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 law prohibits an employer from discriminating and retaliating against employees in a variety of protected classes. Employers must also provide pregnancy accommodations, allow employees to access their personnel files and allow wage discussions. See EEO, Diversity and Employee Relations.
  • Colorado permits preemployment background checks, but limits credit checks. See Recruiting and Hiring.
  • In Colorado, there are requirements relating to the minimum wage, overtime, meal and rest breaks, breastfeeding breaks and child labor. See Wage and Hour.
  • Colorado has laws that relate to employee pay and benefits, including health care continuation, pay statements, pay frequency, wage notices and wage deductions. See Pay and Benefits.
  • Under Colorado law, employees are entitled to certain leaves or time off, including family care leave, domestic violence leave, Civil Air Patrol leave, qualified volunteers leave and voting leave. See Time Off and Leaves of Absence.
  • Colorado prohibits smoking in the workplace and texting while driving. See Health and Safety.
  • When employment ends, Colorado employers must comply with applicable final pay and job reference requirements. See Organizational Exit.

Introduction to Employment Law in Colorado

Colorado has many laws that provide greater protections to employees than federal law, including broader antidiscrimination protections, pregnancy accommodation rights, a higher minimum wage and health care continuation coverage obligations for smaller employers, but generally follows federal law with respect to topics such as occupational safety.

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:

Fair Employment Practices

The Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA) applies to all employers except religious organizations and associations that do not receive support from public funds. The CADA prohibits discrimination based on protected characteristics, including:

  • Race;
  • Color;
  • Creed or religion;
  • Sex (including pregnancy);
  • Disability;
  • Age (over 40);
  • National origin;
  • Sexual orientation;
  • Ancestry; and
  • Marriage to a co-worker (employers with more than 25 employees).

Harassment is a form of illegal discrimination and is prohibited under the CADA. An employer may be responsible for harassment at the workplace if it 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.

Equal Pay

The Colorado Wage Equality Regardless of Sex Act prohibits discrimination in wages based solely on sex.

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.

Pregnancy Accommodation

Colorado employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to employees and applicants for health conditions related to pregnancy or the physical recovery from childbirth. Reasonable accommodations include, but are not limited to:

  • More frequent or longer break periods;
  • More frequent restroom, food and water breaks;
  • Obtaining or modifying equipment or seating;
  • Lifting limitations;
  • Temporary transfer to a less-strenuous or less-hazardous position, if available;
  • Job restructuring;
  • Light duty, if available;
  • Assistance with manual labor; and
  • Modified work schedules.

Access to Personnel Files

An employee has a right to access personnel records used to determine his or her qualifications for:

  • Employment;
  • Promotion;
  • Additional compensation;
  • Discipline; or
  • Termination.

Current employees have the right to access their personnel files at least annually. A former employee has the right to access his or her personnel file once.

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, HR Management: 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 HR Management: Federal.

Recruiting and Hiring

Key Colorado requirements impacting recruiting and hiring are:

Consumer Reports

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; arrest, indictment or conviction records more than seven years old; and medical information, unless the consumer consents.

Credit Checks

Colorado's Employment Opportunity Act prohibits employers with four or more employees 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 $10.20 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 without regard to the starting and ending time of the workday (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. The break may be unpaid if the employee is relieved of all job duties.

If a 30-minute uninterrupted meal period is impractical, the employer must permit the employee to eat a full meal while working, 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 to permit the employee to use paid meal and/or rest breaks to express breast milk for her nursing child for up to two years after the child's birth.

An employer must make a reasonable effort to provide a room (other than a toilet stall) in close proximity to the employee's work area where the employee can express breast milk in private.

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 hazardous occupations such as manufacturing, transporting or storing of explosives and the operation of certain power-driven machinery. There are 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;
  • More than six hours after school hours, unless the next day is not a school day; and
  • Between 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, Child Labor: 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:

Payment of Wages

Wages must be paid in cash, or by check payable upon demand without discount in cash. Wages may be paid by direct deposit or electronic paycard under certain circumstances.

Pay Statements

An employer must provide pay statements to each employee at least monthly, or when they are paid, that include the following information:

  • Employer's name, address and telephone number;
  • Employee's name or Social Security Number;
  • Gross wages earned;
  • Amount and purpose of each deduction;
  • Net wages earned;
  • Total hours worked;
  • Regular and overtime hours;
  • Straight time;
  • Overtime pay;
  • Allowances claimed as part of the minimum wage;
  • Pay date and the beginning and ending dates of the pay period;
  • Pay rate(s) and the basis for the rate(s), including whether the employee is paid by the hour, shift, day, week, salary, piece, commission or other basis including overtime rate(s) of pay; and
  • For piece rate employees, the applicable rate(s) and the number of pieces completed at each rate.

Pay Frequency

Employees must be paid on regular paydays at least once a month or every 30 days, whichever is longer. Paydays must occur no later than 10 days following the close of each pay period.

Wage Notices

A Colorado employer is required to post a notice informing employees of the regular paydays, the time and place of payment, and any changes to this information.

Wage Deductions

A Colorado employer may make deductions from an employee's wages if required by state or federal law or court order, with the employee's written authorization or for other permissible reasons, including but not limited to retirement or health plan contributions, union dues, creditor garnishments and tax levies.

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 of the employee's termination, reduction in hours, death or divorce. Continuation coverage generally lasts up to 18 months.

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 benefits practices in Colorado can be found in 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.

Time Off and Leaves of Absence

Colorado has several laws relating to required time off and leaves of absence for employees. These laws include:

  • Family care leave;
  • Crime victim leave;
  • Domestic violence 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 time off and leave of absence 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.

Health and Safety

Key Colorado requirements impacting health and safety are:

Smoke-Free Workplace

The Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act generally prohibits smoking in workplaces, with a few limited exceptions. Smoking is also prohibited within 15 feet of entryways.

Safe Driving Practices

Colorado prohibits texting while driving and wearing earphones in both ears while driving.

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 health and safety practices in Colorado can be found in the Colorado Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Employee Health: Colorado, HR and Workplace Safety: Colorado and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Colorado? Federal requirements can be found in Employee Health: Federal and HR and Workplace Safety (OSHA Compliance): Federal.

Organizational Exit

Key Colorado requirements impacting organizational exit are:

Final Pay

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

An employee who is terminated must be paid immediately in most cases.

An employer that chooses to provide vacation pay benefits must pay all accrued but unused vacation pay to a separated employee according to the terms of any agreement.

References

A Colorado employer is generally immune from liability for disclosing information regarding a former employee's job history or performance to a prospective employer, unless the employer provides information that is false and that it knew or reasonably should have known is false.

In addition, an employer that provides written information to a prospective employer 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, Performance Appraisals: Colorado and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Colorado? Federal requirements can be found in Payment of Wages: Federal and Performance Appraisals: Federal.