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CDLE revises INFO no. 9 regarding Colorado Equal Pay law’s posting requirements

Following up on its recent informal email announcement, the CDLE has revised its Interpretive Notice and Formal Opinion (INFO) no. 9 interpreting Colorado’s Equal Pay for Equal Work Act’s posting requirements. Because the CDLE does not go through formal rulemaking when it issues INFOs, they do not carry the weight of law; however, they the CDLE’s opinion of how the law should be interpreted and reflect how the CDLE intends to interpret the law when called upon to apply it.

In these revisions, the CDLE confirmed its prior statement that covered employers may not evade the law by simply posting disclaimers in a job posting to the effect that Coloradans are ineligible. The CDLE confirmed here its position that these posting requirements do generally apply whenever Coloradans can access a posting, the work can be performed in Colorado (even if remotely into another state) and certainly when it can only be performed in Colorado. Key new language has been included in the following passages from INFO no. 9:

Covered job postings include any posting by a covered employer for either (1) work tied to Colorado locations or (2) remote work performable anywhere, but not (3) work performable only at non-Colorado worksites — as discussed below, under the header, “Out-of-State Jobs Are Excluded.”

Out-of-State Jobs Are Excluded. Employers need not disclose compensation for jobs to be performed entirely outside Colorado (which includes non-Colorado jobs that may include modest travel to Colorado), even if the job posting is in, or reaches, Colorado. Because the text of the Act excludes no jobs, the out-of-state exception is a merely implied one that must be applied narrowly, only where an out-of-state worksite makes Colorado law arguably inapplicable. The out-of-state exception therefore applies to only jobs tied to non-Colorado worksites (e.g. waitstaff at restaurant locations in other states), but not to remote work performable in Colorado or elsewhere. Thus, a remote job posting, even if it states that the employer will not accept Colorado applicants, remains covered by the Act’s transparency requirements: the Act expressly covers all jobs, so a Colorado-covered employer’s posting of work performable anywhere is not within the narrow implied exception for out-of-state worksites to which Colorado law is arguably inapplicable.

Out-of-State Postings Are Excluded. Employers need not disclose compensation in job postings made entirely outside Colorado. For example, compensation and benefits need not be included in a printed advertisement or posting entirely in another state, but must be included in an online posting accessible by Colorado residents.

The CDLE added language confirming this is true for promotional opportunities as well:

As with job postings generally — see the above section, “Out-of-State Jobs Are Excluded,” as to the scope of the out-of-state exemption applicable here as well — remote jobs do not qualify for this exclusion; promotional opportunity notices for such jobs must include compensation and benefits.

Regarding promotional opportunities, INFO no. 9 continues to require that, if not actually provided to employees, the posting — such as on an intranet site — “must be posted for long enough that employees can reasonably access it.” The CDLE does not give further guidance on how long that would be.

Unfortunately some of the new language is likely to increase not decrease confusion about this new law. Consider for example this sentence (emphasis added), which apparently was meant to confirm that a simple Help Wanted sign is not a “posting” and need not contain information about compensation, benefits, etc.

A “posting” is any written or printed communication (whether electronic or hard copy) that the employer has a specific job or jobs available or is accepting job applications for a particular position or positions, but not a “Help Wanted” sign or similar communication indicating only generally, without reference to any particular positions, that an employer is accepting applications or hiring.

Did the EEOC really intend to require that a small family-owned restaurant who hangs a “Cooks Wanted” sign in the window has to print the salary range, benefits, etc., on the sign?  Consider a sign at a larger company saying “Drivers Wanted”; how could such a sign even contain all the information that is encompassed in a driver’s position?

CDLE issues an on-demand webinar on Colorado’s new paid leave law known as HFWA

Looking for an overview of Colorado’s new paid leave law known as HFWA (the Healthy Families and Workplaces Act)? To get a better sense of how the CDLE (Colorado Department of Labor and Employment) interprets HFWA? How it will relate to Proposition 118, which will become an entirely new and different paid leave program in Colorado (to be phased in starting as early as next year)?

Check out the CDLE’s newly released, free on-demand webinar, available on YouTube. The CDLE also released its slides for the webinar. PRO TIP: Don’t just read the slides. Check out the webinar, especially the Q&A session following the presentation of the slides. There were some good questions asked that other employers may have about HFWA as well.

Be sure to also check the CDLE’s rulemaking page for its rules re HFWA and its poster page for the required HFWA poster (in English and multiple other languages).

Colorado wage transparency equal pay requirements, sample job postings?

Effective January 1, 2021, as previously discussed, including in this firm’s recent on-demand complimentary webinar, Colorado employers — and out-of-state employers posting within Colorado even by the Internet — face new requirements that include having to post a good faith range of wages and a general description of benefits in all job opening postings. These new laws also impose (internal) promotional-opportunity notice obligations, which in turn also include obligations to disclose wage and benefit levels. Employers are reminded they block pay-history questions, and that another recent Colorado law includes ban-the-box prohibitions that now according to recent guidance by the CDLE prohibit saying “background checks required.” How are employers complying? A first-day review of sample Internet job postings on sites such as Indeed and Monster suggest at least some employers are posting along the following lines:

Job title

Business-name

City, CO

$x-$y (where so far the most common range seems to spread across a difference ($y-$x) of $5-10,000 for salary and $2-4 for hourly positions)

General description of position, like “Acme corp  is hiring managers to oversee an exciting team of workers to do such-and-such work”

Bonus incentives available

Medical, dental and vision elections available

401(k) with company match

Is that sufficient? Are pay ranges greater than $5-10,000 too much? At least one public posting had a spread of almost $50,000, is that too much, could it be based on a “good faith’ estimate of actual pay? Must bonus disclosures include more information than that, must they state a good faith estimated dollar range? Stay tuned as postings eventually begin to face scrutiny by the CDLE and courts.

