum medical improvement by requiring that the second opinion already required by law have taken place at least 20 months after the injury and the requesting party that give the authorized treating physician a written notice that a different physician has found the employee has reached maximum medical improvement.
  • Requires all mileage expense reimbursements to be sent no later than 120 days after they were incurred (except for good cause like not being given proper notice by the employer or employer’s insurer). Must be paid or denied with written explanation within 30 days of receipt. Requires that in the written notice an employer or insurer must provide the employee when they make their claim, the mileage reimbursement section must include this 120 deadline and an example of a reimbursement form.
  • Prohibits employers or insurers from withdrawing an admission of liability if two years or more have elapsed since the initial admission was filed, except for cases of fraud.
  • Bans the director of the division of workers’ compensation or an administrative law judge from determining issues of compensation or liability unless they are also awarding specific benefits or penalties at the same time.

Additional Information:

Clarifies that payments are deemed paid on the date the payment was received or delivered to the payee, except for payments sent through the mail, which is three days after it was sent (so long as it was sent three days before it was due). For matters an administrative law judge may decide pre-hearing, bill adds appointing guardians ad litem and assessing appropriate fees for this. Also clarifies some of the language around existing matters the judge can rule on.

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

The issue with the appropriations is due to several court cases that have allowed employers, their insurers, and attorneys, to wriggle out of paying the full benefit because the injury might have occurred in the future anyway. That is not the point of workers’ compensation: the point is if you are injured as a direct result of your job, you get compensated. It doesn’t matter if your weight or family history meant that you would be likely to get that same injury at some later date. For guardians or conservators, some really serious injuries unfortunately require this and right now the burden is wrongly on the family of the injured employee to pay for it. Again, the point of workers’ compensation is to provide full compensation for costs associated with an injury. This is one of them. Lifting the ceiling on salary required to end permanent disability is just keeping up with changes in wages since the number was put into law, which is why it would be tied to such changes in the future. It is critical to remember that people who are permanently disabled frequently have huge on-going bills related to their disability. As for fraud, this is a felony in Colorado and the overall noise around fraud is overblown. In fact many states find more cases of fraud from employers than employees. This bill will not increase the amount of fraud, anyone who wanted to commit fraud won’t find it easier or harder. It should not have a large impact on premiums, we have some of the lowest in the country and have had six straight years without an increase in losses due to sharp drops in claims. So it just makes it easier and more equitable for workers who have been injured and deserve compensation.

Arguments Against:

The great benefits of workers’ compensation make it a juicy target for fraud. Employees who commit fraud either inflate the extent of their injuries or fabricate them entirely (sometimes with the help of crooked doctors). This of course results in higher premiums for all businesses because the insurers pass the costs of those claims on to everyone. And beyond fraud, this bill will increase payouts. That is not in dispute, indeed it is the point. Lower thresholds for impairment and no apportioning of blame will send more money out. The insurers will almost assuredly replace that money by raising premiums on all businesses in the state. And we should be able to apportion blame for an injury. One of the court cases this bill is seeking to overturn found that a man who developed arthritis in his knees, in part due to a job that required him to be on his knees a lot, was also overweight and had arthritis in other parts of his body. In other words, yes the job contributed to his injury (so the insurer had to pay 33% of the costs) but there were other important factors at play. That is how it should be, and why we have courts to help figure these things out. For the income threshold for permanent disability, anyone earning $400,000 should be able to handle medical bills in addition to household expenses.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1154

HB20-1169 Prohibit Discrimination Labor Union Participation (Gardner (R), Marble (R)) [Ransom (R), Neville (R)]

KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Potential loss of federal grant funds for RTD

Goal: Ban all-union organizations by prohibiting requiring joining a union as a prerequisite for employment.

Description: Prohibits an employer from requiring any person to join a union, pay union fees, or assessments to charity or other third-party organization as requirement of employment. Any agreement that violates these provisions is null and void. Excludes federal employees and employers.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

So-called all-union employment is unfair to individuals who don’t want to participate, for whatever reason, and are forced to support something they do not believe in. This includes being forced to pay their own money to the union. Unions are still welcome to organize, but just won’t be able to force anyone to participate against his or her will. This won’t kill unions, they can still negotiate with employers for higher wages and benefits and if some people benefit from this without paying dues or joining, that will not be the worst thing in the world. It happens all the time, all over the country. Certain people or groups of people work really hard and spend time and money to advocate for a benefit that will help everyone, even the people who didn’t lift a finger to help.

Arguments Against:

Unions are all or nothing propositions. The protections, wages, and other benefits that unions negotiate are for all employees, thus all employees need to contribute. In many ways, this is similar to numerous forms of taxes and fees: we all vote, then we have to abide by what the decision is (and the threshold for all-union employment is much higher than simple majority rule, the higher of majority of eligible voters or ¾ of those who actually voted). So while something like this sounds nice in theory, in practice it is a killer blow to many unions who fight for their members rights every day. Being in a democracy means abiding by the decisions of the electorate, even when we don’t agree. This also destroys multiple active collective bargaining agreements by rendering them void. RTD may also lose federal grant funding by repealing compulsory union membership.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1169

HB20-1186 Teachers' Rights Opt-in Organization Membership [Liston (R)]

KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Clarify that teachers can opt-out of unions at any time and require the state to notify all teachers in writing or electronically at least twice a year of this option.

Description: Clarifies that teachers can opt-out of unions at any time and requires the state to notify all teachers in writing or electronically at least twice a year of this option.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

The Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME is believed by experts to require teachers to be able to opt-out of union membership at any time, not during narrow and arbitrary windows, and this merely enshrines this into law. It also ensures that teachers know about their right to opt-out, which obviously unions are not keen to broadcast.

Arguments Against:

Let’s just let the teachers make up their own minds about this instead of bombarding them with notices that they can opt-out of the union. It is a waste of taxpayer money and the state’s time. If the courts rule that the Janus case means that you can opt-out at any time, then that is the law that must be followed. But we don’t need to add it to statute to make it a reality.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1186

HB20-1193 Income Tax Benefits For Family Leave [Landgraf (R), Van Winkle (R)]

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Not yet released

Goal: Create leave savings accounts, similar to 401ks, which can be used to cover a variety of eligible leave expenses, and incentive employers to offer more generous leave with a tax credit.

