Colorado Labor Laws: An Overview


American workers spent years working under unfair, unsafe, and wretched working conditions until legislation brought about meaningful and uniform changes. Federal laws addressed some of the most glaring employer offenses after workers started unionizing to protect their basic rights. In the early days of the nation, there were few safety and wage regulations. Workers took jobs to attempt to earn a living for their families, often at the cost of their health or their lives. Even unions could not provide enough protection from the federal government, making bargaining for improved working conditions difficult. Shifts in the social and legal landscape brought about labor laws that improved conditions and support the rights of American workers. Some laws and regulations were enacted by the federal government and each state is free to set standards for its residents and workers. The state of Colorado has a unique set of regulations enforced within its borders. Here is an overview of Colorado Labor Laws.

The basics of employee rights in Colorado

A fast accounting of employee rights in Colorado, as provided under the state-enforced employment law and federal law is explained by Lawrina. Workers have the right to a safe workplace, health coverage, social security, and minimum wage. Workers also have the right to unemployment benefits, family leave, and the right to protection against discrimination. This is a brief overview of the long list of conditions under which employers bear responsibility for their workforce. To fully understand the benefits for workers in Colorado, we must explore these rights in greater depth. Xpert HR reports that Colorado provides many laws that protect employees over and above federal laws with broader protections against discrimination and hour and wage disparities. Employers must comply with federal and Colorado state laws or face possible litigations and fines.

Recruitment and hiring laws

Colorado maintains employer requirements for recruiting and hiring workers. The Colorado Consumer Credit Reporting Act does not allow employers to access consumer reports that contain some information such as bankruptcy cases over ten years, arrest, indictment, or conviction records over seven years, and medical information without the written consent of applicants. The Colorado Employment Opportunity Act prevents employers with four or more workers from using consumer credit information for determining employment eligibility, except for very few circumstances. The only employers exempt from the provisions are banks, financial institutions, high-ranking executive management personal and professional staff, jobs engaging in contracts with national security, space agencies of the federal government, intelligence or defense, or other employers required to obtain the information by law.

Restrictions on salary history inquiries

The Equal Pay for Equal Work Act of Colorado prevents employers from gathering wage rates for applicants or considering a history of the worker’s wage rate to determine their wage rate. Employers may not discriminate or retaliate against applicants for failure to provide wage history. The Colorado Ban the Box Law and the Colorado Chance to Compete Act prevent employers from inquiring into applicants’ criminal history on written or digital application forms. Employers may not advertise a position and state that those with criminal histories cannot apply for a position. Neither can state on an employment application that persons with criminal histories may not apply for a job.

Equal Employment Opportunities, Diversity, and Employee Relations

Employers in Colorado must engage in fair employment practices under the EEO laws for Colorado. Workers are protected by the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act except for religious organizations and associations not receiving public funding. Employers may not discriminate against workers based on ancestry, marriage to a co-worker if the company employs over 25 workers, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, national origin, age over 40 years, disability, creed or religion, color, sex, or pregnancy status. Others are race including hair type, texture, and hairstyles associated with race. Other prohibited practices include discriminating against applicants or workers based on military or veteran status and genetic information including the medical history of the family. Employers may not discriminate against workers based on civil air patrol membership, wage garnishments, consumer debt, out-of-work activities, or AIDS or HIV status.


Harassment is considered a form of discrimination, and it is illegal. Harassment in the workplace is prohibited and must be addressed by employers if they are aware that the conduct is taking place. Appropriate actions and remediation is required. Retaliation against a person who reports, opposes, or assists a person being discriminated against is prohibited. discrimination or retaliating against employees in a protected class is prohibited. This includes pregnancy and any employee qualifying for accommodations.

Accommodation for pregnancy

Colorado employment laws require employers to provide pregnant workers with reasonable accommodations to ensure the health and safety of the worker related to pregnancy, including recovery after childbirth. Examples of accommodations include more frequent breaks for food, water, and restroom, longer break periods, modifications in seating and equipment, limitations on lifting, job restructuring, and temporary transfer to less hazardous and less strenuous positions if such positions are available. Others are light-duty if available, modified work schedules, and assistance with manual labor. Employers are required to provide nursing mothers with reasonable unpaid break time or use of paid meal and rest breaks to collect breast milk for nursing babies for up to two years after childbirth. The law is set by The Workplace Accommodations for Nursing Mothers Act. Additionally, employers must provide a room with privacy for expressing breast milk privately.

Health and safety

Colorado law bans smoking in the workplace and texting while driving a company vehicle. Wearing earphones while driving a vehicle is also prohibited. Workers in Colorado are protected under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, also known as OSHA regulations. The law outlines standards for training and acting in hazardous work environments with responsibilities of the employer and regulations about how to handle dangerous substances. OSHA investigators may enter the workplace to ensure compliance with work safety requirements without notice.

Colorado is an At-Will employment state

Contracts Counsel advises that Colorado is an At-Will employment state. This means that employers may terminate or fire employees without notice and for any reason. Employees may also resign from a company without notice and for any reason.

Equal Pay Laws

The Colorado Equal Pay for Equal Work Act prevents employers from discriminating against workers in protected classes in the payment of wages for similar work to others, not in a protected class. Wage differentials must be based on a factor other than sex, race, disability status, or other protected class status. Colorado labor laws require employers to maintain recordkeeping of wages with transparency in pay and opportunities for advancement or promotion.

