These are all of the labor bills proposed in the 2021 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.

House

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

MEGA

HB21-1049 Prohibit Discrimination Labor Union Participation

MAJOR

HB21-1050 Workers' Compensation

MEDIUM

MINOR+

HB21-1007 State Apprenticeship Agency

MINOR

TECHNICAL

Senate

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

MEGA

MAJOR

SB21-039 Elimination Of Subminimum Wage Employment

MEDIUM

MINOR+

MINOR

TECHNICAL

HB21-1007 State Apprenticeship Agency (Danielson (D), Rodriguez (D)) [Sullivan (D), Ortiz (D)]

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Not yet released

Goal:

  • Create a registration program for apprenticeships in Colorado to take the place of a federal program. Registration would involve a new state agency certifying that the apprenticeship program meets certain standards. State agency can deregister programs that fail to meet standards. Registration is not mandatory to run an apprenticeship program. Bill is silent about registration fees. Program must be ready to accept applications by July 2023.
  • Create two advisory boards to help the new agency do its work, one for apprenticeship programs in the building and construction trades and one for all other apprenticeships

Description:

Apprenticeships are established for combining on-the-job training with instruction so that the individual can come out at the end with the basic requirements filled to become licensed in the trade. They are very common in building trades but exist elsewhere too.

Standards that programs must meet include: apprentices receive on-the-job training consistent with registration standards, scheduled wage increases are consistent with registration standards, instruction is compliant with federal and state laws, and the state receives notification of movement of apprentices in and out of the program.

Duties of the managing agency include: serving as point of contact with the federal department of labor’s office of apprenticeship, registering programs and issuing certificates of registration, doing quality assurance to ensure programs are meeting guidelines for registration, determining required standards for registration (including job training standards and wage increase standards), deregistering programs that either request it or fail to meet standards, maintaining complete records, promoting the program in the state, providing technical assistance to companies and apprentices in the program, creating a reciprocity policy with other states, awarding certificates of completion to apprentices that successfully graduate from registered programs, and providing administrative support to the two councils.

Both councils must meet at least quarterly and no members of the council may receive any compensation from an apprenticeship program. Both councils are tasked with (in their respective areas): registering with the federal office of apprenticeship and developing minimum standards for registration of apprenticeship programs, resolving conflicts between parties to an apprenticeship agreement, reviewing performance standards and making enforcement decisions based on their review, recommending rule changes as necessary for the program, identifying best practices, and developing administrative policies.

If a council recommends termination of a registration program, the agency must conduct a hearing. It has ten days to appoint a hearing officer to hear the case and the officer sends notification to the program in question. Each party has a right to counsel in the hearing and can cross-examine witnesses. Hearing officer has 30 days to make recommendations after the hearing is concluded but final decisions, including potentially imposing conditions for keeping registration, lie with state agency. They are appealable in court.

Additional Information:

The agency created to manage this is called the State Apprenticeship Agency and is located in the department of labor and employment. The executive director of the department appoints the director of the agency.

All apprenticeship programs must adopt a written diversity recruitment plan that ensures equal opportunity in recruitment, selection, employment, and training of apprentices. This must meet minimum federal standards.

A deregistered program can present evidence to the agency that they are now compliant. Reinstatement can occur only after at least a year has passed since deregistration. For voluntary deregistration, programs must wait at least six months before reinstatement. Reinstatement must then be granted if the agency had no grounds to start a deregistration hearing.

The council tasked with overseeing building and construction is the State Apprenticeship Council. It has 18 members. 12 are voting members appointed by the director of the agency:

  • Five representing employer organizations, one of which represents a statewide employer organization
  • Five representing employee organizations, one of which represents a statewide employee organization
  • Two representing the public

6 are non-voting, ex-officio members appointed by the governor:

  • One from the department of labor and employment
  • One representing career and technical education programs
  • One with experience in economic development
  • One representing training providers
  • One from the state work force development council
  • One who is interested in promoting equal opportunity in apprenticeship

The council dealing with other apprenticeship programs is called the Interagency Committee on Apprenticeship. It has 12 members. Six voting members appointed by the agency:

  • Two employer members or representatives of employer organizations who are familiar with non-building and construction apprenticeships
  • Two employee members or representatives of employee organizations who are familiar with non-building and construction apprenticeships
  • Two representatives of the public

Governor appoints six non-voting, ex-officio members. No qualifications specified.

Members of neither council receive payment, but they are eligible for per diems and reimbursement for expenses.

Hearing notices must include the time and place of the hearing, a statement of the provisions with which the registered program is alleged to not be complying with, and a concise statement of alleged instances of non-compliance. Notices must be given in reasonable amount of time prior to hearing by registered or certified mail.