Description:

Creates leave savings accounts, which operate in a manner similar to a 401k with an employee contributing pretax wages, maximum of $5,000 annually, that an employer can match. Money put into the account is tax deductible, as is interest earned on it, but must be spent on eligible leave expenses, which include: childbirth/newborn care, placement of child for adoption or foster care, caring for an immediate family member in serious condition, a serious health condition that makes the individual unable to work in their job, time for individual to care for themselves or immediate family after domestic abuse, any qualifying exigency as identified by the federal Department of Labor arising out of military deployment.

Individuals must submit an annual report to the state with their taxes detailing how the fund was used (form to be created by state). Financial institutions do not have to do anything new for the program. Using the funds in any unapproved manner makes them subject to being taken by the state along with a 10% penalty. Can withdraw all money from the account at age 65 at no penalty.

Also creates a tax credit for employers offering paid leave for the same eligible categories at least 50% wage replacement for at least 8 weeks of leave. Credit is 15% of amount paid and can be used for up to 12 weeks of pay.

Additional Information:

Can roll-over fund to an eligible retirement account prior to age 65 at no penalty. If someone dies with money still in one of these accounts any money that was deducted from income taxes can be recaptured by state but there is no additional penalty.


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

The U.S. is the only one of 41 high-income countries to not offer paid leave to new parents, and one of few nations worldwide to offer no guaranteed paid sick leave. Colorado’s economy functions on the backs of its working families and functions best when those families are able to participate in the economy. When someone has to go on leave, and does not have a salary, they cannot spend in their normal way the economy as a whole suffers. This allows employees to save money toward these events so that they will have at least some income replacement, as well as a way for employers to contribute (and increase the desirability of their benefits package to prospective employees). It does so in a way that is entirely voluntary and does not drain money out of our economy or disadvantage workers and employers who already offer paid leave (as well as offer incentives for employers to offer paid leave).

Arguments Against:

This is an inadequate fig leaf that may do very little to help someone in an unpaid leave situation. First, someone who would struggle in such a scenario is likely to be unable to take large amounts out of their regular paychecks to put into accounts that they can never access unless a true emergency arises. Even if the person dies, the money in the account goes back to the state (but there’s no penalty, how nice). Second, if someone does manage to put some money into an account like this and does somehow manage to convince their employer to match it, how far is that money going to go in a situation where they face unpaid leave? And instead of treating paid leave like a something we should pat employers on the head for with a tax break, let’s treat is as the absolutely essential thing it is, and other countries in the world recognize as such. That means putting more of the burden on employers, not all on the taxpayers and certainly not all on the employees.


The state should not be in the business of coddling people who are unable to save up money for emergencies (or plan ahead for having children). Coloradans who make wise financial choices and don’t live beyond their means shouldn’t be disadvantaged when it comes to tax incentives.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1193

HB20-1222 Veterans Hiring Preference (Hisey (R), Todd (D)) [Carver (R)]

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Allow private employers to adopt a policy of preference to veterans, members of the national guard, or the spouses of disabled veterans or those killed in the line of duty when hiring a new employee so long as the veterans or spouses are equally qualified.

Description:

Allows private employers to adopt a policy of preference to veterans, members of the National Guard, or the spouses of disabled veterans or those killed in the line of duty when hiring a new employee as long as the veterans or spouses are equally qualified. If a private employer adopts this policy it must be uniformly applied to all hiring decisions.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

Veterans have unique skills honed under pressure and make great employees. This law allows employers to have a stated preference for veterans so long as everyone is aware of it and the veteran is equally qualified. Finding veterans jobs as they transition out of the military is greatly in the public interest and this helps. Codifying into law makes the practice fairer, as it requires employers to transparent about their hiring practices. Multiple other states have a similar law as does the federal government and even our very own state government, although that requirement is somewhat flawed as it requires a veteran to have served in a conflict. It is time to let private employers do the same in an open manner, because we should be honest about this, lots of employers are already informally doing this.

Arguments Against:

There is no establishment of objective criteria in this bill to prove that the veterans or spouses were in fact equally qualified. This is required for public employees in our state constitution. National Guard members are not given a preference in public employment either, so this bill is going farther than our state constitution does in terms of who can be given preference and in terms of how this preference is applied. The loose nature of the application could cause trouble if someone sued on the basis of discrimination (gender or race). Legally this could be trouble for businesses who aren’t running a tight enough ship to withstand a discrimination lawsuit, in particular since the clause in the bill essentially says that anyone who implements a policy correctly is de facto not in violation of employment discrimination practices. That sets up a potential legal collision with other parts of law and with constitutionally protected rights. Expanding this to include spouses also moves beyond the idea of hiring a veteran based on their skills and attempting to transition into post-military life and into a flat preference for families that have had a member serve. That is not the way we usually do hiring preferences, they are designed to help people who traditionally are under-employed. And we should not make laws based on people not following current law. Either this is good policy or it isn’t.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1222

HB20-1263 Eliminate Sub-minimum Wage Employment (Gonzales (D)) [Caraveo (D), Pelton (R)]

AMENDED: Moderate

KILLED ON HOUSE CALENDAR

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: About $350k a year in state funds during transition

Goal: Phase-out sub-minimum wage employment in Colorado.

Description:

The federal government allows companies to obtain a waiver to pay employees whose capacity is impaired by age, physical or mental disability, or injury, sub-minimum wage. In Colorado, that means a rate 15% below minimum wage. This bill eliminates ability to hire someone at sub-minimum wage after July 2020 and at all by July 2025. Employers that currently have this waiver must submit a transition plan to the state by July 2021 on how they plan to phase-out sub-minimum wage and support employees currently earning sub-minimum wage jobs to pursue competitive integrated employment, supported employment, or integrated community activities. Plan must be updated annually until the employer is no longer paying sub-minimum wages. Requires employment first advisory partnership (already existing group) to develop recommendations for addressing structural and fiscal barriers to phasing out sub-minimum wage employment. Must report to legislature by July April 2021. Require state to offer transition grants to employers with sub-minimum wage employees by July 2022. One grant of up to $25,000 per employer.

