Colorado legislators are only a few steps away from approving the Colorado “Equal Pay for Equal Work Act” (SB 19-085) and making Colorado the latest state to enact enhanced equal pay legislation.
Colorado’s 2019 Equal Pay Law, as originally introduced in January, would likely have been the most aggressive equal pay law in the nation. While the current bill would still be among the most stringent, hearings held on the law in February resulted in a number of employer-friendly amendments. Prominent among these changes was the addition of several defenses now available to employers to explain pay differences between employees such as geographic location, training, education, and travel.
During recent debate in the Colorado Senate, Republicans offered an amendment that would have removed the private right of action and kept enforcement of state equal pay violations with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. The amendment failed (16-19) along party lines, and no substantive changes have been made since the proposed law cleared committees in late-February. The Colorado Senate approved the final bill 20-14, with two Republicans joining 18 Democrats.
It is now a race against time for the bill to pass, as the Colorado Legislature is set to adjourn on May 3. SB 19-085 is scheduled for a hearing in the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee before moving to the House Floor for a final vote. Democrats (all expected to vote in favor of the law) hold a 41-24 advantage in the Colorado House. If the bill moves forward unchanged, it would then head to Governor Jared Polis, who is likely to sign it. However, if the House amends the bill, its fate becomes more questionable as it would have to return for re-passage by the Senate with only a few days left in the legislative session or be re-introduced at the beginning of 2020.
We will continue to monitor and report on this any other developments in equal pay laws.