CDLE issues more new information for Colorado employers

Implementing its most recent batch of rules on a variety of topics, the CDLE just issued yet more information for Colorado employers on those topics.

Are your ready for January 1, 2021?

  • Looking for more information about the CDLE’s latest batch of rules?

Join us for a complimentary, engaging and interactive webinar.

L2S Legal, LLC is recognized by SHRM to offer SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP professional credits (PDCs). This program is valid for 1.0 PDCs.

When: Wednesday, December 16, 2020 Noon 12:00 PM Mountain Time (US and Canada) 

Register in advance for this webinar: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_vGmrkeFcQ6iaM26Hg3iMGQ 

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing Zoom’s information for joining the webinar.

Where to find the CDLE’s latest information

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment’s latest information is available at its website.

As noted in recent posts on this blog, look for the CDLE’s latest rules on its Rulemaking page, to include the following rules:

  • Colorado Overtime And Minimum Pay Standards (“Comps”) Order #37, 7 CCR 1103-1;
  • Wage Protection Rules, 7 CCR 1103-7;
  • Direct Investigations Rules, 7 CCR 1103-8;
  • Colorado Whistleblower, Anti-Retaliation, Non-Interference, And Notice-Giving (“Colorado Warning”) Rules, 7 CCR 1103-11;
  • Colorado State Labor Relations Rules, 7 CCR 1103-12; And
  • Equal Pay Transparency Rules, 7 CCR 1103-13.

Look for its latest posters on the CDLE’s Poster page (the following list is quoted from CDLE)

  • The “Colorado Overtime and Minimum Pay Standards” (“COMPS”) poster and notice, covering wage and hour law — see COMPS Rule 7.4, Posting and Distribution Requirements, unchanged from the 2020 COMPS Order, which requires employers to display the annually revised poster (and send it to off-site employees), plus include either the poster or COMPS itself in any handbook or manual the employer has.
  • The “Colorado Workplace Public Health Rights Poster: Paid Leave, Whistleblowing, & Protective Equipment” poster and notice, covering HFWA and PHEW since their enactment in July 2020 — see Colorado WARNING Rule 4, Notice and Posting Rights and Responsibilities, unchanged from the temporary WARNING Rules in effect since September 21, 2020, which requires employers to post and give employees notice of these rights.
  • Translations of posters and INFOs — to implement requirements for employers to provide posters and notices to non-English-fluent workers, DLSS in 2020 posted translations of its posters in 12 languages and Spanish translations of INFOs (on the same pages as the English posters and INFOs), with new translations of the 2021-updated posters to be posted later this month, and translations of INFOs coming thereafter.
  • With translations into Spanish and other language.

Look for informational summaries on the CDLE’s INFO page, where the CDLE provides the following information summaries (again quoting the CDLE):

  • INFO# 1: Colorado Overtime &, Minimum Pay Standards Order (COMPS Order) #37 [In Spanish:Hoja Informativa y Opinión Formal (INFO por sus siglas en inglés) # 1: Orden de COMPS #37] (Próximamente)
  • INFO# 2:DLSS Wage Claim Investigation Process
  • INFO# 3: Tips (Gratuities) and Tipped Employees Under Colorado Wage Law
  • INFO# 4: Meal and Rest Period
  • INFO# 5: Public Health Emergency Whistleblower Rights [In Spanish:Hoja Informativa y Opinión Formal (INFO por sus siglas en inglés) # 5: Ley de Protección al Denunciante de Emergencias de Salud Pública] (Próximamente)
  • INFO# 6A: Paid Leave Under the Healthy Families and Workplaces Act, through December 31, 2020 [In Spanish:Hoja Informativa y Opinión Formal (INFO por sus siglas en inglés) # 6A: Pago por Ausencia Laboral bajo el Acta de Familias y Lugares de Trabajos Saludables, vigente hasta el 31 de diciembre, 2020]
  • INFO# 6B: Paid Leave Under the Healthy Families and Workplaces Act, as of January 1, 2021 [In Spanish:Hoja Informativa y Opinión Formal (INFO por sus siglas en inglés) # 6B: Pago por Ausencia Laboral bajo el Acta de Familias y Lugares de Trabajos Saludables, a partir de 1º de enero] (Próximamente)
  • INFO# 7: Payment of Wages & Required Record-Keeping
  • INFO #8: Colorado Chance to Compete Act (“Ban the Box”)

The CDLE also invites interested individuals to sign up for the agency’s email alerts.

Highlights from the CDLE’s latest information

In recent posts, this blog has summarized a number of the CDLE’s latest rules. Some of the highlights from this most recent information just posted by the CDLE implementing its new rules includes the following:

  • INFO #1: The new hourly minimum wage in Colorado will be $12.32. The new minimum guaranteed salary for exempt workers will be $40,500.
    • Employers are reminded they must distribute a copy of the COMPS poster or the entire COMPS Order 37 (new for this year) with any policies/handbooks that are being distributed otherwise. Signatures must be obtained.
  • INFO #4: The CDLE has taken a strict approach to meals and rest periods, summarized in INFO #4.
    • Employers are responsible for not only “authorizing” workers to take breaks, but they must “permit” them to do so, and CDLE explains a rest break is “authorized” if the company has an adequate policy for example, but even if “authorized,” it is not “permitted” if the employee is “unable or discouraged” to take the break. Evidence that the employee is not “permitted” to take a break may simply be the employee’s own statement that they “felt pressure from the employer not to take the break.
    • It is the employer’s obligation, not the employee’s, to track and record and keep records of employee breaks. An employer cannot simply say it assumed the breaks were being taken as “authorized” where an employee claims not to have been “permitted” to take the break.
    • When a break is missed, it counts as work time, must be paid as such, even if that triggers daily or weekly overtime.
  • INFO #5: In its rules and now in its INFO implementing Colorado’s new PHEW law (already in effect), the CDLE has take the position that an employer who provides no PPE (mask) in a time of a public health emergency may not prohibit an employee from using an unsafe mask. PHEW allows employers to prohibit employees from using masks that do not meet the company’s requirements, only if — according to the CDLE’s interpretation — the employer has first provided its own mask to the worker. Employers should consider making appropriate disposable masks available in their workforces, so that they can later prohibit inappropriate masks that employees might otherwise wish to wear.
  • INFO #7: The CDLE summarized rules regarding the payment of wages, the establishment of pay periods, payment of final wages at separation, pay statement requirements and recordkeeping requirements.
  • INFO #8: The CDLE explained Colorado’s new ban-the-box law. Companies may not state in job applications or advertisements “that a person with a criminal history may not apply,” nor ask about the person’s criminal history on an application, nor require the applicant to disclose any criminal history on the application. Additionally, the CDLE says this prohibits an employer from stating that background checks will be required. Although an employer may require background checks as part of a conditional offer of employment, that may not be stated in an application or advertisement. The CDLE explains the limited exceptions available where employers are otherwise required by law to inquire into these matters.

CDLE finalizes new WARNING rule

As noted in a prior blog post, the CDLE has finalized a crop of new rules on a variety of topics. This post addresses its WARNING (Whistleblower, Anti-Retaliation, Non-Interference, and Notice-Giving) Rules, effective January 1, 2021.  The WARNING Rules implement Colorado’s new whistleblower and related notice laws. Highlights of the rules include the following:

  • An explanation of the posting obligation that requires employers to post the state’s HFWA poster  with translations available from the CDLE for any languag espoken by at least 5% of the workforce in a conspicuous location in each workplace where individuals work, such as bulletin boards or break rooms, by time clocks or at entrances. In the event that is not possible Rule 4.1.4 describes a process for providing the actual poster to each new hire or on “a web-based platform.”
  • An explanation of the “reasonable” and “good faith” requirements a whistleblower must meet to be protected, to include under Rule 5.1.2 a statement by the worker, without necessarily citing a specific rule or guideline, “what action, condition, or situation they believe constitutes a qualifying violation of a rule regarding, or significant threat to workplace health or safety.”
  • An explanation in Rule 5.2.3 that, while Colorado’s new law permits workers to insist on using their own more protective PPE, such PPE must itself be sourced “from a reliable provider” if the company has provided PPE compliant with federal, state and local recommendations that was sourced from a reliable provider.
  • Perhaps most controversially, an explanation in Rule 5.2.4 that whistleblower cases under this new law will entail a lower burden of proof for an employee who seeks to prove they were constructively discharged than most other whistleblower laws require. The worker will be able to prove a constructive discharge if he proves he blew the proverbial whistle in compliance with the new rules, including Rule 4.1.4 (above), the company failed to remedy the concern “immediately,” continuing to work would have posed a “substantial threat to health or safety for any person,” and he quit as a result thereof. In its prefatory Statement explaining the rule, the CDLE confirms this means that a plaintiff will not be required to prove the employer took an adverse employment action against the plaintiff; in other words, it will not be required to prove discharge, demotion, cut in pay, hours, etc.

Employers in Colorado should take time to familiarize themselves with these new rules.

CDLE finalizes new rules regarding Colorado’s new paid leave laws

As noted in a prior blog post, the CDLE has finalized a crop of new rules on a variety of topics. This post addresses its Wage Protection Rules, effective January 1, 2021.  The Wage Protection Rules focus on issues related to Colorado’s new paid leave law (HFWA, Health Families and Workplace Act). Highlights of the rules include the following:

  • Rule 2.7.4: How to count employees for the purpose of determining whether a small business is under the 16-employee threshold and may, therefore, qualify for delayed implementation of HFWA’s 48 hour/6 day leave requirements until January 1, 2022.
  • Prefatory Statement and Rule 3.5.4(A)-(B): The requirements for a company’s current paid leave policies to satisfy the HFWA requirement for 48 hours (6 days for salaried employees) of general sick leave, to include the following:
    • The policy must provide for at least HFWA’s required 48 hours (6 days).
    • The policy must allow its leave to be taken for all the same reasons as HFWA. Employers are reminded that HFWA permits leave to be taken for more than just the employee’s illness. As summarized by the CDLE in its INFO 6b, HFWA permits an employee to take this time for any of the following reasons:

(1) having a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition that prevents them from working;

(2) needing to get preventive medical care, or to get a medical diagnosis, care, or treatment, of any mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition;

(3) needing to care for a family member who has a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition, or who needs the sort of care listed in category (2);

(4) the employee or the employee’s family member having been a victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or criminal harassment, and needing leave for related medical attention, mental health care or other counseling, victim services (including legal services), or relocation; or

(5) due to a public health emergency, a public official having closed either (A) the employee’s place of business, or (B) the school or place of care of the employee’s child, requiring the employee needing to be absent from work to care for the child.