Additional Information:

State must also seek waiver from Medicaid to change its current employment supports of job coaching, individual and job development, individual to:

  • Support to assist individuals with engaging in meaningful community activities to help develop social capital and learn and build on skills related to each individual’s identified employment goals provided on an individualized basis with one-to-one support
  • Support to provide line-of-sight supervision on the job as a less intensive and less expensive alternative to individual job coaching, when appropriate
  • On-going benefits counseling to assist adults in earning higher incomes while retaining necessary supports

State must collaborate with stakeholders to develop service coverage standards, reimbursement rates, and limitations on these services.

Transition plans must include measurable benchmarks, be informed by evidenced-based practices, and effective employment models.

Grantees can use funds to:

  • Contract with subject matter experts to advise the employer on transition activities
  • Business planning
  • Coaching for executives and program leaders
  • Staff training
  • Outreach to individuals employed in sub-minimum wage jobs and their families to prepare and support them through the transition
  • Acquisition and integration of technology to assist with the job development process
  • Day program redesign and quality improvement

Partnership must explore:

  • Payment reform for employment-related services
  • Establishment of adequate reimbursement rates for employment-related services to ensure availability of high-quality support services
  • Addressing unit caps on employment related services
  • Addressing any Medicaid waiver and state regulatory barriers


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

The federal law this is based upon is over 80 years old and was built on an assumption that people with disabilities would probably never work. The law has managed to stay despite a growing national movement toward removing employment segregation and helping people with disabilities get regular jobs and live on their own. It has tended to lead to jobs in sheltered workshops where the workers are isolated from the rest of society with little chance of advancement. It is also ripe for abuse for employers to flat out pay less for a job that need done by someone, and so evade minimum wage requirements. We just need to treat these people like people. But we need to do it carefully. There are systematic barriers in place and we will need to set up the ability for businesses and the state to help people currently working in sub minimum wage employment pursue competitive employment at full wages. This can include a job coach, who goes with the worker for the first month or so to help them learn the ropes. Three states have already stepped up and removed the ability for businesses in their states to use this federal exemption. It is time for Colorado to join them.

Arguments Against:

This law has survived the test of time because it provides opportunities for those who cannot work as quickly or efficiently as others performing the same task (you must prove this in order to get the federal waiver). If we remove these jobs we will remove employment opportunities that solely exist for this community and put these individuals into the full employment marketplace where they will have to compete against people without disability or injury. There is of course no law preventing someone with a disability or injury from having a full-wage job right now. We can encourage more of that without pulling the rug out from underneath everyone else.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1263

HB20-1394 Public Employees' Retirement Association Judicial Division Contribution Rate Modification (Moreno (D), Rankin (R)) [McCluskie (D), Ransom (R)]

From the Joint Budget Committee

PASSED

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: $2.7 million each of the next two years

Goal:

Change the contribution rates for the judicial division by increasing those of employees (except Denver county judges) 5% and decreasing the rate for the state 5% for the next two years.

Description:

Changes the contribution rates for the judicial division by increasing those of employees (except Denver county judges) 5% and decreasing the rate for the state 5% for the next two years. This year the rates would change from 13.91% to 8.91% for employers (state) and 9.5% to 14.5% for employees. Next year the change would be the same for the state and from 10% to 15% for employees.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

It is actually against the law to reduce the pay of judges in the judicial department. We've had to make cuts across other departments, this matches the judicial department up with the rest of the state. It is simply fair.

Arguments Against:

This acts to suck $2.7 million out of the economy by pulling it out of people’s wallets by reducing their paycheck by 5%. Think about your own household, how would a 5% pay cut play out? It’s nice of course that it is temporary and does not trigger automatic increases, but that won’t help a family already teetering on the brink. This also results in a negative impact to the overall health of the retirement fund, since employer contributions go to the entire trust, while employee contributions go to their own accounts. $2.7 million is a lot of money, but in the scheme of a $3 billion shortfall, it’s pretty small. Find it somewhere else.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB1394

HB20-1415 Whistleblower Protection Public Health Emergencies (Pettersen (D), Rodriguez (D)) [Herod (D), Sullivan (D)]

AMENDED: Minor

PASSED

Appropriation: $334,113
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation

Goal: Provide whistleblower protection for those calling out health and safety conditions at a workplace in a public health emergency.

Description:

Prohibits employers from discriminating or retaliating against any worker who raises any concern about workplace health and safety practices in a public health emergency to the employer, other workers, a government agency, or the public if those health and safety practices fail to meet any federal, state, or local guidelines. Non-disclosure agreements that prohibit this behavior are also banned. Also cannot discriminate or retaliate against a worker who voluntarily wears their own personal protective equipment so long as that equipment provides a higher level of protection than equipment provided by the employer, is recommended by federal, state, or local health agencies, and does not make the worker incapable of doing their job. Anyone who feels this law has been violated can file a complaint with the state [within two years] and if they have exhausted their administrative remedies, bring a suit in court [amend] within 90 days. The state may order fines for each instance of a violation and may order the employer to reinstate or rehire a fired or suspended worker with back pay or order a severance payment if rehiring or reinstatement is deemed impossible. Courts may do the same, with a maximum of $10,000 of back pay, [as well as attorney fees]. The court may also award punitive damages only if it is demonstrated the employer engaged in discriminatory, adverse, or retaliatory practices with malice or reckless indifference.

Additional Information:

Whistleblowers have two different court options, civil suits for themselves or on behalf of the state. If it is on behalf of the state (themselves is described in the Description section), the court may enter a judgment of anywhere between $100 and $1,000 for each violation, with 75% of proceeds going to state and 25% to whistleblower.


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

There is a clear and obvious need to protect whistleblowers in a pandemic. The health and safety of the public is at stake when one employer ignores health and safety rules and thus allows the virus to spread. Workers in this situation are in an extremely difficult spot: they likely need their job but also want to protect their health and the health of their family. This bill ensures that they do not need to make that choice but instead can sound the alarm without worry that they will lose their job. We also have to make sure that if workers feel like the personal protective equipment they are given is not up to the job. We must make sure what happened in Greeley, where workers were initially forced to work without being given any protective equipment, and then just inadequate face masks in April, leading to a huge outbreak. That plant also was not taking proper social distancing precautions and was not discouraging people who were sick to stay away from work (quite the contrary). That is just one, very high profile, example. People must be safe at work and in a pandemic, that lack of safety can hurt all of us.

