Labor and Employment Law Overview: Colorado

Labor and Employment Law Overview requirements for other states

Federal law and guidance on this subject should be reviewed together with this section.

Author: XpertHR Editorial Team

Summary

  • Colorado prohibits an employer from discriminating and retaliating against employees based on a variety of protected classes. See EEO, Diversity and Employee Relations.
  • Colorado requires background checks for certain positions. See Recruiting and Hiring.
  • In Colorado there are requirements relating to the minimum wage, overtime, meal and rest breaks and child labor. See Wage and Hour.
  • Colorado has a few laws that relate to employee pay and benefits including how often employees must be paid and health care continuation. See Pay and Benefits.
  • A Colorado employer may be required to provide employees with certain leaves of absence including adoption leave, domestic abuse leave and time off for jury duty. See Attendance and Leave
  • State law dictates the manner and timing of a terminated employee's final paycheck. See Organizational Exit.

Introduction to Employment Law in Colorado

Colorado is generally considered both an employee- and employer-friendly state. Some state laws may broaden an employer's rights while others are more restrictive than federal law.

Select Colorado employment requirements are summarized below to help an employer understand the range of employment laws affecting the employer-employee relationship in the state. An employer must comply with both federal and state law.

An employer must also comply with applicable municipal law obligations affecting the employment relationship, in addition to complying with state and federal requirements.

EEO, Diversity and Employee Relations

Key Colorado requirements impacting EEO, diversity and employee relations are:

The Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act

Colorado's antidiscrimination law applies to all employers except religious organizations and associations that do not receive support from public funds. The CADA establishes protected classes not recognized under federal antidiscrimination laws, and includes:

  • Race;
  • Color;
  • Creed or religion;
  • Sex (including pregnancy);
  • Physical and mental disability;
  • Age (over 40);
  • National origin;
  • Sexual orientation;
  • Ancestry; and
  • Marriage to a co-worker (subject to specific circumstances).

Harassment is a form of illegal discrimination and is prohibited under the CADA.  An employer may be responsible for harassment at the workplace where the employer knew or should have known of the conduct and failed to take immediate and appropriate remedial measures.

The CADA regulations also prohibit retaliation against a person who opposes, reports or assists another person in opposing unlawful discrimination.

Wage Discrimination

The Wage Equality Regardless of Sex Act prohibits discrimination in wages based solely on sex, and requires that male and female employees who perform the same, or substantially the same, work to be paid equivalent wages.

Lawful Off-Duty Activities

A Colorado employer may not terminate an employee due to the employee's lawful activities that occur off the employer's premises during nonworking hours, unless the restriction:

  • Relates to a bona fide occupational requirement, or is reasonably related to an employee's employment activities; or
  • Is necessary to avoid a conflict of interest or the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on EEO, diversity and employee relations practices in Colorado can be found in the Colorado Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Disabilities (ADA): Colorado, EEO - Discrimination: Colorado, EEO - Harassment: Colorado, EEO - Retaliation: Colorado, Employee Discipline: Colorado, Colorado Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Colorado? Federal requirements can be found in Disabilities (ADA): Federal, EEO - Discrimination: Federal, EEO - Harassment: Federal, EEO - Retaliation: Federal and Employee Discipline: Federal.

Recruiting and Hiring

Key Colorado requirements impacting recruiting and hiring are:

The Colorado Consumer Credit Reporting Act

The Colorado Consumer Credit Reporting Act (CCCRA), while similar to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, has unique provisions specific to an employer in Colorado. For example, the CCCRA prohibits consumer reports from containing certain information such as bankruptcy cases more than 10 years old and arrest, indictment or conviction records more than seven years old.

Additionally, consumer reports provided for employment purposes should not contain medical information without consumer consent.

Mandatory Background Checks

In Colorado certain classes of workers are subject to mandatory background checks such as:

  • School employees;
  • Employees of nursing and adult day care facilities;
  • Employees of childcare facilities; and
  • Security guards and peace officers.

Credit Checks

Colorado's Employment Opportunity Act prohibits certain employers from using consumer credit information for employment purposes subject to certain limited exceptions. The law's protections apply to both job applicants and employees. Certain employers and positions are exempt from these provisions, including:

  • Banks or financial institutions;
  • Employers required by law to obtain such information;
  • Some high-ranking executive or management personnel and their professional staff; and
  • Positions involving contracts with defense, intelligence, national security or space agencies of the federal government.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on recruiting and hiring practices in Colorado can be found in Preemployment Screening and Testing: Colorado; and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Colorado? Federal requirements can be found in Preemployment Screening and Testing: Federal.

Wage and Hour

Key Colorado requirements impacting wages and hours are:

Minimum Wage

Colorado's minimum wage is $8.31 per hour. There are exceptions to the minimum wage rate (e.g., minors that are not emancipated may be paid at a lower rate) and a separate minimum wage rate exists for tipped employees.

Overtime

Colorado law requires an employer to pay nonexempt employees one-and-one-half times their regular pay rate for any work in excess of:

  • 40 hours per workweek;
  • 12 hours per workday; or
  • 12 consecutive hours (excluding meal periods where the employee was completely relieved of his or her duties) whichever calculation results in the higher payment of wages.

Rest Breaks

An employer must provide employees with a 10-minute paid rest break for each four hours worked. If practicable, breaks should be scheduled in the middle of the work period.

Meal Breaks

Colorado law requires an employer to provide employees with an uninterrupted meal period of at least 30 minutes for shifts exceeding five consecutive hours of work. To qualify as unpaid the employee must be relieved of all job duties during the meal period.

If a 30 minute uninterrupted meal period is impractical, the employer must permit the employee to eat a full meal while performing their duties without any loss of time or compensation.