    • The policy cannot impose stricter conditions on an employee’s ability to accrue, use and be paid leave, nor can it require notice or documentation (see below) not permitted to be required by HFWA.
      • Employers are reminded that HFWA contains a strict formula for minimum accrual rates, though frontloading is also permitted.
      • Employers are also reminded that HFWA does not permit a delay on usage, such as many sick leave policies that commonly now say sick leave may not be used until after, say, the first 90 days of employment.
    • The policy must also confirm that its leave includes HFWA’s required leave and that, therefore, employees will not receive additional HFWA leave if they use the leave (such as PTO) for other reasons first, except the company will supplement their leave banks as needed to grant 80 hours of pandemic leave in the event of a public health emergency.
      • Employers should carefully consider how they word this disclaimer, so that they do not inadvertently interfere with, minimize, or chill an employee’s HFWA rights.
  • Prefatory statement and Rule 3.5.2: HFWA’s requirement that the employee be paid leave on the basis of “the same rate and with the same benefits, including health benefits,” as if he’d worked, includes all compensation missed while on leave, including base pay, overtime, bonuses, and holiday pay, and even premium pay and shift differentials.
  • Prefatory statement and Rule 3.5.3(C): Explanation that, where an employee is eligible for both HFWA’s 48 hours (6 days for salaried employees) of general sick leave and 80 hours  (10 days for salaried employees) of pandemic leave, the employee must be allowed to take the 80 hours of pandemic leave first before exhausting their other paid leave, such as the 48 hours of HFWA leave.
  • Rule 3.5.3(B): When an employee takes intermittent HFWA leave it is generally taken in 6-minute increments, unless the employer specifies a different increment in its policy, up to 1 hour.
  • Rules 3.5.4-3.5.5: The notice and documentation requirements for leave. Employers are reminded that the documentation requirements are not significant and leave generally cannot be denied for lack of documentation of the sort many employers are used to requiring for sick leave. The CDLE explains the ability for employers to require documents, as follows (emphasis added):

An employer may require “reasonable documentation” that leave is for a HFWA-qualifying purpose only if the leave requested or taken is for “four or more consecutive work days,” C.R.S. § 8-13.3-404(6), defined as four consecutive days on which the employee would have ordinarily worked absent the leave-qualifying condition, not four consecutive calendar days. An employer may not require an employee to provide documentation that leave is for a qualifying reason “related to [a] public health emergency” under C.R.S. § 8-13.3-405(3), (4).

(A) When documentation is required, an employer may request only “reasonable” documentation, which is defined as not more documentation than needed to show a HFWA-qualifying reason for leave, as described in subparts (B), (C), and (D) below, and an employer shall not require disclosure of “details” regarding the employee’s or family member’s “health information” or the “domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking” that is the basis for HFWA leave (C.R.S. § 8-13.3-412(1)).

(B) To document leave for a health-related need under C.R.S. § 8-13.3-404(1)(a), (b):

(1) If the employee received any services (including remote services) from a health or social services provider for the HFWA-qualifying condition or need, a document from that provider, indicating a HFWA-qualifying purpose for the leave, will suffice.
(2) An employee who did not receive services from a provider for the HFWA qualifying leave, or who cannot obtain a document from their provider in reasonable time or without added expense, can provide their own writing indicating that they took leave for a HFWA-qualifying purpose.

(C) To document leave for a safety-related need covered by C.R.S. §§ 8-13.3-404(1)(c) (i.e., domestic abuse, sexual assault, or criminal harassment): A document under subpart (B)(1) (from a health provider or a non-health provider of legal services, shelter services, social work, or other similar services) or an employee writing under (B)(2) will suffice, as will a legal document indicating a safety need that was the reason for the leave (e.g., a restraining order, other court order, or police report).
(D) Submission of documentation to an employer may be provided (1) by any reasonable method, including but not limited to electronic transmission, (2) at any time until whichever is sooner of an employee’s return from leave (or termination of employment, if the employee does not return), (3) without a requirement of the employee’s signature, notarization, or any other particular document format.
(E) Confidentiality of leave-related information and documentation. Any information an employer possesses regarding the health of an employee or the employee’s family member, or regarding domestic abuse, sexual assault, or criminal harassment affecting an employee or employee’s family member, shall be treated as confidential and may not be disclosed to any other individual except the affected employee, unless the affected employee provides written permission prior to such disclosure. C.R.S. § 8-13.3-412(2)(c). If the information is in writing, it shall be maintained on a separate form and in a separate file from other personnel information, and shall be treated as a confidential medical record by the employer. C.R.S. § 8-13.3-412(2)(a)-(b).

(F) If an employer reasonably deems an employee’s documentation deficient, without imposing a requirement of providing more documentation than HFWA or applicable rules permit, prior to denying leave, the employer must: (1) notify the employee within seven days of either receiving the documentation or the employee’s return to work (or termination of employment, if the employee does not return), and (2) provide the employee the minimum of seven days to cure deficiency after the employee is notified that the employer deems the existing documentation inadequate.

  • Rule 3.5.7 explains an employer’s recordkeeping obligations, including an obligation to keep all records for 2 years.
  • Rule 3.5.7 confirms an employer’s obligation to tell an employee, upon request, how much leave they have accrued and how much they have used. Requests may not be made more often than monthly, except additional requests can be made if there is a possible need for HFWA leave. This information may be communicated to the employee, among other ways, by reflecting such amounts on a pay stub.
    • Employers are cautioned that HFWA and Rule 3.5.7 talk about an employer’s obligation to show accrued and used amounts as if different. It isn’t clear if simply showing the employee’s accrued and unused balance is sufficient. Example compare telling an employee (1) <<This year you accrued 48 hours, of which you have used 8 hours, leaving you 40 hours as of this paycheck>> versus (2) <<You have 40 hours, accrued and unused, as of this paycheck.>>
  • Rule 5.1.4 discusses the CDLE’s authority to issue remedies in the event an administrative claim is filed with it for a violation. These remedies include monetary relief, such as unpaid wages, penalties, and fines, back pay plus either reinstatement or front pay, plus such other amounts as the CDLE finds it is authorized to award.