Arguments Against:

We have a mishmash of safety standards at various local/state/federal levels which can lead to confusion with businesses who have locations in multiple jurisdictions. Things move really fast, and it can be extremely difficult for employers to keep up. Employers who make good faith attempts to follow health guidelines should not be punished. The bill also has an expansive view of employment: it would sweep in contracted employees in some situations.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1415

SB20-026 Workers' Compensation For Audible Psychological Trauma (Fields (D), Cooke (R)) [Singer (D)]

From the Legislative Oversight Committee Concerning the Treatment of Persons with Mental Health Disorders in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Systems

AMENDED: Minor

PASSED

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Fiscal note not yet released

Goal: Include audible psychological trauma in the definition of psychologically traumatic event that is eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.

Description:

Currently workers must visually witness either the death of someone due to a violent event or the repeated serious bodily injury or aftermath of injury from either an intentional act or accident to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits due to psychological trauma. This bill adds eligibility if a worker hears either of these events. Workers must still have a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder from a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

Numerous studies have proven that psychological trauma that can lead to PTSD is extremely complex and can arise via any of the ways we interact with the world, which of course includes hearing. Someone does not have to actually witness a trauma to become traumatized by it, some people who hear traumatic events develop the same debilitating PTSD symptoms as those who physically witness them. This bill takes this into account and appropriately expands the eligibility requirements for workers’ compensation.

Arguments Against:

Workers’ compensation is a bad system that should be replaced, not expanded. We need a stronger societal social insurance umbrella dealing with temporary disability and not a failed system that does not adequately help workers who get injured on the job.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-026

SB20-057 Fire Prevention & Control Employee Benefits (Lee (D)) [Snyder (D), Cutter (D)]

From the Wildfire Matters Review Committee

PASSED

Appropriation: $29,680
Fiscal Impact: About $250,000 a year for new benefits

Goal: Include firefighters located in the division of fire prevention and control in the department of public safety in benefits other firefighters receive.

Description:

Employers of firefighters are required to maintain insurance to provide benefits to a firefighter if they have a heart and/or circulatory problem in connection with their duties. This bill adds the state division of fire prevention and control to the list of employers, so that their firefighters can get these same benefits. It also expands the definition of state trooper for the purpose of retirement funding to include these firefighters so they can be in the appropriate public retirement fund for firefighters.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

It doesn’t make sense to treat these firefighters any differently because they are employed by a division of the state government. This bill rectifies the matter.

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-057

SB20-117 School Employee Paycheck Transparency (Cooke (R))

KILLED BY SENATE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None at state level, some increases for schools

Goal: Require disclosure of political activity or lobbying done by teachers unions to its membership.

Description:

Requires any state public school district or charter school that deducts money from an employee’s wages that goes to a third-party (like a union) and is spent on political activity or lobbying to disclose each entity that received money from the deduction, how much they received, and each contribution or expenditure the entity made on specific political activity or lobbying. This must be done each year by March 15 in a format that is easily accessed by the employees online or upon request, in printed format. This requires the schools to get the information from the third-party entity, by February 15 each year.

Additional Information:

Political activity is defined as any activity directed towards success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group. It includes expenditures made to or on the behalf of any person.


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

This is about transparency and sunshine. The state teacher’s union collects $41 from teachers and $20.50 from education support professionals each year, but this is part of union dues, so it doesn’t show up that way on the paycheck, just the full dues withheld. You cannot opt-out of this program, you can only get a refund by request.  Then of course individual members are not informed about what precisely is done with this money, what candidates for office are supported or opposed and what things are lobbied for or against. The union knows precisely what it is spending on these matters, so it will not be too difficult for them to comply. But members deserve to know what their money is being spent on. Because quite honestly it is almost entirely spent on the political party with a “D” next to their name and it may be spent on issues that individual members might not agree with. What do unions that don’t want to do this have to hide?

Arguments Against:

That’s $41 and $20.50 annually, incidentally. First, as was pointed out in Arguments For, the money is refundable. Anyone who doesn’t want to spend their money on this is able to get it back. Second, the union supports candidates and issues it believes will help its members get better working conditions and salaries. The fact that others disagree is not really germane here, the union members themselves are the people whose opinions matter. And they have multiple avenues for making those opinions known, including choosing the organization that represents them. The political activity of the union is reported, either campaign contributions or expenditures or lobbying, and publicly available. What this is really about is attempts at wedge driving, to break up the cohesion of the union and its political effectiveness by trying to find an issue here or an issue there that individual members may disagree with. Add that up enough times and you might get a revolt. The bottom line is that the union works really hard to vet issues and candidates and take the positions it believes will benefit all of its members the most. We don’t need to waste the time and resources of our school districts with this.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-117

SB20-170 Update Colorado Employment Security Act (Danielson (D)) [Jackson (D), Duran (D)]

AMENDED: Moderate

PASSED

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Up to $3 million

Goal: Change unemployment insurance by removing a requirement that a worker prove that continued employment would jeopardize their or their family’s safety, change definition of immediate family to include siblings the worker is responsible for, and change delay in benefits due to severance pay by making it a flat week instead of based upon amount of severance pay.

Description:

Makes a few changes to unemployment insurance law. Removes requirement that worker prove that continued employment would jeopardize the safety of the worker or their family in domestic violence situations. Changes the delay in benefits due to additional remuneration after losing a job (which the bill redefines as severance pay) from a calculation based upon the amount of severance and average weekly salary to just one week in all circumstances. Changes definition of immediate family to include a sibling of the worker who is under 18 and for whom the worker stands in loco parentis and a sibling of the worker who is incapable of self-care due to a mental or physical disability or long-term illness.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

Requiring someone suffering from domestic violence to either have a court order or a statement from another individual the worker has sought help from raises the bar too high here. It excludes anyone who is attempting to remove themselves from a violent situation but has not gone to court or sought the help of a third party. We know there are many cases where people do not do either of these things, frequently out of fear of their partner. So we should not be looking to deny unemployment benefits to victims because we get caught up in worrying about the small possibility of fraud (which can always be investigated). We also should not have a complicated severance package rule, a week delay in benefits is fine for all cases. And a sibling that the worker is responsible for meets the existing definition of immediate family easily. This allows workers to still qualify if they needed to take time to care for this sibling or in the domestic violence situation.

