Employment and Human Resources Changes in Colorado 2021

Guest Blog Writer Kate Eckel 

As we come spiraling out of 2020 and into 2021 the State of Colorado still has us on our toes with regards to major changes in Employment regulations and Following are some significant changes, per the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment Division of Labor Standards and Statistics effective January 1, 2021 that employers need to implement immediately in order to be in compliance.

Minimum wage increases for both the State of Colorado and the City of Denver.  Effective January 1, 2020 Colorado increased it’s minimum wage to $12.32 an hour.  The city of Denver increased its minimum wage to $14.77 an hour. 

What action do employers need to take?

  • Get updated Labor Law posters up in your facilities.  It is also recommended that if you have an online portal for your employees that the Labor Law posters are available online as well.
  • Build out your pay ranges.   Each position in your organization should have a pay range associated with it.  Your entry level positions will have a minimum wage of $14.77 an hour in the Denver metro area, while other areas in the state will have a minimum rate of $12.32 an hour.  You will want to build a midpoint range and a max range for each position in your organization.  Best practice is that as you hire individuals into your organization you will base an individual’s pay on skills and experience thus protecting your organization from discrimination charges.
  • Work with an HR professional to determine competitive wages in the market.  This will be part of your compensation plan and assist you in recruiting, hiring and promotions.

Paid Sick Leave is also effective January 1, 2021. Colorado has implemented the Health Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA).  This requires all employers with 16 or more employees to offer 48 hours of sick time.

What actions do employers need to take?

  • Make sure you have a policy in your Employee handbook on sick time as well as PTO/Vacation. 
  • Work with your in house accountant/payroll/third party payroll company to add a 48-hour sick bank in your system.  This benefit can be set up on an accrual basis.  Paid leave must accrue at one hour for every thirty hours worked up to a cap of 48 hours of paid sick time in a given year.
  • Failure to set up a 48 hour Paid Sick time policy may result in charges of failure to pay wages.  Something you will want to avoid.
  • Make yourself aware of specifics of the HFWA and establish a communications plan out to your employees that this is an additional benefit for them.
  • You do not need to pay out unused sick time at the time of termination.
  • Employers may no longer have a “use it or lose it” policy with regards to PTO/Vacation time and must allow a portion to roll over and pay out at termination.

The Equal Pay for Equal Work Act effective January 1, 2021. The Equal Pay for Equal Work Act is intended to promote transparency in pay and opportunities for promotion and advancement to eliminate the gender pay gap. The Rules also set forth the procedure for the filing of complaints, Division investigation, Division determinations, and appeal procedures.

What actions to Employers need to take?

  • State a policy in your handbook that your organization is in compliance with the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act. 
  • Employers are required to post job openings, including promotions, and to disclose compensation and a general description of all benefits offered to the hired applicant. Postings may include compensation ranges if the ranges are based on employers’ good faith and reasonable estimations of possible compensation.
  • Employers must make reasonable efforts to “announce, post or otherwise make known all opportunities for promotion to current employees on the same calendar day....” The Rules define “promotional opportunity” to mean an opportunity that exists “when an employer has or anticipates a vacancy in an existing or new position that could be considered a promotion for one or more employee(s) in terms of compensation, benefits, status, duties, or access to further advancement.” The Rules make clear that an employer must meet the posting and notice requirement regardless of whether the employer feels its employees are or are not qualified for the position. Postings may detail necessary qualifications, and employers may screen and reject candidates based on those qualifications.

COLORADO “WARNING” RULES (The Colorado Whistleblower, Anti-Retaliation, Non-Interference, and Notice- Giving Rules): The Rules give specifics to the Colorado’s Department of Labor and Employment the authority to enforce certain provisions of the Public Health Emergency Whistleblower Act, the Healthy Families and Workplaces Act, the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, the Chance to Compete Act, the COMPS Order, the Colorado Wage Act, and other important state labor and employment statutes and regulation. Emergency rules were adopted on September 21, 2020, and there are few changes to the new rules to take effect on January 1, 2021.

What actions do employers need to take?

  • Make yourself aware of these regulations and the impact on your organization if the regulations are not followed.

DIRECT INVESTIGATION RULES: Gives specifics on Colorado’s Department of Labor and Employment authority to investigate potential violations of various labor standards. The Division’s authority includes enforcement of the Healthy Families and Workplaces Act, the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, the Public Health Emergency Whistleblowing Act, the Chance to Compete Act, and other state labor and employment laws.

What actions do employers need to take?

  • Make yourself aware of these regulations and the impact on your organization if the regulations are not followed     

State Resources 
Colorado Department of Labor Website

For more information or Human Resource help for your business, please reach out to our Guest Writer. 

Kate Eckel, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is Human Resources professional in the Denver area with over 20 years of HR experience.  Kate was the Director of Human Resources for vertically integrated Cannabis Company and understands the complexities of working in the industry.  You may reach Kate at kate@hrpixie.com.


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