Pay Equity Bill Introduced in Colorado Senate

February 6, 2019

By: Colin A. Walker

On January 17, 2019, Senators Brittany Pettersen and Jessie Danielson introduced Senate Bill 19-085, “Equal Pay for Equal Work.”  The bill would prohibit discrimination in wages based on sex, similar to the federal Equal Pay Act, but would apply to all employers in Colorado.  Wage differentials based on sex would be prohibited unless the employer could prove that the differential is the result of a seniority system, a merit system, or a system that measures earnings by quality or quantity of production, and that this was done reasonably and that prior wage history was not relied on to justify wage differentials.

The bill would also prohibit an employer from inquiring about compensation history of job applicants, a concept that has been introduced in previous legislative sessions, but has not passed.

The Department of Labor would not have enforcement authority.  The bill creates a private right of action for employees subjected to pay discrimination or retaliation, including economic damages (the difference in pay), liquidated damages in the amount of the economic damages, equitable relief (such as reinstatement and pay increase), costs, and attorneys’ fees.  If the employer proves that it acted in good faith, the court needs not award liquidated damages.

In addition, the bill would require employers to announce all “advancement opportunities,” job openings, and the pay range.  The Department of Labor would have enforcement authority over this part of the law and could impose fines between $500 and $10,000 per violation.  There is no private cause of action for this part of the bill.

A hearing has not yet been set.