Arguments Against:

Unemployment insurance fraud is very much a real thing and the costs of it get passed on to all of us. By not requiring any proof at all, just the word of the worker, we are opening up a large avenue to fraudulent behavior. For severance pay, there can be quite a variety of different amounts people receive and it is not fair to treat someone who gets a windfall in the same way as someone who gets a pittance. The entire concept of severance pay is in fact to cushion the blow of losing the job, which is also the point of unemployment insurance. If the severance package is high enough, we don’t need to be chipping in with more money, which is what current law recognizes.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-170

SB20-192 Staffing Agency Requirements For Employees (Rodriguez (D), Gonzales (D)) [Sirota (D), Woodrow (D)]

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Not yet released

Goal: Ban charging of fees greater than their costs to temporary employees or fees that take their wages below minimum wage, and require staffing agencies to register with the state and provide disclosure about the details of any job they are assigning a worker to.

Description:

Bans staffing agencies or work-site employers from charging or accepting a fee from a temporary employee for:

  • Cost of registration of staffing agency or cost of procuring employment
  • Any good or service unless the fee is included in the written contract which clearly states in a language the employee understands that the fee is optional and the staffing agency will not profit from it. Cannot cause the employee’s wage to dip below minimum wage and cannot be prohibited by law
  • In amount that exceeds actual cost per employee for drug screening, bank card, debit card, payroll card, voucher, draft, money order, or similar form of payment or wages
  • For a criminal history record check

Transportation fees cannot exceed the actual cost of transportation to and from the place of employment and cannot exceed 3% of the employee’s daily wages and cannot make the employee’s wages less than minimum wage. Agencies and employers cannot deduct costs or fees from wages of an employee without expressed written consent of the employee.

Staffing agencies must register with the state by the end of the year. This is an annual renewal with a fee to be determined by state that covers costs of state oversight. State must place a list of staffing agencies on its website, including those in good standing, those with registration suspensions (with the details of the suspension and when it ends), and those whose registration has been revoked. Employers must verify an agency is in good standing prior to using them and if they are under contract twice a year. State can fine employers who use an unregistered agency up to $500 a day. Agencies must provide proof of registration prior to entering contract and notify any employer it has a contract with of any adverse actions taken against its registration by state.

Requires staffing agencies to provide each employee placed for employment in a new temporary assignment with a notice that includes: description of the position, an indication of any special clothing, training, equipment, or licensing required; the designated pay day, rate of pay, and if worker is eligible for overtime; daily start and end times; expected duration of employment; if meals are provided and if there is any cost to the employee for them; details on any transportation required to and from the work site and if the employee will be charged any fees for this. Must also provide the name and address of the staffing agency and its worker’s compensation provider, the work-site employer, and the state division of labor standards and statistics.

Additional Information:

Agencies or work-site employers that require the use of specific transportation may not charge a fee to the employee for the transportation. If an agency sends an employee to a work-site and there is no employment and the agency charged the employee for transportation, the agency must refund the full cost back to the employee.

Staffing agencies cannot knowingly distribute or provide any false, fraudulent or misleading information, promise, or advertisement to an employee or applicant for employment. They cannot place an employee in employment by fraud, for illegal purposes, or in a place in violation of state or federal labor laws. If the agency places an employee at a location that is on strike or lockout it must notify the employee of the strike or lockout. Must return any personal property belonging to an employee or any fee that is charged in excess of amounts allowed by this law.

Staffing agencies must post a notice in a conspicuous place in each of their locations detailing the rights of employees to the notice required by this bill. That notice must be sent before the end of the first pay period of the temporary assignment.

State is to create rules around the registration process and enforcement, including ability to levy fines and suspend or revoke registrations.


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

The temporary workforce is a growing part of our overall work environment and it is not well-regulated. A national survey found 74% of temporary workers had experienced some form of wage theft, such as not being paid for all hours worked, for overtime, or having illegal deductions from their paychecks. Another 47% who filed a complaint over discrimination or other work conditions experienced retaliation. In Colorado the wages for these positions is 25% lower than that of other workers and this gap grows for construction workers. This area, construction and production, is growing in terms of temporary labor which also brings in higher risks of workplace accidents due to inferior training or safety equipment. So we need to provide some basic protections for these workers including full and clear notice about what the job is, no pilfering from their paychecks and no fees that reduce their wages below minimum wage, and some oversight of staffing agencies to ensure the law is being complied with. If you just enact all of the rules without any oversight, you cannot expect things to materially change as many companies will simply ignore the rules. As for minimum wage, we cannot expect people to live in Colorado in 2020 on salaries that are less than minimum wage. With the cost of housing, health care, and basic necessities it is just not possible or realistic. The extent to which we keep people employed at a living wage we keep them off more direct state monetary assistance. In the end, no business should be able to use temporary work as way to evade our labor and wage requirements.

Arguments Against:

While no one should be discriminated against and no companies should violate existing labor laws (and we do have laws to deal with both of these situations right now), the fact is that temporary work is going to generally pay less than permanent employment. That is the market in action. It is reasonable to expect that no one profits off any fees associated with employment but some businesses may not be interested in increasing base pay so that the temporary worker get paid more than minimum wages once fees are removed, particularly if that industry for whatever reason has a few of these fees. That in turn may depress the temporary labor market in some areas. In a tight labor market that may not be as big a deal, but in periods of higher unemployment when it is easier to find quality employees, having a temporary job where the fees take you below minimum wage may be preferable to no job at all. Registration is also a burdensome requirement for staffing agencies, who are going to be held responsible for the behavior of all of the employers they post employees with, a difficult task if you dealing with a bunch of different employers. Staffing agencies are not, and should not be expected to be, labor investigators.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB192

SB20-200 Implementation Of CO Colorado Secure Savings Program (Donovan (D), Pettersen (D)) [Kraft-Tharp (D), Becker (D)]

AMENDED: Minor

PASSED

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Implement a secure state retirement 401k style savings plan as recommended by a study done last year as an automatic enrollment at 5% of earnings with opt-out as a mandatory requirement for all employers to manage (state manages the actual plan but employers must handle withholding and financial deposits).