Wage and Hour laws

Employers must observe Colorado minimum wage laws with exceptions for some wage rates for non-emancipated minors or for employees receiving tips. Employers must pay non-exempt workers one and a half times the regular pay rate for any hours worked exceeding 12 hours in a workday, 40 hours per workweek, or 12 consecutive hours excluding meal periods. The Wage Transparency Act prevents employers from punishing employees for discussing wages with others. Employers may not require employees to refrain from discussing their wages or sign a waiver or other document limiting these rights to discuss wage information.

Worker pay and benefits

Employers must pay workers in cash or by check without discount in cash, payable on demand. Employers may pay by electronic pay card or direct deposit under some circumstances. Pay statements must be provided to each worker at least monthly, or when they get paid. Pay statements must include the name, address, and telephone number of the employer, the name of the employee or social security number, gross wages earned, amount and purpose of each deduction made, net wages earned, total hours worked, regular and overtime hours, straight time, overtime pay, and allowances claimed as part of the minimum wage. The statements must also include the payment date and the beginning and ending dates of the pay period, pay rates, basis for the rates, an indication of the hour, shift, day, week, salary, commission, piece, or other bases of pay and if applicable for piece rate, the number of pieces completed and each rate.

Wage notices and pay frequency

Employers must post a notice informing employees of the regular paydays, place of payment and time, and any changes. Employers must pay workers on regular paydays. Paydays must be at least every 30 days or once a month, whichever is longer, and may not be later than ten days after each pay period closes. Employers may make deductions from workers’ wages if the state or federal law or court order requires them, or if the worker authorizes the deductions in writing. Employees have the right to access their personnel records at least once per year. They may inspect records used to determine qualifications for discipline or termination, additional compensation, promotion, and employment.

Employee breaks

Employers are required to provide workers with meal breaks of at least 30 minutes for every five consecutive work hours. Breaks may be unpaid if all job duties are relieved during break time. All workers are entitled to a 10-minute rest break for every four hours worked. r

Child labor laws

Colorado restricts occupations in which minors may be legally employed with reductions in the number of hours and times of day minors are allowed to work. Minors under the age of 18 are prohibited from working in hazardous occupations including but not limited to certain power-driven machinery operations, transporting or storing explosives, and manufacturing. Some minors at least 14 years old may work in some approved training, educational, or apprenticeship programs. Minors who are under age 16 are not allowed to work over six hours after school hours unless the following day is not a school day. They may only work on school days during school hours with a school release permit. They may not work between 9:30 pm to 5:00 am unless the next day is not a school day except for certain occupations such as models, performers, actors, or babysitters. Minors under age 18 may not work over forty hours per week or eight hours in any twenty-four-hour period except for an approved emergency.

Termination laws

employees who resign may get all their earned wages and compensation on the next regular payday. If an employer terminates a worker, wages must get paid immediately unless the employer does not have an operational accounting unit. The wages should get paid within 6 hours of the following workday or if the accounting unit is offsite. In this case, employers have 24 hours from the beginning of the next business day to pay out earned wages and compensation. Employers have ten days to determine the value of properties not returned by an employee or damaged and are allowed to deduct the costs from the final paycheck.

COBRA coverage

Employers may be required to provide COBRA coverage for health insurance if there is a reduction in work hours, job transition, death, divorce, or other life circumstance or involuntary loss of job. COBRA coverage may continue for up to 36 months. It applies to the employee and all covered dependents.

Colorado Leave laws

Employment Law Handbook explains that Colorado does not provide employees with vacation leave benefits by law, but employers may opt to provide these benefits. If employers choose to provide vacation leave, they must stipulate the terms at the start of employment and then adhere to the terms. Workers must get paid for earned leave upon leaving employment or when the contract ends. Employers may not deny employees payment for accrued vacation leave. All employers must provide unpaid sick leave for employers per FMLA and other federal laws. There are no requirements for private employers to provide workers with paid or unpaid holiday leave. Employers are required to pay regular employees for Jury Duty leave up to $50 a day for the first three days. Colorado mandates employers to provide workers up to two hours of paid leave for voting if the worker requests leave a day before the election date and within three or more hours after the polls open or before they close, and if the worker is not required to be on the job. Employers are required to provide eligible workers with paid sick leave and safe leave under the Healthy Families and Workplaces Act. Workers may use leave for themselves or a family member with mental or physical illness, injury, need for medical diagnosis, treatment or care, health condition, or preventative medical care. Workers may also use sick leave for mental health or other counseling, victim services, or relocation. Workers may also use it to seek legal help to prepare for a civil or criminal proceeding involving harassment, sexual assault, or domestic abuse. Other leaves and time off are family care leave, crime victim leave, domestic violence leave, jury duty leave, military leave, Civil Air Patrol leave, qualified volunteers leave, voting leave, and volunteer firefighters leave.

Final thoughts

This is an overview of the labor laws for the state of Colorado. These laws are continually changed and updated. It’s wise to continue to check back for updates about specific laws and investigate all of the statutes associated with these laws. In cases where state and federal laws overlap, the laws that offer the most benefit to the workers prevail. If you feel you have been discriminated against or treated unfairly by an employer, you may contact an attorney to discuss your concerns.

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