Back Colorado Labor and Employment Laws

Colorado Labor and Employment Laws

Labor and employment laws play an important part of a civilized society. uring his introduction of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) of 1935, Senator Robert Wagner once said, “Democracy cannot work unless it is honored in the factory as well as the polling booth; men cannot truly be free in body and spirit unless their freedom extends into places where they earn their daily bread.” 

This declaration captures the essence of the various labor laws enacted during the past century. In a democracy, the principles of equality and the rule of law must be upheld, even in private contracts.

Therefore, whether you are an ordinary employee working for a Colorado -based employer who wants to know what rights you are entitled to as an employee, or an HR professional or a legal counsel tasked to ensure that the Colorado -based employer you are working for is compliant with labor laws to prevent exposing said employers to potential liabilities, learning about labor laws is essential. This article aims to provide you with an overview of labor laws in general, as well as laws enacted by the state of Delaware in particular. This article also provides the importance and purpose of these laws, and some frequently asked questions (FAQs).

What are the Labor Laws in Colorado ?

Colorado employment law is a collection of state and federal labor laws. These laws include provisions for wage payment, minimum wage, child labor, and prevailing wages for state-funded construction projects.

Why are Labor Laws Important?

Boone (2015) noted that throughout the early 1900s, working conditions for the average American worker were fairly grim. Child labor was widespread, discrimination in the workplace was normalized, and working conditions were hazardous due to lack of safety regulations. Additionally, unions did not have sufficient protections from the federal government, which made it difficult for workers’ unions to bargain for improved working conditions. Thanks to social and legal shifts throughout the years, labor laws have created better conditions and rights for the American worker. 

Nonetheless, most employers today still exercise tremendous bargaining power over employees, especially at this time when employees’ collective power has dwindled over the years, with union density sitting at around 6.2% percent in the private sector.

Because of this unequal bargaining power, employers are known to have monopsony power. This means employers operate as wage setters rather than wage takers in the employment bargain. As a result, employers will tend to hire fewer workers (thereby leading to either under-employment or worse, unemployment) and those workers suffer lower pay and benefits as well as worse working conditions. Fewer workers also means that employers produce less output and can charge higher prices that harm consumers. Finally,  monopsony power also reduces economic productivity because employers are not competing over wages to lure workers into jobs that are the best match for their productivity and skills.

That is where labor laws come in. Over the course of the 20th century, federal and state laws have been enacted to address this problem of inequality of bargaining power. The aim of these federal laws are to provide social and economic rights for workers, with state laws going beyond such minimum rights by providing expanded rights and protections.

What is the Purpose of the Labor Law

Therefore, the primary purpose of labor law is to minimize, if not eliminate, the negative effects arising from the unequal power wielded by employers, and the inequality of bargaining power between employers and employees. Labor laws impose certain legal requirements on employers which cannot be the subject to negotiation or bargaining with employees. This means that since these requirements are imposed by law, employers have no choice but to comply or face possible civil and/or criminal sanctions from the government.

What is an example of Labor Law in Colorado?

One type of labor law that aims to temper the monopsony power of employers are those that prescribe minimum standards for benefits. An example of this is the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which requires employers to pay at least the federal minimum wage and overtime pay of 1.5x the regular rate of pay. FLSA also deals with how work hours are computed.

Another type of labor law that addresses monopsony power are those that impose minimum safety and health conditions in the workplace. An example of this is the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), which imposes on employers the general duty to provide their employees with a workplace free from recognized, serious hazards.

Labor law also governs workers’ compensation laws, which requires employers to pay compensation and medical benefits to employees who suffer work-related injuries or death. An example of this type of law is the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA), which pays compensation for the disability or death of a federal employee resulting from personal injury sustained while in the performance of duty.

There are also labor laws that aim to regulate the benefits that employees are offered as a way to ensure that the employee’s interests are being considered., There are even laws that impose upon employers the obligation to provide additional benefits to employees that go beyond their usual salary. Examples of these types of laws are the federal Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), which regulates employers who offer pension or welfare benefit plans for employees, and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which requires employers to give unpaid but job-protected leaves to employees who need to attend to the birth or adoption of a child, or for the serious illness of the employee or their family member.

What are Rights of Employees in Colorado?

The following are some of the rights of employees in Colorado, as provided under Colorado employment law and federal law:

  • Right to minimum wage
  • Right to a safe workplace
  • Right to health coverage
  • Right to social security
  • Right to unemployment benefits
  • Right to protection against discrimination
  • Right to family leave

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are overtime rules in Colorado employment laws?

Employees who are qualified for overtime pay according to the Colorado Overtime Pay and Minimum Pay Standards Order shall get paid 1.5x their regular hourly rate for work rendered in excess of the following periods:

  • 40 hours per week;
  • 12 hours per workday; or
  • 12 consecutive hours without regard to the starting and ending time of the workday.

In case of overlapping or conflicting rules, whichever computation results in the higher pay shall be applied. 

2. What is the minimum wage according to Colorado labor law?

As of January 1, 2020, the minimum wage according to Colorado labor law is $12 per hour. This is higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25. For tipped employees, the minimum wage rate in Colorado is $9.30. Employees not exempt from minimum wage must receive the higher rate between state and federal rates.  

3. Can you be fired for no reason in Colorado?

Yes, but with certain exceptions. Colorado is an “employment at will” state. This means an employer or employee may terminate employment at any time, without prior notice, without the need to provide a cause or reason. However, an employee may still sue for wrongful termination if the employer fired them for reasons that are against public policy. These reasons include:

  • Discrimination based on age, race, sexual orientation, gender, religion, national origin, or pregnancy.
  • When the employee was subjected to or reported sexual harassment, and was fired subsequently.
  • Retaliation against whistleblowing or reporting illegal or unethical behavior.
  • When the employee refuses to do something illegal, exercises a legal right, and gets fired as a result.

Regardless of the at-will doctrine in Colorado labor law, this can be overridden by the terms of the employment contract. For example, if the contract stipulates a notice period prior to termination of employment, then the notice period must be observed. Take note that employee handbooks are also considered contracts. Therefore, if the employee handbook contains terms and conditions for termination of employment, both the employer and employee must abide by such terms. If an employer fires an employee without following the clauses established in the contract and employee handbook, they may be sued for wrongful termination in Colorado.

4. What is the required meal period under Colorado employment law?

When an employee’s shift exceeds five consecutive hours of work, they shall be entitled to a 30-minute uninterrupted and duty-free meal break. In order for this to qualify as an uncompensated break, the employee should be able to use this time to pursue personal activities and must be completely unobligated to do any work duties. 

If providing uninterrupted meal periods is impractical or impossible due to the nature of the job or business, the employee must be allowed to consume their meals while on duty, and such time spent while eating must be compensated. 

5. What is the required rest period under Colorado employment law?

Colorado labor law also requires a compensated 10-minute rest period for every 4 hours worked, and for successive intervals, as provided below:

  • 2 hours or fewer: 0 rest periods
  • Over 2 and up to 6 hours: 1 rest period
  • Over 6 and up to 10 hours: 2 rest periods
  • Over 10 and up to 14 hours: 3 rest periods
  • Over 14 and up to 18 hours: 4 rest periods
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