Description:

Last year the legislature passed a bill to study the creation of a state-sponsored retirement program (similar to a 401k), specifically to examine whether the program should be opt-in or opt-out (or if we should have no plan at all and just try better financial education). This bill redirects the board created by last year’s bill to implement the program as an opt-out (where everyone is automatically enrolled) at 5% of income. Like a 401k, employers can choose to match contributions but it is voluntary. The board itself is to be given brand new membership appointed by the governor (except that the state treasurer remains). Board must create method for people to opt-out of the program and for people to adjust their contribution levels, including minimum and maximum levels to comply with federal tax law. Employers that offer their own retirement plans can obtain an exemption from this bill, board must design how that works mechanically as well.

Board is tasked with establishing the program and adopting rules for its administration. It must also develop the financial instruments available under the plan. It is allowed to create administrative fees to defray its costs and a grant program to help small businesses (5 to 25 employees) defray their costs. It must set the penalties for non-compliance by state businesses (but these must be up to $100 per eligible employee and not exceed $5,000 total). It must create an outreach program to both disseminate information about the program and required compliance as well as benefits of retirement savings in general. It is also supposed to assess the feasibility of multi-state or regional agreements to administer the program through shared resources and it allowed to enter into one without the need for further approval (it must be deemed beneficial).

People who are not considered employees but meet the qualifications to open an IRA must be given the opportunity to voluntarily participate in the plan. Fines to employers for non-compliance do not start until after the program has been running for one year and then an employer must be given three months after notification of non-compliance to fix it.

Board must annually report to legislature on enrollment statistics, average amount saved per employee, average contribution levels, summary of common complaints, and administrative costs and fees.

Additional Information:

Some of the things from last year’s bill that carry over (made from “would” to “does”):

  • State has no financial obligations, any financial liabilities are borne by insurers just as with any regular retirement plan
  • Employers have no liability for losses and are not fiduciaries (again like regular retirement plans) and are also not responsible for errors made by the state in administering the program
  • State must develop enrollment packet and create mechanics for enrollment, receipt of withheld funds, and correct investment of these funds
  • State must contract with up to three private investment managers to run the fund
  • Fees must not exceed 1% of the plan’s total assets in first five years and then must not exceed 0.75% thereafter


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

About 40% of Coloradans ages 25-64 working in the private sector lack access to a retirement plan at work. Workers are fifteen times more likely to save for retirement if they access to an automatic payroll deduction plan at work. The days of employer pension plans are over, and the combination of these factors is a looming crisis. Right now the average savings for the exact median level of annual income (50% percentile) family is $5,000. Six out of ten African-American families and three out of four Latinx families have no retirement savings at all. Seniors who cannot retire must continue working, which takes jobs away from young Coloradans entering the workforce. If they cannot continue working, then they must be supported by either their families (placing a huge burden on families already struggling to support themselves) or by the state, which is taxpayer money that could be used elsewhere. The board studied the issue last year and found that where optional retirement marketplaces and just increased financial education has been tried, they have not expanded retirement savings in any meaningful way. So calling for us to do something other than this approach is likely to fail in achieving our goal of increased retirement savings for Coloradans. The board also found that a mandatory plan would be cost neutral to the state within five years. So it is time to offer a meaningful retirement option to all Colorado workers, giving them to change to opt-out if they want, but relying on the well-established research that shows forcing people to opt-out is more effective than an opt-in program and oh by the way, Social Security is mandatory retirement plan you cannot opt-out of, so this is not unprecedented. Because the key to retirement is the compounding effect from investing money early. Even smaller amounts, invested early, can grow. Just $10 a month, at a 6% annual return rate (the historical S&P 500 average is 12%), would leave someone with $103,034 dollars, with only 8%(!) of that total coming from contributions. Using investments to save for retirement is the great trick of the middle and upper classes and its time we open it up to everyone. As far as employer-offered benefit packages, right now just offering a 401k plan is strong benefit. If everyone has access to a similar plan, then to compete employers will need to offer more, such as matching benefits or higher wages. So if anything the existence of this plan may increase worker benefits and salaries rather than decreasing employer contributions to 401ks or similar plans.

Arguments Against:

Private employer sponsored retirements plans are opt-in, not opt-out. It is extremely well-established that many Americans do not realize when their paycheck grows or shrinks by small amounts. Thus American did not realize they had received a tax cut from the Obama stimulus plan and did not realize that they were getting more take-home pay from the Trump IRS decision to not adjust withholding tables fully after the Trump tax cuts were passed. So people may be in this plan and not realize it. Employers may drop their own sponsored plans in favor of just letting the state handle it. Full-time workers (a word that appears nowhere in the bill) are a completely distinct group from part-time workers and a one-size fits all approach may fail one or the other. Employees with varying compensation (tips, commission, or productivity-related) are not set-up for this kind of savings approach. Some businesses might also decide that Colorado is not the best place to locate their business due to the higher costs associated with this sort of plan. The bottom line is that paternalistic approaches to adults, trying to force them to do the right thing (and no one disputes that saving what you can for retirement is the right thing) is not what we should want our government to do. Provide greater incentives for businesses to offer their own private plans and provide greater financial education instead.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB200

SB20-205 Sick Leave For Employees (Fenberg (D), Bridges (D)) [Becker (D), Caraveo (D)]

AMENDED: Minor

PASSED

Appropriation: $206,566
Fiscal Impact: About $300,000 per year, unknown amount of revenue from fines

Goal:

Require every employer in the state to offer paid sick hours, up to 48 per 12 month period, for employees to use when they or their family members need health care or to handle domestic violence, sexual assault, or harassment issues. Also requires employers to provide up to two weeks of paid sick leave during public health emergencies.