Employers are reminded that HFWA’s current 80 hours of pandemic leave will expire at the end of 2020. In an informal phone call with the CDLE, this author was advised that the agency believes a declaration effective on or after January 1, 2021 will be required to trigger 80 hours of pandemic leave starting January 1, 2021, in other words, that the current declarations of public health emergencies do not suffice — especially since they predate HFWA’s enactment. In what this author would think is the likely event of future declaration(s) effective on or after January 1, 2021, the CDLE advised that it believes employees will receive a fresh 80 hours at that time; in other words, assume a hypothetical employee has used 71 hours of the current pandemic leave by December 31, 2020, leaving him only 9 hours for this year. A fresh declaration will top his pandemic leave back up to 80 (not 9, nor 9+80=89).

Employers in Colorado should take time to familiarize themselves with these new rules.

CDLE issues Equal Pay Transparency rules under Colorado’s Equal Pay for Equal Work Act

As noted in a prior blog post, the CDLE has finalized a crop of new rules on a variety of topics. This post addresses its Equal Pay Transparency Rules, effective January 1, 2021.  The Equal Pay Transparency Rules focus on issues related to Colorado’s new Equal Pay for Equal Work Act (CEPEWA), especially its requirements for postings related to job openings and promotional opportunities. Highlights of the rules include the following:

  • Job Postings: Rule 4.1 explains the obligation to include in “all job postings, including but not limited to promotions,” help-wanted ad’s and Internet job listings, whether for an hourly or salaried position, “a range of hourly or the salary compensation, and a general description of all of the benefits and other compensation to be offered to the hired applicant,” quoting CRS 8-5-201(2). The CDLE explains this requires including:
    • If “a range thereof” is posted, then it must be no broader than “the lowest to the highest pay the employer in good faith believes it might pay.” The CDLE confirms that an employer may “ultimately pay more or less,” so long as the posted ranges was at the time the employer’s good faith estimate (rule 4.1.2).
    • And, a “general description” of “any bonuses, commissions, or other forms of compensation.”
    • And, a “general description” of all benefits, except “minor perks.” The CDLE explains anything that is tax-reportable will not be considered a “minor perk.”
  • Promotional Opportunities: Rule 4.2 explains the obligation to make “reasonable efforts” to “announce, post or otherwise make known” all “promotional opportunities” to then-current current employees.
    • Content: The information that must be provided for promotional opportunities is the same as for job postings, plus job title and the “means by which employees may apply.”
      • Confidentiality: There is a limited exception for promotional opportunities where the employer can demonstrate a “compelling need to keep a particular opening confidential because the position is still held by an incumbent employee who, for reasons other than avoiding job posting requirements, the employer has not yet made aware they will be separated” (rule 4.2.5(A)). This exception seems oriented to a situation where a company has decided to begin a search to replace a high level employee, such as a C-level officer, who hasn’t yet been told they will be terminated. This exception does not excuse notice forever, it only delays the obligation to provide notice until “any employees are told” of the opportunity; at that point all employees must be told, at least who have the minimum qualifications to do the job or who do a “substantially similar” job. And, this exception is eventually extinguished in its entirety once “the need for confidentiality ends;” in other words, once the CEO is told or the rumor mill distributes the news informally, notice must be provided.
    • To Whom: That information must be provided to all employees. An employer may not limit disclosure to only qualified employees. However, an employer may, after individuals express interest, “screen or reject candidates based on (their) qualifications” (rule 4.2.4).
    • How: An employer satisfies this obligation to “announce, post or otherwise make known” if it discloses the required information in a way that employees can effectively access within the workplace, including on the company’s intranet or by posting a hard copy on a bulletin board, so long as employees are told where to find such information and, if not all employees have access to that location, it is made known to the remaining employees in some other way.
    • When: The deadline for an employer to provide this notice is “the same calendar day and prior to making a promotion decision,” quoting CRS 8-5-201.
    • “Promotional Opportunity”: What constitutes a “promotional opportunity”? This has been one of the chief areas of speculation as employers await CEPEWA’s effective date January 1, 2021. Rule 4.2.5 brings some clarity, though there will definitely be no shortage of litigation on the issue.
      • Rule 4.2.1 defines a “promotional opportunity” as any time “when an employer has or anticipates a vacancy in an existing or new position that could be considered a promotion for one or more employee(s) in terms of compensation, benefits, status, duties or access to further advancement.” Thus a promotion is in the eye of the employee(s), not the employer, and the employee’s reason may be nothing more than a perceived sense of enhanced “status.” A promotion can exist whether it involves a position that is “existing or new.”
        • However, note, the language in rule 4.2.1 includes as an apparent requirement that the opportunity involve a “vacancy.” The importance of that word is not clear. Is it intended to mean that an increase in grade does not constitute a “promotional opportunity”? For example, assume an employee is hired into the position, Technician, at entry level, grade I, then as her skills progress and/or as she acquires seniority, she gains higher pay as a Technician level II, is that a “promotional opportunity” because there was an increase in pay and title, or is it not because there was no “vacancy” involved?
      • Rule 4.2.5(B) discusses “automatic” promotions “after (a) trial period.” No notice is required when a worker’s promotion is due to completion of a “trial period” and where the employee is guaranteed at hire, in writing, that they will be so promoted “within one year” after being hired. That guaranty can be included in any writing, to include an offer letter, an employment agreement, or a policy. The only conditions that an employer can impose are the employee’s “own performance and/or employer needs.”
        • In its prefatory Statement explaining these rules, the CDLE confirmed this exception is very limited and does not include “in-line” or “elevator” promotions. As examples of “elevator” promotions it gives the examples of elevations “from junior to senior positions, or from training to full positions.”
        • Question: Again, consider the hypothetical increase in grade (above). As noted above, there is no vacancy involved in that hypothetical, so arguably under rule 4.2.1, it does not count as a “promotional opportunity,” but does rule 4.2.5 and the prefatory Statement explaining it suggest that, even despite the lack of a “vacancy,” such an enhancement is a “promotional opportunity” for which notice must be given? As noted the progression in grade does bring with it increased compensation and arguably an enhanced sense of “status.”
        • Likewise, consider the common hypothetical that law firms will face. Typically law school graduates are hired as “associate” attorneys. Eventually, as their careers progress, some become “shareholders,” aka “partners” (depending on the firm’s legal entity, corporation or partnership). Is that elevation from associate to shareholder, a “promotional opportunity”? If so, must all law firms disclose to all employees of the firm (shareholder, associate, staff) the compensation ranges for their shareholders?  Here too there is again generally no “vacancy” involved; most firms do not limit elevations to some discrete number of vacancies in their shareholder ranks; there is however an increase in compensation and status.
      • Rule 4.2.5(C) posits an exception for “temporary, acting, or interim hires.” No promotional-opportunity notice is required before hiring a temp, or filling a vacancy with an acting or interim worker. Again though, it is a limited exception available only for 6 months and only if the person is hired without expectation to become “permanent.” “If the hire may become permanent, the required promotion posting must be made in time for employees to apply for the permanent position.”
    • Job Openings and Promotional Opportunities, Extraterritoriality: Rule 4.3 has probably received the most attention from the media. In these final rules, the CDLE walked back its proposed language regarding extraterritoriality. Now, employers need not provide either the job opening or promotional opportunity notice for “(1) jobs to be performed entirely outside Colorado, or (2) postings entirely outside Colorado.” In its prefatory statement the CDLE explains that does not include — in other words, notice is required for — each of the following situations:
      • “remote jobs” that “could be performed in Colorado” (emphasis in original),
      • “and even for (situations involving) non-Coloradoans hired for remote work (who) may move to Colorado after being hired by Colorado employers,”
      • and any “Internet posting accessible in Colorado.”

