For year, people have noticed that women and minorities are often paid less for the same work as their Caucasian, male counterparts. But Colorado has tried to change that and make the pay landscape more fair for everyone. The Equal Pay for Equal Work Act (EPEWA) was signed into law in 2019 with the intent of eliminating the gender pay gap and requiring employers to provide equal pay for substantially similar work, regardless of an employee’s gender or other protected status. The act also prohibits employers from asking prospective employees about their previous salary history, as this can perpetuate wage gaps and discrimination. Studies have shown that it’s harder for women and minorities to request higher salaries when interviewing for jobs. To help fix this, employers must disclose a salary range for the position being offered instead of setting the salary off someone’s past pay.
And to help ensure equal pay for all, Colorado took it a step further and as of January 1, 2021, employers are not allowed to discriminate against employees because of gender identity.
Other equal pay protections in the law
The law includes new job posting requirements to help all employees receive notices about new opportunities.
- Employers are required to make reasonable efforts to “announce, post, or make known all opportunities for promotion” to all current employees on the same calendar day.
- Each job posting has to disclose the hourly wage or salary (or range) , along with a general description of all benefits and other compensation offered.
The Equal Pay Act also requires employers to keep records of all job descriptions and wage histories for the duration of each employee’s employment, and for at least two years after that. This includes hourly rate or salary range, plus all benefits and other compensation offered to the employee. Failure by the employer to maintain these records creates a rebuttable presumption that the records not maintained contained information favorable to the employee’s claim in a lawsuit.
Finally, the EPEWA provides a right of action that allows employees to sue for up to three years of back pay for unlawful pay disparities. Employees may also receive additional damages if an employer is shown not to have acted in “good faith” when determining compensation. Finally, employees can sue for attorney fees, reinstatement, promotions, pay increases, and other legal relief.
What can I do if I don’t think I’m receiving equal pay?
If you believe you are being paid less than other employees who do similar work, or less than you should based on your duties and qualifications, you can file a complaint with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE). They will investigate the complaint and take appropriate actions if necessary.
Visit the CDLE website and fill out the Equal Pay Complaint form. You will need to provide information about your employer, your job duties, and any evidence you have to support your claim. If you know the salaries of other employees who do the same work as you, provide that as well. The National Labor Relations Act makes it illegal for employers to stop or punish employees for discussing their salaries.
Exceptions to the Equal Pay Act
While employees are protected against discrimination based on gender, race or other protected classes for work requiring similar skill, effort and responsibility, the law does permit pay differences arising from:
- A seniority system
- A merit system
- A system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production
- The geographic location where the work is performed
- Education, training, or experience reasonably related to the work
- Travel that is a regular and necessary condition of the job
However, the law also states that employers must prove that they “reasonably” relied on any of these exceptions they use when determining salary. If an employer is going to pay a male employee more because he has more education, they have to prove that the additional education makes a difference in job performance.
What else can I do?
It’s important for employees to know their rights to inform their employer if they believe they are being discriminated against. Employers who violate the law may face fines and other penalties, so it’s in their best interest to ensure that they are following the mandates of the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act. However, that doesn’t mean that all of them will do that.
If you feel you have been the victim of pay discrimination, you need to act quickly because there is are time limitations (300 days to two years after your last unfair paycheck) for when you can file a claim. Beyond that, compile all your employment records, including reviews and pay history. If you don’t have these records, you have the right to request them from your employer (see our post: You have a right to your personnel files). After that, you need to find an attorney who is experienced in fighting workplace discrimination. Call the Civil Rights Litigation Group at 720-515-6165, or use our online contact form, to schedule your free consultation with us today. We’ll aggressively fight for you in court and make sure your rights are protected and you are treated fairly.