In this Capitol Report:
Colorado Chamber & Business Community Secure Significant Changes to Equal Pay Bill to Reduce Expensive Litigation for Employers
On Wednesday, February 20, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony on Senate Bill 85, the Equal Pay for Equal Work bill, sponsored by Sen. Jessie Danielson, Sen. Brittany Pettersen, Rep. Janet Buckner and Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez.
The Colorado Chamber and over twenty-five business organizations, trade associations, higher education institutions, local chambers of commerce, trade associations, and individual companies opposed this bill as introduced and emphasized that while the goal of SB 85 is commendable, several provisions raised serious concerns for the business community.
Colorado employers testified to some of the problematic provisions of the bill, including the creation of a new private right of action, discrepancies between the bill and the federal Equal Pay Act, the posting requirements for employment opportunities, the ability of employees to volunteer their prior salary to negotiate for a higher wage, and the six-year back pay and record-keeping requirements of the bill.
Loren Furman, Senior Vice President of State and Federal Relations with the Colorado Chamber, also testified on the bill and echoed the concerns of the Colorado business community. She strongly underscored the costly consequences of creating a new private right of action against an employer, which would only encourage a litigious environment between employees and employers. A more effective process, she said, would be to encourage an administrative process to resolve issues through an entity like the Colorado Civil Rights Division before taking them to court.
Furman also applauded the overall goal of the bill and hoped to work with lawmakers to ensure that any new law actually results in good policy. “It’s always in the employer’s best interest to have strong working relationships between an employer and an employee, to treat them equally,” she said.
Ultimately, through the tremendous help of Chairman Pete Lee (D – El Paso), and agreement by the sponsors, the committee passed the bill with several amendments that improve the bill significantly:
- Changing the requirement for employers to maintain records for back pay from six years to three years.
- Changing the effective date of the bill from January 1, 2020 to January 1, 2021, allowing more time to come into compliance.
- Striking language to address concerns about the need to re-post a job if an applicant negotiates outside of the posted pay range.
- Establishing that if an employer has operated in good faith, a court should not have the discretion to award liquidated damages.
- Expanding the factors considered for pay differentials to include geographic location, education, training, experience, and travel.
- Expanding the definition of “substantially similar work.”
- Clarifying that workers have the option of seeking a wage disparity claim through the Colorado Civil Rights Division.
SB 85 will now move on to the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Senate Floor for consideration.
Colorado Chamber Hosts Congressman Crow
On Tuesday, the Chamber’s Federal Policy Council hosted Congressman Jason Crow (D-CO-6) to kick off the 2019 Fed Council’s exciting schedule. Crow rose to office among one of the largest and most diverse classes of U.S. House freshman in more than five decades, and Tuesday was a great opportunity to hear his perspective on how he’s settling in, his priorities in Congress and what the next year could look like.
Despite nearly a quarter of the House being new, Crow has already accomplished several key items – introducing his first piece of legislation (the Dark Act) addressing campaign finance reform, and defining his remaining top priorities – advocating for veterans and active duty military families, and reducing gun violence.
Crow identified the top business issue before Congress as a likely bipartisan and bicameral infrastructure investment package – and his belief that infrastructure cannot be just roads and bridges, but universal access to internet, true investment in communities, and prioritizing dollars and research, rather than small percentages of tax dollars going to each state.
Topics raised by Colorado Chamber members were:
- How to address deficits and mandatory vs. discretionary spending;
- Network neutrality by the FCC – keeping regulatory consistency between administrations;
- Potential upcoming immigration policies (as they relate to government funding passed & signed into law last Friday, 2/15;
- How the Colorado Chamber’s business community can best support our delegation through on-the-ground expertise & perspectives; and,
- A challenge from our members to Congressman Crow & the Colorado Delegation to identify our state’s top priorities and to work together to address those priorities – ideally to be highlighted at the Chamber’s August 2019 Congressional Luncheon.
Attend a Council Meeting and Hear from our Guest Speakers
Policy Councils are at the core of the Colorado Chamber’s work and provide an opportunity for dialogue between our members, key legislators and state agency leaders. Influential guest speakers for upcoming councils are listed below.
Energy & Environment:
February 27th: Will Toor, Executive Director, Colorado Energy Office
March 27th: Representative Chris Hansen, Joint Budget Committee and Chair of Appropriations Committee
March 8th: Cary Kennedy, Senior Advisor for Fiscal Policy, Office of the Governor
Please visit our online calendar for a complete list of council meetings.