Colorado Enacts Slate of New Employment Laws

Author: Emily Scace, Brightmine Legal Editor

June 21, 2023

Following an active legislative session in Colorado, employers in the Centennial State will soon have a range of new compliance obligations to manage in areas including age discrimination, harassment and nondisclosure agreements.

Age Discrimination

The Colorado Job Application Fairness Act will prohibit employers from requesting age-related information - such as dates of birth and dates of attendance at, or graduation from, an educational institution - on job applications beginning July 1, 2024.

The new law does not bar employers from requesting materials such as transcripts and certifications that may contain these dates, as long as they notify applicants that they may redact the age-related information. Also, employers may ask applicants to verify that they meet any age-related standards imposed for reasons of public or workplace safety or required under another law.


Colorado is the latest state to significantly broaden the definition of harassment in the workplace. Under the Protecting Opportunities and Workers' Rights (POWR) Act, conduct need not be "severe or pervasive" - the standard under federal law - to qualify as unlawful harassment.

Harassment will now cover any unwelcome physical or verbal conduct, or written or visual communication, that is:

  • Directed at an individual or a group on the basis of a protected characteristic;
  • Subjectively offensive to the person claiming harassment; and
  • Objectively offensive to a reasonable person who shares the same protected characteristic.

In evaluating whether certain conduct rises to the level of unlawful harassment, relevant factors include frequency, duration, the number of individuals involved, whether the conduct is threatening, and whether there is a power differential between the alleged perpetrator and the target of the harassment.

Notably, while other jurisdictions that have broadened their definitions of harassment have generally limited these changes to sexual harassment, Colorado's law applies to any form of harassment based on a protected characteristic.

The changes take effect August 7, 2023.

Limits on Nondisclosure Agreements

Also effective August 7, provisions in nondisclosure and nondisparagement agreements that limit an employee's ability to discuss alleged discriminatory or unfair employment practices are void unless certain conditions are met.

These conditions include the following:

  • The nondisclosure provision must apply equally to all parties to the agreement;
  • The nondisclosure provision must not restrict the employee from disclosing the underlying facts of alleged discriminatory or unfair employment practice in certain contexts (such as discussions with family members, medical professionals and legal counsel; disclosure to government agencies; and response to legal process); and
  • Any liquidated damages provision must be reasonable, proportionate and nonpunitive.

Employers that violate the law may subject to a per-violation penalty of $5,000, in addition to damages.

Expanded Uses for Paid Sick Leave

S.B. 17 modifies the state's Healthy Families and Workplaces Act, which mandates paid sick leave, to require employers to allow employees to use their accrued leave to:

  • Care for a family member whose school or place of care is closed because of inclement weather, loss of power or another unexpected occurrence;
  • Evacuate their place of residence because of inclement weather, loss of power or another unexpected event that necessitates evacuation; or
  • Grieve, attend funeral services or deal with financial and legal matters following the death of a family member.

S.B. 17 takes effect August 7.

Other Changes

In addition to the harassment and nondisclosure provisions, the POWR Act adds marital status as a protected class, modifies some disability-related provisions and requires employers to maintain certain records of complaints of discriminatory or unfair employment practices. Colorado also recently modified its pay transparency law, with changes taking effect January 1, 2024.