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January 2014

Gordon & Rees 2013 Year-End Colorado Employment Law Update

2013 saw a significant amount of new legislation affecting employers in Colorado.  The laws range from a raise of the minimum wage to restrictions on the use of consumer credit information for employment purposes. Colorado employers should take stock of the laws below and work with legal counsel to implement any necessary changes.  Attorneys in Gordon & Rees’s  Labor & Employment Practice Group are available to assist employers with any questions or concerns about these laws.

New Minimum Wage

2013 Colorado Minimum Wage - $7.78 an hour / $4.76 an hour for tipped employees

2014 Colorado Minimum Wage - $8.00 an hour / $4.98 an hour for tipped employees

(effective Jan. 1, 2014)

Colorado Civil Union Act

On March 21, 2013, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the Colorado Civil Union Act into law, authorizing two unmarried adults, regardless of gender, to enter into a civil union.  Effective May 1, 2013, the new Colorado law grants individuals in a civil union “the rights, benefits … and other incidents under law as are granted to spouses, whether those rights are derived from statute, administrative or court rule, policy, common law or any other source of law.”  Among other rights, protections, and benefits, of central importance to employers, the new law sets out the following:

  • Health insurance policies and life insurance policies issued in Colorado must offer same-sex civil union partners the same coverage as married spouses. However, group health insurance plans are not required to allow civil union partners to be enrolled until Jan. 1, 2014, or the first renewal after that date, if later.
  • Parties to a civil union are entitled to dependent coverage under health and life insurance policies for plans issued, delivered, or renewed on or after Jan. 1, 2014.
  • Discrimination based on spousal status is prohibited.
  • If an employer is not subject to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), but provides a similar type of leave as a benefit to its employees on its own volition, that benefit must extend to civil union partners.

Employers should update their policies, forms, and practices to comply with the Civil Union Act. 

DOMA Decision Expands Entitlement to FMLA

On June 26, 2013, in United States v. Windsor, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Section 3 provided that, in any federal statute, the term "marriage" means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and that "spouse" refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.  

The FMLA allows employees to take job-protected leave for certain family and medical reasons, including time to care for a spouse who has a serious health condition or for activities related to a spouse’s military deployment.  The Department of Labor (DOL) has issued updated guidance stating that, for purposes of the FMLA, “spouse” means a husband or wife as defined or recognized under state law for purposes of marriage in the state where the employee resides.  Same-sex marriages are lawful in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.  Thus, employers with operations in those states should update their FMLA leave policy, forms, and practices to include same-sex marriage.  Colorado recognizes civil unions, but not same-sex marriage, so the decision does not directly affect Colorado employers.

To read an in-depth discussion on the DOMA decision, click here.

To continue reading the 2013 Year-End Colorado Employment Law Update, please click here.

Employment Law

Employment Law