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Apprenticeship is an increasingly valuable alternative to expensive four-year college programs in many trades and a secure pathway to high-quality jobs. But it can also be ripe for abuse, with lower wages and blocked pathways to advancement. Having a registry allows prospective apprentices to enter into relationships with confidence
  • This is voluntary and not a new concept: there is a federal apprenticeship registration program that is broadly similar in design that has been around for over 50 years and 25 other states run their own apprenticeship registration programs
  • Bringing the registration program into the state opens up opportunities for better engagement and local accountability, standards created just for Colorado, and the ability to better use this registration database as a building block for additional apprenticeship programs

In Further Detail: Apprenticeship is essentially mandatory in some fields and in many others it is a valuable path to high-quality jobs. But it can also easily be abused, with employers able to pay less and potentially blocking apprentices from gaining the exact experience they need in order to advance. So a registry allows potential apprentices to join programs with confidence that they will be well-served. 25 other states already have similar programs, so this is not novel and it is not necessarily a duplicative waste of the federal registration program. For engagement and accountability, the federal government has to this for 25 states right now, including Colorado. Having the program run by Colorado and in Colorado will make it more responsive to local needs and better able to monitor registered programs. It also allows us to create our own standards, which of course can be changed by our own representatives, instead of relying on federal standards. And it allows us to better use the database as a building block for additional programs since we will hold all of the levers of the program in our hands.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • We can continue using the federal government registration program, which achieves all of the same goals of an official seal of approval on apprenticeship programs without us having to do anything

In Further Detail: The federal government already has an apprenticeship registration program and the state already has a website where people can find programs with registration. This bill is largely mimicking the structure of that federal program, with some added restrictions around wages and perhaps other areas depending on what these councils come up with. Note that there would be no reason to create a statewide program that was the same as the federal one, so the standards are almost certainly going to be higher. If not then this is a waste of time and resources. It may even still be a waste of time and resources. Many of the things that you can think of doing with promoting apprenticeships can be done with national certification. While it is true that this means accountability is done at the federal level (and standards are set there too), the federal government is just as capable of holding organizations accountable as the state government.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1007

HB21-1049 Prohibit Discrimination Labor Union Participation [Van Beber (R), Ransom (R)]

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

Goal:

  • 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.

Description: Nothing to add

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • All-union employment is unfair to those who don’t want to participate but are forced to in order to get or keep a job
  • Unions can still do all of their functions, they just won’t be able to force participation
  • If some people benefit from union work in the form of higher wages or better benefits without paying dues, that sort of thing happens all the time: some people put in a lot of work that benefits others who didn’t lift a finger to help

In Further Detail: 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:

Bottom Line:

  • Unions work best as all or nothing propositions, otherwise management can simply weed out people who belong to the union over time to get rid of it
  • Thresholds for unionization are far higher than simple majority rule, and we let simple majority rule force us to do things we don’t like or want to do all the time: like paying taxes and fees
  • RTD could lose its federal grant funding if this passes

In Further Detail: 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 addition, people don’t have to join the union, that gives management a tool to drive a wedge among the employees. In a worst-case scenario, management can favor non-union employees to a degree that drives out union employees and destroys the union. In many ways, unions are 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 HB21-1049

HB21-1050 Workers' Compensation (Bridges, (D), Cooke (R)) [Gray (D), Van Winkle (R)]

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: $170,000 annually

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:

Exact changes include:

  • 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: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Employers and insurers are using the law to wriggle out of paying full benefits by claiming the injury suffered would have occurred sometime in the future anyway. If you get injured on the job, you deserve compensation, period
  • The burden for paying for guardians or conservators in the cases of really serious injury currently fall on the family of the injured employee—this is not right
  • Increases to thresholds are about keeping up with changes in wages, which is why the bill also ties them to inflation in the future

In Further Detail: 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:

Bottom Line:

  • Workers’ compensation is a big fraud target, some of the provisions of the bill lower proof requirements and that may lead to more fraud
  • The bill will increase payouts and insurers may pass that money along to everyone in the form of higher premiums
  • We absolutely should apportion blame for injury—if someone has a bad knee that is about to give out, a business should not be on the hook for the entirely of the injury

In Further Detail: 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 HB21-1050

SB21-039 Elimination Of Subminimum Wage Employment (Zenzinger (D), Hisey (R)) [Caraveo (D), Pelton (R)]

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Not yet released

Goal:

  • Phase-out sub-minimum wage employment in Colorado by July 2025 and create supports for businesses and individuals making sub-minimum wage to ensure a smooth transition

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 2021 and at all by July 2025. Employers that currently have this waiver must submit a transition plan to the state by July 2022 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 April 2022.

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 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.

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: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This is an archaic law that was built on the assumption that people with disabilities would not work and has led to isolation with no chance of advancement
  • People with disabilities are people and should be treated as such, but they will need some support to successfully make this transition, which the bill provides

In Further Detail: 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:

Bottom Line:

  • The law has survived because it provides opportunities to those who may not be able to perform tasks as quickly or efficiently as others—removing it will put individuals into the full marketplace where they have to compete against everyone
  • No law requires those with a disability or injury to accept one of these jobs, they are free right now to purse full-wage opportunities. We can encourage more of that without pulling out the rug on everyone else

In Further Detail: 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 SB21-039