Employers in Colorado should take time to familiarize themselves with these new rules.

CDLE finalizes crop of new rules

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) has finalized a half dozen rules on a wide array of topics. Employers should take care to immediately familiarize themselves with these rules, as many take effect January 1, 2021. The rules can be found on the CDLE’s rulemaking page, where the CDLE summarizes its new rules with the following table that contains links to the actual rules themselves:

Adopted Rules Clean Version Redline Version Statement of Basis & Purpose

State Labor Relations Rules, 7 CCR 1103-12

PDF PDF PDF
Colorado Whistleblower, Anti-retaliation, Non-interference, and Notice-giving (Colorado WARNING) Rules, 7 CCR 1103-11 PDF PDF PDF
Direct Investigations Rules, 7 CCR 1103-8 PDF PDF PDF
Equal Pay Transparency Rules, 7 CCR 1103-13 PDF PDF PDF
Colorado Overtime and Minimum Pay Standards (COMPS) Order #37, 7 CCR 1103-1 PDF PDF PDF
Wage Protection Rules, 7 CCR 1103-7 PDF PDF PDF

Individuals interested in receiving updates from the CDLE directly when it engages in the rulemaking process, may subscribe with the CDLE here.

Look for follow-up posts on this blog highlighting some of the key developments in some of these rules.

Colorado Court of Appeals rules for employer on vacation issue

In a previous post, it was noted that a case has been pending before the Colorado Court of Appeals involving an employer’s refusal to pay vacation at separation, despite the provisions of CRS 8-4-101 and a new regulation promulgated by the CDLE thereunder. The Court of Appeals has now ruled in the case, Blount v. Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, that the employer was within its rights to refuse to pay out the vacation because it had clearly stated in its vacation policy that “Unused Vacation Allowances are not paid to Team Member at any time, including upon termination of employment.” The unpublished decision was not selected for official publication. It is also noted, as explained in this blog’s previous post, that this ruling is in apparent conflict and arguably contrary to the CDLE’s recent regulations and that the issue is currently pending before the Colorado Supreme Court in a different lawsuit.

CDLE issues revised INFO #6A

The CDLE has issued a revised INFO #6A, which is its summary explaining the aspects of Colorado’s new sick leave law taking effect 1/1/2021. The CDLE summarized its changes to INFO #6A, as follows:

(1) Pg. 1: In the list of 3 situations that qualify for leave, a non-substantive wording change to category #3 (leave to care for another person) aims to make clearer that it applies when the person being cared for meets the category #2 definition (being ordered/instructed to quarantine/isolate, due to a risk of COVID-19, by a government agent or health provider).

(2) Pg. 1, footnote 3: As to what is and is not a “bonus” excluded from the regular pay rate that applies to paid leave in 2020, footnote 3 has been added to cite, and explain the answer in, the federal rule that applies to 2020 leave.

(3) Pg. 2: An “Example” of the CBA exemption was deleted because stakeholders have expressed differing views of the exemption that warrant consideration before the Division decides whether to adopt any interpretation.

(4) Pg. 3: An elaboration to the paragraph on how “Policies by any name can comply” cites and explains the federal rule that applies to 2020 leave, which draws a key distinction between employer policies that existed prior to April 1, 2020, and those adopted after that date.

