DENVER, CO – Governor Jared Polis today signed two bills into law that will protect whistleblowers and help Coloradans with low-level criminal records find secure jobs or housing.
In 2020, the legislature passed legislation establishing protections for whistleblowers during a public health emergency. SB22-097, sponsored by Senators Brittany Pettersen and Robert Rodriguez and Representatives Leslie Herod and Tom Sullivan, makes these protections permanent.
“With the passage of HB 20-1415 we gave workers the protection to speak out about health and safety concerns without fear of retaliation only during public health emergencies,” said Senator Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood. “Essential workers will still be essential after the pandemic, which is why I am proud to champion this new lawl that will extend these protections permanently and help keep workers and the public safe.”
“Extending whistleblower protections for essential workers is the right move to keep our workers and the public safe,” said Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver. “This law permanently extends protections for workers put in place during the pandemic so Coloradans can report health and safety concerns without fear of retaliation. All Coloradans should feel safe speaking out about workplace conditions that could harm them or the people around them.”
“Coloradans shouldn’t have to worry about losing their job or having their hours slashed for reporting unsafe working conditions. These whistleblower protections prioritize the health and safety of our essential workers,” said Rep. Tom Sullivan, D-Centennial. “When the pandemic began, we gave workers the necessary protection to report health and safety concerns without fear of retaliation. This new law extends those reporting protections for workers regardless of a public health emergency, so they can always feel safe to report dangerous conditions.”
SB22-097 protects workers in the public and private sectors by ensuring that all workers have the same protections, including the ability to raise concerns about workplace health and safety practices or hazards to their employer, other workers, the public or government agencies. The legislation also protects workers from retaliation, discrimination, or adverse action, allows workers to wear personal protective equipment while at work without fear of discrimination, and requires employers to notify employees of their rights.
When employees do raise concerns, various remedy options are included under the bill, including filing a claim with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) or bringing an action in court. The legislation also gives CDLE the authority to enforce and investigate claims.
“The pandemic highlighted the need to improve how we take care of our community, and we worked hard this session to help give working folks better protections and opportunities,” said Senator Robert Rodriguez, D-Denver. “These news laws will ensure that no worker will have to worry about losing their job or having their hours cut because they speak out about working conditions that threaten them and their colleagues, and allow Coloradans who have paid their debt to society to access the jobs and housing they need to rebuild their lives while strengthening our workforce as we work to rebuild our economy and move Colorado forward.”
Currently, criminal records are a substantial obstacle for people in search of jobs or housing, which punishes Coloradans after they have served their time and exacerbates the state’s workforce shortage. SB22-099, sponsored by Senators Robert Rodriguez and Dennis Hisey and Representatives Kerry Tipper and Colin Larson, extends automatic record sealing to all eligible offenses, removing this obstacle to housing and employment for many Coloradans.
“This bipartisan law will help Coloradans who are already eligible for record sealing by automatically sealing their records, making it easier for people to find jobs and housing opportunities,” said Rep. Kerry Tipper, D-Lakewood. “This new law will boost our workforce, increase job opportunities for Coloradans and reduce recidivism by helping people get back on their feet.”
The pandemic has made it harder for employers to hire and retain employees and for Coloradans to find adequate housing. Under the law, criminal records that are currently eligible for sealing upon petition, including civil infractions, will now be automatically sealed. This includes the records of victims of human trafficking who have been convicted or charged with prostitution.