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April 26, 2023

Bill to Combat Workplace Harassment and Discrimination Moves Forward

The POWR Act protects workers from workplace harassment and discrimination

DENVER, CO – The House today advanced legislation on a preliminary vote to improve safety and equity in the workplace by implementing critical anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies. 

The Protecting Opportunity & Workers’ Rights (POWR) Act, sponsored by Representative Mike Weissman and Assistant Majority Leader Jennifer Bacon, combats workplace harassment and discrimination while prioritizing employees. 

“No one should face workplace harassment or discrimination at work, which is why we are revising Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws to protect our workers,” said Rep. Mike Weissman, D-Aurora. "In 2023, it's time that we say that people should not have to suffer workplace harassment that can go without a remedy as long as it's not "severe" or "pervasive" under a nearly 40-year old legal standard. The POWR Act holds wrongdoers accountable for workplace harassment and creates safer, more productive workplaces in the process. Every Coloradan deserves to earn a living in a workspace free of harassment or discrimination, and this legislation puts policies in place to do that.”

“To protect Coloradans who have faced workplace harassment and discrimination, our laws need to be on their side,” said Assistant Majority Leader Jennifer Bacon, D-Denver. “The POWR Act provides some long overdue modifications to Colorado’s law that will improve accountability measures and create safer workspaces. We need to do everything we can to make it easier for Coloradans to earn a living and excel in their career. Our legislation gives power and protection to the worker, paving the way for Coloradans to thrive in their workplace.” 

POWR Act: SB23-172 would update the definition of harassment and specify that harassment does not need to be “severe or pervasive” to constitute a discriminatory or unfair practice. The bill also deters future harassment by modernizing language around non-disclosure agreements, expanding protections for people with disabilities, and adding marital status as a protected class.

Eliminating the excessive “severe or pervasive'' hostile work environment requirements and replacing them with clear standards for “harass” and “harassment” considers the totality of the circumstances, and will allow survivors of discrimination and harassment to better pursue justice. The POWR Act also removes the language in the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA) that permits employers to discriminate against people with disabilities or refuse to accommodate them if “the disability has a significant impact on the job.” The bill also adds marital status as a protected class under these conditions. 

Additionally, the bill establishes an affirmative defense for an employer if the employer meets certain requirements, including establishing a harassment prevention program, taking prompt action in response to a complaint, and keeping records of any complaints.  

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