Earlier this month, Colorado enacted a new law that makes a number of changes to the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA). These changes are designed to make the workplace more welcoming and less discriminatory for all employees.
The new law is called the Protecting Opportunities and Workers’ Rights (POWR) Act. Let’s look at just a few items included in the POWR Act that Colorado employers (and their employees) should be aware of.
New protection for marital status
The law adds marital status as a protected employment class. That means applicants and employees can’t be discriminated against based on their status (for example, single, married, divorced or widowed). That doesn’t mean employers can’t have rules in place that prevent someone from being in their spouse’s “chain of command” or other regulations that prevent conflicts of interest.
Broadened protections against discriminatory and unfair practices
Previously, CADA stated that any workplace conduct or employment practice was discriminatory or unfair if it was “severe and pervasive.” That has been broadened to any conduct or practice “subjectively offensive to the individual alleging harassment and objectively offensive to members of the same protected class.”
Restricted non-disclosure provisions
There’s been widespread pushback in recent years on the use of non-disclosure or confidentiality provisions in agreements that prevent employees from discussing alleged workplace sexual harassment and discrimination – even after they’re no longer with an employer. The law provides new requirements for such provisions to be considered valid.
Employers who require employees to sign non-compliant agreements can face fines of as much as $5,000 for each one. They can also be subject to civil actions by employees.
The law also has provisions regarding reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities and stricter record-keeping rules. All Colorado employers and the appropriate staff need to be familiar with the current law. This can help prevent unnecessary and costly legal issues. If you have questions or are facing legal action by a current or former employee, experienced legal guidance is crucial.