The latest session of the Colorado General Assembly has moved from the newspaper to the history books, and the Governor has signed many bills into law. This past legislative session generated many bills of interest to small businesses and employers in Colorado. This post outlines some of the new laws for Colorado employers to be aware of, provides a summary of the new laws, and links to resources for readers to learn more.
Sales and Use Tax Simplification Task Force: HB 17-1216
For many businesses operating in Colorado, dealing with sales and use tax can be a challenge. Different cities and counties have different rules than the state’s rules, and this can make running multiple locations of a business challenging. Recognizing that Colorado’s tax system can make it hard for businesses, lawmakers have taken the first step toward a potential solution. This law creates a task force to study sales and use tax simplification throughout the state. While this bill doesn’t bring immediate change, it does signal that lawmakers are looking into how to make these taxes a bit more approachable and uniform throughout Colorado.
Read more about the law here: http://leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb17-1216
Workers’ Compensation Coverage for Mental Impairment: HB17-1229
HB17-1229: Workers’ Compensation for Mental Impairment adds an important change to the state Workers’ Compensation system, explaining when coverage for mental impairment kicks in. The law makes clear that employees can’t generally recover workers’ comp. for claimed mental impairment that arose from normal actions taken by the employer, such as disciplinary action or a lay-off. Instead, the law notes that workers’ compensation coverage may be available after an employee experiences a psychologically traumatic event.
Read more about the law here: http://leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb17-1229
HB 17-1119: Payment of Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Maintaining the proper workers’ compensation insurance is something that should already be on an employer’s radar, and this bill doesn’t change that requirement. Instead, it emphasizes that for employers who try to shirk the responsibility to carry this insurance, the penalties will be steep. This bill creates a mechanism for employees to get paid workers’ compensation benefits, even if their employer doesn’t carry the proper insurance. How are they paid? Through penalties from employers who fail to carry the proper insurance. Pay now or pay (even more) later.
Read more about the law here: http://leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb17-1119
Wage Transparency Protection for Workers: HB 17-1269
Colorado’s employment discrimination law makes it an unfair labor practice for an employer to punish an employee for discussing his or her pay. Up until recently, however, this law carved out an exception for employers who were not covered by the National Labor Relations Act, the main federal labor law. This law removes that exception. What does this mean for employers? Examine whether you have any rules prohibiting employees from sharing information about how much they get paid. Unless otherwise permitted by federal law (and that would be a narrow exception), most Colorado employers should not discipline or take any other adverse action against an employee for discussing their pay.
Read more about the law here: http://leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb17-1269
HB 17-1021: Wage Theft Transparency Act
Under Colorado law, employers are required to provide certain requested information to the Department of Labor and Employment. When this information is obtained, it is not supposed to be released if it contains a trade secret. This bill clarifies that when the Department gets information that relates to a violation of a wage law, it can be released to the public under the Colorado Open Records Act, so long as it doesn’t involve a trade secret.
Read more about the law here: http://leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb17-1021
SB 17-112: Sales & Use Tax Payment to Wrong Local Government:
The complexity of sales and use tax to local governments was definitely at the forefront of the minds of the legislators this year. This bill deals with the situation when a taxpayer has paid these taxes to the wrong local government. It was passed in response to a court case that resulted in a taxpayer having to pay the taxes twice to two different local governments. Once this bill goes into effect, a person facing that situation may have a remedy to prevent paying twice.
Read more about the law here: http://leg.colorado.gov/bills/sb17-112
SB 17-189: Consumer Options in Fingerprint Background Checks
If you are a business that requires fingerprint-based background checks as a part of your employee screening process, this law is for you. Up until recently, law enforcement agencies were the only authorized agencies that could take fingerprints for this process. This law removes that requirement and provides for a great number of options for employers.
Read more about the law here: http://leg.colorado.gov/bills/sb17-189
HB 17-1214: Encourage Employee Ownership of Existing Small Business
This law recognizes the reality that many small businesses in Colorado face: their owners are aging with no succession plan in sight. In light of this concern, employee ownership of existing businesses has emerged as a possible solution, and this law encourages it. As a result of this law, the Colorado Office of Economic Development will be tasked with prioritizing employee-owned businesses. Among other things, the law requires the Office to have a local nonprofit provide staff education to the Office in order to promote employee ownership in conjunction with the Office’s small business assistance center. In addition, the Office will set up a revolving loan program to assist businesses to transition to employee-owned businesses. Small businesses looking at the possibility of offering ownership to employees should be sure to check out the law, and the resources of the Office, to learn more.
Read more about the law here: http://leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb17-1214