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April 24, 2023

House Committee Passes Legislation to Support Coloradans with a Disability, Expand Workers Protections

Legislation includes a taskforce to study issues that impact Coloradans living with a disability, expansions to the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act and public employee protections

DENVER, CO – The House State, Civic, Military & Veterans Affairs Committee passed legislation to support Coloradans living with a disability and expand worker’s rights and protections.  

“Twenty-percent of Coloradans live with a disability, yet we’re failing to meet their right to access basic services,” said Rep. David Ortiz, D-Littleton, sponsor of HB23-1296. “Our legislation creates a diverse taskforce that will bring forward meaningful ways we can improve basic access to housing, employment, governmental services and the outdoors for those living with a disability. Basic access is a right, not a privilege, and we’re working toward achieving basic access for each and every Coloradan.” 

“When it comes to participating in government, securing housing, starting a new career or getting outside to enjoy the beautiful landscapes our state has to offer, Coloradans living with a disability often face significant accessibility barriers,” said Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, sponsor of HB23-1296. “From housing to employment, our legislation creates an innovative taskforce to dig into the accessibility issues faced by the disability community and work toward solutions. Securing basic access for those living with a disability is just the beginning, and we’re committed to developing solutions that work for everyone.” 

HB23-1296, sponsored by Representatives David Ortiz and Leslie Herod, passed committee unanimously. This bill would create the Rights of Coloradans with Disabilities task force to study issues concerning Coloradans’ with disabilities. This important task force would include four different subcommittees focused on state and local government, the rewrite of the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act and accessibility in housing and the outdoors. 

This legislation aims to ensure basic civil rights of individuals with disabilities in these four key areas by providing essential research and information to make Colorado more accessible for all. 20-percent of Coloradans live with a disability and this legislation works toward protecting civil liberties and expanding basic access to housing, employment, recreation and government services.

“When we passed the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act in 2019, Colorado made significant strides toward equity in the workplace, however, more must be done to ensure women are paid fairly for their work,” said Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez, D-Denver, sponsor of SB23-105. “We’re working hard to fight inequity, and this legislation strengthens Colorado’s Equal Pay for Equal Work Act to further address the wage gap. This legislation combats wage discrimination that keeps our mothers, sisters, aunts and friends from earning less; if men and women are doing the same job, they should be compensated the same.” 

“The Equal Pay for Equal Work Act is law, yet women in Colorado are still earning less than men for doing the same job, and the wage gaps between Black women and white men are staggering,” said Assistant Majority Leader Jennifer Bacon, D-Denver, sponsor of SB23-105. “This important legislation would require the state to investigate, take action, and follow up when wage discrimination cases are filed so we can come closer to achieving pay equity. This bill requires that job opportunities and their salaries are posted and shared with employees. Not only does this improve wage transparency, but fosters an environment for women to advocate for better, fairer wages as we build back from the pandemic to uplift communities hit the hardest. When women succeed, we all succeed, and creating stronger communities begins with equal pay for equal work.” 

SB23-105, sponsored by Assistant Majority Leader Bacon and Representative Gonzales-Gutierrez passed committee by a vote of 8 to 3. This bill would strengthen Colorado's Equal Pay for Equal Work Act to ensure all Colorado workers are compensated equally for their labor. Specifically, this bill would require the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) to accept and mediate complaints, provide legal resources concerning alleged wage inequality, and to promulgate rules to further prevent wage discrimination. Previously the department was only authorized to do so; this bill provides a clearer directive and the resources and staffing to back it up. 

This bill would also require CDLE to investigate complaints or other leads concerning wage inequality, and to address the situation if the complaint is found to be valid as well as requiring employers to follow specific guidelines for job postings. SB230-105 would also extend the maximum period for which a person pursuing a wage discrimination complaint may receive back pay to six years, doubling what is currently allowed under state law. 

“Plain and simple, public sector employees deserve the same workplace protections already offered to private sector employees,” said Rep. Steven Woodrow, Chair of the House State, Civic, Military & Veterans Affairs Committee and sponsor of SB23-111. “Colorado’s public workers – firefighters, teachers, public defenders – keep our communities safe and thriving. Public workers should be allowed to discuss workplace issues, join an employee organization and participate in our political process without the fear of losing their job, and this legislation guarantees them that right.”

SB23-111, sponsored by Representative Woodrow, passed committee by a vote of 8 to 3. This bill aims to extend employee protections and rights for Coloradans working in the public sector. This legislation would give public employees the right to discuss views on employee representation or workplace issues, engage in mutual aid, participate in the political process while off duty and out of uniform and organize, join or assist in an employee organization.

Private sector employees already have the concerted activity protections outlined in this legislation. SB23-111 aims to align public and private sector employee benefits to ensure every Colorado worker has equalized protections and rights.

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