Holding the Line Against Workplace Discrimination

(Feb. 19) – The House Judiciary Committee turned aside a bill this afternoon that would have taken away a legal tool that Colorado workers can now use to protect themselves against blatant, intentional discrimination when they are at work.

Colorado law, as amended effective on Jan. 1, allows a court to award punitive damages when it finds that an employer maliciously, or with reckless indifference, engages in discriminatory workplace practices. HB15-1172, sponsored by Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso, R-Loveland, would have taken away that enforcement tool.

Rep. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, the Judiciary vice chairman, recited the long list of limitations, prerequisites and guardrails around the punitive damages provision, including the requirement that the discrimination be intentional and with malice; the more stringent “clear and convincing” evidence standard; the provision giving the judge discretion to consider the size of the company and the assets of the employer when considering damages; and protections against frivolous lawsuits.

“I think the bill is pretty modest as it is, and I would prefer to wait to see how it operates than to pre-emptively strike it down, or at least this aspect of it,” Rep. Lee told Rep. DelGrosso before the bill was defeated on a 7-6 party-line vote.

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