(5) Pg. 2-3: Non-substantive citation edits — without changing any wording, numerical citations were added to the federal rules on what documentation (29 C.F.R. 826.100) and notice (29 C.F.R. 826.90) employees can be asked to provide, and numbers were corrected in two HFWA citations (to the 8-13.3-416 provision against waiver of rights, and the 8-13.3-418 provision recognizing employer rights against employee misconduct).

Of these, item 2 may be of particular interest, in that the CDLE revised INFO 6A to provide that, while on paid leave, sick leave must include payment of any “non-discretionary pay based on pre-determined criteria or formulae (e.g., by production or accuracy), whether called a piece rate, bonus, incentive, or other name.” In other words, in contrast what had seemed clear language in the new statute and in conflict with its prior INFO #6A, the CDLE has — without undertaking rulemaking — decided to re-interpret these new laws as excluding from required sick leave only “discretionary” bonuses.

Colorado unemployment agency continues trend of ruling in favor of workers who decline to return to work

A previous post addressed the requirement that workers return to work — or face loss of unemployment — when an offer to return (to comparable work) is extended, unless the worker is a “vulnerable individual” or otherwise unable to return due to coronavirus-related reasons. As noted there, the initial report was that the state was tending to find in favor of employees by a large margin. The Denver Business Journal is reporting today that the state unemployment agency is continuing that trend, now finding 84% of the time in favor of workers.

Colorado Department of Labor and Employment officials have received about 1,100 submissions from employers about workers who have refused to come back to work in recent weeks and want to keep receiving jobless benefits. And of the 869 cases that CDLE officials have adjudicated, only 16% have ended in workers being told to return to their positions or give up their unemployment payments, chief communications officer Cher Haavind said.

In the vast majority of cases, workers claiming they can’t safely return to work fall into one of two categories delineated by federal and state law as allowing them to refuse to go back to an environment where they would interact with many co-workers or customers, Haavind said. One is that they are part of a vulnerable population that would make them more susceptible to catching coronavirus — people over age 65 or who have underlying medical conditions such as heart troubles or being immunocompromised. The second is that they are caring either for someone who is at increased risk of contracting the virus or are caring for a child out of school.

BREAKING NEWS: COMPS Order 36

The Colorado Division of Labor and Employment has just advised as follows:

The Division has posted the Colorado Overtime & Minimum Pay Standards (COMPS) Order #36  Poster on our COMPS Order #36 – Informational Page. This is the “Poster” to use to comply with the “Posting and Distribution Requirements” COMPS Rule 7.4. As a reminder, Colorado Overtime and Minimum Pay Standards Order (“COMPS Order”) #36 is effective March 16, 2020.

The Division has also published guidance in the form of three new INFOs (Interpretive Notice & Formal Opinions) available on the Division’s Laws, Regulations, and Guidance webpage. The three INFOs published today are:

INFO # 1: Colorado Overtime & Minimum Pay Standards Order (COMPS Order) #36

INFO # 2: DLSS Wage Claim Investigation Process

INFO # 3 Tips (Gratuities) and Tipped Employees Under Colorado Wage Law

The Division’s INFOs are not binding law, but they are the Division’s officially approved opinions and notices to employers, employees, and other stakeholders as to how the Division applies and interprets various statutes and rules. The Division will continue to post and update INFOs on various topics; to suggest a topic, please email cdle_labor_standards@state.co.us.

Please continue to check this blog, www.l2slegal.com, where additional information regarding the CDLE’s announcement will be posted soon.

Restaurants and other employers with tipped employees, beware relying on DOL opinion letter

As previously posted, the DOL issued an opinion letter in 2019, purporting to jettison the Obama Administration’s 80-20 rule and expanding the ability to claim tip credits for tipped employees, specifically, during time when they do not earn tips (example, while wait staff vacuum and clean). Bloomberg BNA reports that opinion letter has met with rejection in the courts:

Restaurant chains have lost at least seven decisions over the last year in which federal district court judges refused to give deference to a 2018 Labor Department opinion letter advising restaurants to pay a lower minimum wage to tipped workers for tasks that don’t yield gratuities.

In most of those decisions, judges held that DOL wasn’t justified in turning its back on a standard that’s been in place for more than three decades.

Also as previously posted, the DOL issued a propose regulation to the same effect, which if finalized would become law, to which courts should defer in lawsuits.

Employers are reminded that Colorado law requires additional notice-posting to employees if a tip credit is to be claimed.

COMPS Order 36, SOME of what you need to know

As previously posted here, the Colorado Division of Labor and Employment has issued its COMPS Order no. 36. Here’s some of what you need to know:

  • It probably applies to your company. As previously explained, Colorado Wage Orders have historically been limited to certain industries, now their successor, this “COMPS Order” is generally applicable to all employers with only some exceptions, most notably some aspects of the agricultural industry.
  • It’s long, but you should take the time to read it and review it with experienced employment counsel. If you read the draft, the CDLE published a redline with changes from the draft to the final version.
  • It will be effective March 16, 2020.
  • Ensure your overtime-exempt personnel still qualify for exemption under Colorado law, especially that each is earning more than the required minimum salaries, effective the following dates:

July 1, 2020 $684.00 per week ($35,568 per year)
January 1, 2021 $778.85 per week ($40,500 per year)
January 1, 2022 $865.38 per week ($45,000 per year)
January 1, 2023 $961.54 per week ($50,000 per year)
January 1, 2024 $1,057.69 per week ($55,000 per year)

Effective January 1, 2025, the CDLE advises that salary minimums will increase commensurate with Colorado’s minimum wage, as adjusted by the CPI.