Description:

Requires every employer in the state to offer paid sick hours effective on January 1, 2021. This is accrued as soon as an employee starts working at a rate of 1 hour per every 30 hours worked, up to 48 hours per year. Employers must be able to carry accrued hours forward from year-to-year but cannot use more than 48 hours in any 12 month timeframe. It is not a benefit that must be paid out if the employee leaves or is terminated, but employees returns within one year the employer must reinstate the sick hours balance. Employers with 15 or fewer employees are exempt until 2022.

Employees can use hours in hourly increments and for their own health, the health of a family member, absences related to domestic abuse, sexual assault, or harassment, or if the employee’s workplace or their child’s school has been closed due to a public health emergency. Employers are forbidden from requiring employees to find a replacement during their sick leave and employees must make a good faith effort to provide notice and schedule leave in a manner that does not unduly disrupt operations.

During a public health emergency, employers must provide up to two weeks of paid sick leave. This can only be for the need to self-isolate or seek care for themselves or family members due to the illness the emergency is based upon or if the employee cannot telework and the business is closed. Public health officials can order this isolation if the employee is exhibiting symptoms of the illness, even if the employee has not been diagnosed. Employees must be able to use this leave up to a month after the health emergency ends. Employers may require employees use other available leave prior to using public health emergency leave. The bill also requires all state businesses to comply with federal Families First sick leave law immediately, which has the same requirements but does only apply to businesses with 500 or fewer employees. Those with 50 or fewer may also qualify for an exception.

Employers with paid leave policies for their employees that allow employees to use them for the same reasons and accrue at least the same amount of time do not have to offer additional sick leave. Employers must notify employees of their sick leave entitlement in writing and in poster form in the office. Violating this requirement is subject to a fine of up to $100 per violation. Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees for using their sick leave time or from counting sick leave time as an absence from work. Employers must keep records for three years documenting their employees hours and sick time accrued and used subject to audit by the state. Employees may file complaints with the state if they feel their employer is violating this law. Anyone alleging a violation of this law may file a civil complaint within two years of the violation and any party may demand a trial by jury.

Additional Information:

Salaried employees are assumed to work 40 hours per week. If their normal workweek is less than 40 hours then their accrual is based upon their normal workweek hours. Documentation is not required to prove the need for leave during a public health emergency. Notifications to employees must be in both English and any language that is the first language of at least 5% of the workforce. State may enforce this law with inspections, subpoenas, and interviewing witnesses. All information provided by the employee for taking the leave is confidential and may not be disclosed. Employers may not require disclosure of details, including those relating to domestic violence, sexual assault, or harassment. All health information must be treated as confidential medical records. Employees in collective bargaining agreements must specifically waive the requirements of this law in order for them not to apply. Family member is defined as an immediate family member, a child whom the employee stands in loco parentis for or stood in loco parentis for when the child was a minor, a person who has resided with the employee for at least six months.

Complete specific allowable uses of leave are as follows:

  • Employee has or needs to care for a family member who has: a mental or physical illness, injury or heath condition; needs to obtain a medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of a mental or physical injury or health condition; or needs to obtain preventative medical care
  • Employee or employee’s family member has been victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or harassment and needs to: seek medical attention to recover from a mental or physical injury resulting from the abuse, assault, or harassment; obtain services from a victim services organization; obtain mental health or other counseling; seek relocation due to the abuse, assault, or harassment; or seek legal services related to the abuse, assault, or harassment
  • Due to a public health emergency the employee’s place of business or the school or place of care of the employee’s child is closed and the employee needs to care for the child


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Currently about 40% of Coloradans are unable to earn paid sick days. The United States is actually the only industrialized country in the world that does not guarantee paid sick days. And as you might expect, the burden here falls unequally: lower earning jobs are much less likely to have this benefit, with only 27% in the lowest wage bracket able to earn paid sick days. Think about that: you need to see a doctor, your child needs to see a doctor, and you also need every penny of your paycheck. But your employer does not even let you take an hour off to do this. Families are put into extreme difficulty and end up using the emergency room or not going to the doctor at all for preventative care and of course then getting worse and needing more extreme treatment. Communicable diseases spread more easily because of course people work sick, like with the flu or you know, Coronavirus, instead of staying home. And for an employee who does dare to take time away from work? They can be retaliated against, even fired. Thirteen states have enacted some version of this law and there is no evidence that it has any negative impact on employment. As well it should not, 48 hours in a year spent away from work is not going to hurt any business, no matter how small, so really even if some people abuse this system it will not matter. And then of course there is the pandemic portion of this, which is really quite simple. It is a matter of public health that people who think they may have Coronavirus isolate at home for two weeks to avoid spreading it. We cannot have people deciding they need to get paid and coming to work instead.

Arguments Against:

This puts too many mandates on businesses, who may prefer to offer paid time off, not specific time designated as sick days or hours, and let employees decide how to use them. It forces them to track all of this and keep that data under fear of audit. It puts them into a “no questions asked” mindset when it comes to why people need the hours off. It can put some small businesses in a serious bind if a key employee suddenly and with no warning has to miss up to a week of time. It also may reduce some other benefits if employers decide to adjust their overall compensation and benefits package rather than simply add this paid sick time to it. It also greatly incentivizes people to take advantage of that potential two-week vacation during a pandemic, since no proof whatsoever is needed that the employee or a family member has the illness or needs to self-isolate.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB205

SB20-207 Unemployment Insurance (Hansen (D), Winter (D))

AMENDED: Significant

PASSED

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Need new fiscal note

Goal:

Address some pandemic-related issues in unemployment insurance, including increased payments, ability to still receive benefits if you cannot work without compromising your safety or that of your family, and studying how to potentially get benefits to those in the gig economy in the future. Also increase the amount of taxes businesses have to pay into the state unemployment fund and put a two year moratorium on solvency surchages on employers .