Breastfeeding Breaks

The Workplace Accommodations for Nursing Mothers Act, generally requires an employer to provide a nursing mother with reasonable, unpaid break time, or permit an employee to use paid meal and/or break time each day to express breast milk for her nursing child for up to two years after the child's birth.

An employer must also make a reasonable effort to provide a room (other than a toilet stall) in close proximity to the employee's work area.

Child Labor

Child labor laws in Colorado restrict the occupations in which minors may be employed and the number of hours and times during which they may work.

Minors under the age of 18 are covered by the Colorado Youth Employment Opportunity Act (CYEOA), which prohibits minors from working in certain hazardous occupations such as manufacturing, transporting or storing of explosives and the operation of certain power-driven machinery. There are certain exceptions to the prohibition of hazardous occupations in the case of minors who are at least 14 years old and who are working in certain approved educational, training, or apprenticeship programs.

With some exceptions, minors under the age of 16 may not work:

  • On school days and during school hours, except as provided by a school release permit;
  • In excess of six hours after school hours, unless the next day is not a school day; and
  • Between the hours of 9:30 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., unless the next day is not a school day (except for baby-sitters, actors, models or performers).

Minors under the age of 18 generally may not work more than:

  • Forty hours in a week; or
  • Eight hours in any 24-hour period, except in the case of certain approved emergencies.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on wage and hour practices in Colorado can be found in the Colorado Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Minimum Wage: Colorado, Overtime: Colorado, Hours Worked: Colorado, Colorado Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters, and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Colorado? Federal requirements can be found in Minimum Wage: Federal, Overtime: Federal, Hours Worked: Federal and Child Labor: Federal.

Pay and Benefits

Key Colorado requirements impacting pay and benefits are:

Discussion of Wages

The Wage Transparency Act, prohibits an employer from taking adverse actions against employees who discuss their wages with others. An employer is also prohibited from requiring that employees not disclose their wages and from requiring an employee to sign a waiver or other document that limits the employee's right to disclose his or her wage information.  

Paydays

Pay periods may be no greater than a calendar month or 30 days, whichever is longer and paydays must occur no later than 10 days following the close of each pay period.

A Colorado employer is required to post a notice informing employees of regular paydays and time and place of payment.

Wage Deductions

Colorado law sets limitations on the deductions an employer can take from employees' wages. An employer may make certain deductions (e.g., for union dues or to recover a shortage resulting from employee theft), in addition to those required by law (e.g., taxes and garnishments).

An employer is generally prohibited from making other deductions from wages. In addition, an employer cannot make any of the above deductions if the employee would receive less than the federal minimum wage.

Health Care Continuation

Colorado group health policies issued to all employers, regardless of size, generally must include the option for employees and their covered dependents to elect continuation coverage in the event their coverage terminates. Colorado's continuation coverage law does not apply to self-insured or self-funded employer group health plans.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on pay and benefit practices in Colorado can be found in the Colorado Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Payment of Wages: Colorado, Health Care Continuation (COBRA): Colorado, Colorado Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Colorado? Federal requirements can be found in Payment of Wages: Federal and Health Care Continuation (COBRA): Federal.

Attendance and Leave

Key Colorado requirements impacting attendance and leave are:

Family Care Act

Colorado's Family Care Act (FCA) requires a Colorado employer covered by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to provide eligible employees leave similar to FMLA leave to care for a domestic or civil union partner who has a serious health condition. The FCA adopts the FMLA's definition of a serious health condition.

An employee is eligible for leave under the FCA if he or she is eligible for FMLA leave with respect to length of service and hours worked, and is either:

  • In a civil union under Colorado law; or
  • In a domestic partnership that is:
    • Registered within the person's municipality where he or she resides or with the state; or
    • Recognized by the employer.

Other Leave Laws Affecting Colorado Employers

In addition to the FCA, a Colorado employer is also required to comply with additional leave laws including:

  • Adoption leave;
  • Crime victim leave;
  • Domestic abuse leave (covering employers with 50 or more employees);
  • Jury duty leave;
  • Military leave;
  • Civil air patrol leave;
  • Qualified volunteers leave;
  • Volunteer firefighters leave; and
  • Voting leave.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on attendance and leave practices in Colorado can be found in the Colorado Employee Handbook Table of Contents, FMLA: Colorado, Jury Duty: Colorado, USERRA: Colorado, Other Leaves: Colorado and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Colorado? Federal requirements can be found in FMLA: Federal, Jury Duty: Federal, USERRA: Federal and Other Leaves: Federal.

Organizational Exit

Key Colorado requirements impacting organizational exit are:

Final Paycheck

An employee who voluntary quits must be paid on the next regular payday.

Wages for an employee who is terminated must be paid immediately. If an employer's payroll department is closed, then payment must be made no later than six hours after the start of the payroll department's next regular workday, or if located offsite, no later than 24 hours after the start of the department's next regular workday.

Accrued Vacation Time

An employer in Colorado is not required to provide vacation pay benefits. However, if an employer provides this benefit, the value of accrued vacation time must be paid to a separated employee according to the terms of any agreement.

References

A Colorado employer is generally immune from liability for disclosure of truthful information regarding an employee's or former employee's job history or performance.

In addition, an employer that provides written information to a prospective employer about a current or a former employee must send, upon the request of the employee, a copy of the information provided or the employee may obtain a copy directly from the employer at the employer's place of business during normal business hours.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on organizational exit practices in Colorado can be found in Payment of Wages: Colorado and Performance Appraisals: Colorado. Federal requirements can be found in Payment of Wages: Federal and Performance Appraisals: Federal.