  • Employers must now “authorize and permit” non-exempt workers to take at least one 10-minute paid break as close to the middle of each 4-hour shift. What does “authorize and permit” mean? No one knows, and worse, the phrase is not defined elsewhere in the law. Some options employers might consider, in an abundance of caution, include requiring employees take such breaks, disciplining employees who fail to do so and requiring employees to mark down their break times on timecards even though such time must be paid.
    • Note: The COMPS order has different break requirements for employers that have contrary union-negotiated collective bargaining agreements and some Medicaid-funded service providers.
  • Employers must now pay for certain pre- and post-shift activities, which federal law does not consider compensable time, to include some aspects of time related to donning and doffing (changing in and out of certain clothes and gear), briefings, security screenings, safety and travel-related time, and clocking-in and -out.
  • Companies that use independent contractors in their workforce will want to review this blog’s previous post, as COMPS Order 36, as explained by its Statement of Basis, Purpose, Specific Statutory Authority, and Findings in support of COMPS Order #36, seems to have dramatically narrowed the ability of companies to do so, apparently in an attempt to convert such workers, by administrative fiat, into statutory “employees” of joint employers.
  • COMPS Order 36 has revised the definitions for which salaried personnel may be exempt. Employers should review their current exemptions against this new law. Notably, COMPS Order 36 actually expands the availability of exemptions in some instances for computer professionals and some seasonal camp and outdoor education programs.
  • Post the CDLE’s new COMPS Order 36 poster. Indeed the new poster is so new, that the CDLE hasn’t issued one yet. Recently on a call to CDLE the CDLE advised that it does not know when or if it will issue the poster it refers to itself in its own new order.
    • Not only must it be posted, but the poster or the entire COMPS Order itself must be included in handbooks and signed for.
    • And that non-existent poster and expansive COMPS order must be so distributed not only in English but in Spanish or such other language as workers may speak. Although the COMPS Order suggest the CDLE will distribute the order in such other languages, there are none on CDLE’s website.
  • As noted, review this expansive order in its entirety. Other provisions for example address meal, lodging, top credit, uniform deposits.

Colorado finalizes new wage order, COMPS Order no. 36, 7 CCR 1103-1 (2020)

As noted in a previous post, Colorado proposed a new wage order in 2019. On January 22, 2020, the Colorado Division of Labor and Employment finalized its new order — now called COMPS order #36 — effective March 16, 2020.

As noted in the previous post, COMPS order #36 is  radical overhaul of Colorado’s prior wage orders. Among other things the changes include:

  • A title change: Reflecting the fact that this new order addresses far more than simple wages, its title will change from the “Colorado Wage Order” (WO) to the “Colorado Overtime and Minimum Pay Standards Order” (COMPS).
  • COMPS 36 will now reach almost all private employers in Colorado. Previous WOs had applied only to the following four industries: retail and service, commercial support service, food and beverage, and health and medical. COMPS will apply to all employers as a general rule, unless the employer falls within one of the newly defined exemptions set forth in prosed Rule 2 of COMPS. Therefore employers who previously considered themselves exempt from the WOs should now review COMPS to determine if it will become covered.
  • Minimum guaranteed salary: If covered COMPS will increase the minimum guaranteed salary to $42,500, effective 7/1/20, well above that in federal law. COMPS minimum will rise steeply thereafter, each year, to $57,500 effective 1/1/26 and be adjusted thereafter per the CPI.
  • Changes to particular job-specific exemptions have been proposed.
  • Changes to the timing of required rest periods and a requirement that employees who are not allowed their 10-minute rest period receive pay not only for the 10-minute rest period but an extra 10 minutes pay.
  • Changes to the ability to take credits and the ability to charge for uniforms.
  • Changes to the fluctuating workweek method of calculating overtime.
  • Expansion of anti-retaliation protections.
  • Expansion of employer obligations as to “transparency,” “language inclusiveness” and posters.

In addition, the as-finalized COMPS order #36 dramatically expanded the definition of an “employee” and “employer” in Colorado — in apparent reflection of similar narrowing in California — by mandating that a worker will be deemed an “employee” not an independent contractor who otherwise meets all requirements to be an independent contractor but who performs work that is itself part of the company’s own regular business. The CDLE explained this “entirely new factor to the ’employee’ analysis'” in its Statement of Basis, Purpose, Specific Statutory Authority, and Findings in support of COMPS Order #36, as follows:

For example: if a retail clothing store hires an outside plumber on a one-time or sporadic basis to make repairs as needed, the plumber’s services are not part of the store’s primary work — selling clothes. On the other hand, when a clothing manufacturer hires work-at-home seamstresses to make dresses, from cloth and patterns supplied by the manufacturer, that the manufacturer will sell, or when a bakery hires cake decorators to work on a regular basis on custom-designed cakes, the workers are performing the “primary work” of the hiring business.

Other changes to the prior draft order include a rule that workers who are putting on and taking off work clothes and gear (so-called “donning and doffing” cases) are engaged in work and accordingly must be paid for the such time if it takes “over one minute” and if it is not clothes/gear that is “worn outside work as well. Additionally COMPS order #36 will effectively require that, when a 10-minute break is otherwise required, nearly all such workers will need to be made to take their 10-minute breaks every 4 hours. Only workers who work under collectively bargained agreements that say otherwise will be allowed to take breaks outside a 4-hour period, as can some workers who work for certain Medicaid-funded entities.

Perhaps most importantly the final order also implemented a slower increase in the required guaranteed minimum salary for overtime exempt person in 2020 and 2021, then a steeper climb in 2023 to reach the previously planned 2024 minimum salary of $55,000.

Source: final COMPS Order #36 as redlined by the CDLE against its prior draft.