Description:

  • Increases the taxes businesses have to pay into the fund by raising the ceiling of taxable employee wages (businesses pay a tax on each employee up to a certain amount of wages) to $13,600 in 2021, $17,000 in 2022, $20,400 in 2023, $23,800 in 2024, $27,200 in 2025, and $30,600 in 2026. If the reserves in the fund reach 1.4% on June 30 of any year, the state must cut the rate by 15% in the next year. All solvency surchages (automatic increases triggered when the fund falls to certain levels) are waived until 2023.
  • Increases the amount of wages someone can earn before their unemployment insurance benefit from 25% of the weekly benefit amount to 50% of the weekly benefit amount until September 2022.
  • Directs the state to award full benefits if it finds an individual separated from employment because their employer was requiring them to work in unsafe conditions related to disease transmission in a public health emergency, because they had to care for a child whose school was closed due to a public health emergency, because they had to care for a family or household member who was quarantined due to illness during a public health emergency, or because the employee is immunocompromised and more susceptible to illness or disease during a public health emergency. The state must not consider an individual disqualified from benefits for refusing to take a job under all the same circumstances.
  • Removes the cap on funds deposited and retained in the Employment Support Fund
  • Simplifies the procedure for determining if someone is being employed for providing a service by removing a lot of documentation requirements and various other requirements such as not providing tools or training or dictating time and place of performance or establishing quality standards. Instead the person for whom the service is being performed (the person paying) can establish a rebuttable presumption that they are not an employer if they do not combine their own business operations with the person performing the service and the person performing the service is doing work that is not related to the servicee’s work.
  • Directs the state to study the feasibility of unemployment insurance for people working in independent trades, occupations, and professions. This study must look at how many people this would need to cover, who would be responsible for paying into the fund that makes benefit payments and how, if such a fund could be solvent, how it would interact with current unemployment, and applicable federal laws and regulations. modernization of unemployment insurance as part of its already existing study on worker benefits and protections. Report due by January 15, 2021.

Additional Information:

Extends the amount of time to respond to a notice of a claim from seven days to 12 days. Payments made to election judges are excluded from definition of wages. For work share programs that reduce normal work for employees, the bill removes the 40% maximum reduction and instead lets the director of the department set the amount consistent with US law (which is what the department is already doing).


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

We all know that unemployment due to COVID-19 is a massive problem. This bill addresses a few things that have cropped up: first that households are struggling to make do on current UI benefits (especially if and when federal money is removed, which is coming), that some people cannot work during the pandemic without compromising their health and safety or that of their family, and that in the gig economy, a large portion of people are simply not eligible for unemployment insurance because they do not have an employer. We can do something about those first two issues, but the latter is a massive and complex problem that needs study before making any changes. The bill also makes the UI changes temporary so that things revert back to how they were once we are clearly through the pandemic. We also know the state unemployment fund is in serious trouble (with or without these expansions) and that means we need more money to fund it. That means raising the ceiling on taxable wages for businesses (the sole way we fund all of this). It is not pleasant, but it is necessary. The typical rate varies by business, but it is low (we are talking about hundreds of dollars per employee per year, even at the higher ceilings in this bill, not a make or break employment decision). The bill does provide for an automatic turndown of rates if we reach the reserve level we want.

Arguments Against:

The state UI fund is already strained to the breaking point from the pandemic. Adding another $18 million in estimated benefit payouts in a normal time (the legislative council staff cannot estimate the effect from our current abnormal times yet), which is going to be significantly larger because of the pandemic, is not the right move. Those extra payments will come out of businesses, who support the state UI fund through premiums. And these huge increases in the taxable wages ceiling will cause correspondeningly large tax increases for businesses.Higher premiums will result and a lot of businesses are already teetering on the brink of collapse. They may also result in a business not hiring someone, because this tax is solely based on if you employ an individual or not. That means We should not do anything that might push them off the ledge.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB207

SB216 Workers' Compensation For COVID-19 (Rodriguez (D)) [Mullica (D)]

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Not yet released

Goal: Make a presumption that if an essential worker contracts Coronavirus, they are eligible for workers’ compensation for getting ill during the course of their employment duties.

Description:

If an essential workers contracts Coronavirus, for the purposes of workers’ compensation, the state is to assume that the worker contracted it during their course of employment duties and it must be treated as a compensable accident, injury, or occupational disease. Worker must have either a positive Coronavirus test or if lab testing is unavailable, be diagnosed by a licensed physician or have died with the cause of death listed as Coronavirus. This cannot be used to buttress a claim for damages and does not establish an admission of liability on the part of the employer. This assumption can only be overcome with clear and convincing evidence of specific causation establishing the worker did not contract Coronavirus in the course of their employment duties.

Additional Information:

Essential workers are:

  • First responders, including law enforcement, firefighters, EMS providers, paramedics, ambulance drivers, and 911 operators
  • Corrections officers
  • Medical, health care, and public health workers, including doctors, physician assistants, nurses, nurse aides, surgical assistants, and surgical techs
  • Home health care workers
  • Commercial cleaning workers, including janitors and custodians, at any facility containing Coronavirus patients
  • Nursing home workers
  • Utility workers and in-home service technicians, including workers who provide telecommunications, electrical, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, and mechanical services at any facility or residence that has someone in it with Coronavirus
  • Construction and maintenance workers at any facility or residence that has someone in it with Coronavirus
  • Workers at residential care or residential living facilities, including mental health facilities, treating patients with Coronavirus or with an identified Coronavirus outbreak
  • Food processing and agricultural workers
  • Grocery store workers
  • Drivers and operators employed by RTD or any other mass transportation district
  • Airline employees, including flight attendants, pilots, cleaning crew workers, and food service and catering workers

Auto-Repeal: June 21, 2022

Arguments For:

Essential workers have had to continue to work not at home, but out in the world to keep our society running. This has put them at great danger of contracting the virus but they are not being treated appropriately. We have already seen these workers denied even basic coverage for prolonged illness and death and our current workers’ compensation laws force them into protracted litigation over exactly how they were exposed to the virus. This bill honors the compact we must have with these workers. They are literally putting their lives on the line to keep the rest of us going. The least we can do is properly compensate them if they catch the virus. And if in a few cases the worker actually may have gotten it on their own time or it’s really hard to say exactly where they got it? Fine, it’s worth it. We owe it to them.

Arguments Against:

It is too hard to say with certainty exactly where some of these workers got the virus. For some who just work and stay home, it is easy. But for others, who may have been out in the world at times other than for work, including at massive demonstrations, it is too hard for us to say that it was the job that caused the injury, which is the point of workers’ compensation. If we want to reward these heroes in another way, then let’s do that.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB216