Two bills introduced late in this legislative session purport to protect employees – specifically female employees – from wage discrimination. Instead, House Bills 1377 and 1378 paint a target on the Colorado businesses and invite trial lawyers to unleash a new wave of litigation against them.
HB 1377 (sponsored by Reps. James Coleman, D-Denver, and Brittany Petterson, D-Lakewood) would prohibit “seeking” information about a potential employee’s salary history. But what makes this bill so exceptionally misguided is that it makes asking for that information a violation akin to illegal racial or gender discrimination.
That’s right – the sponsors of this bill believe that merely seeking information about a potential employee’s salary history is tantamount to refusing to hire someone because of their race or gender.
By defining salary history as a discriminatory practice, the bill creates an incentive for trial lawyers to sue employers, seeking a wide range of monetary damages, including punitive damages, and automatically forces employers to pay attorney fees and costs to any prevailing plaintiff.
Prevailing employers aren’t automatically entitled to recover their attorney fees and costs. Even if a business has done nothing wrong, defending against a baseless lawsuit is costly!
If there was any doubt that these bills are far more about enriching trial lawyers than eliminating any pay disparity, HB 1378 should dispel them. Sponsored by Rep. Jessie Danielson, D-Wheat Ridge, and Sens. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, and Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, this bill removes the authority of the Department of Labor to penalize employers that pay women less than men for performing the same job and instead uses private litigation for enforcement.
And just as with HB 1377, it gets worse! Next, the bill mandates that every business in Colorado must follow a specific legal procedure before promoting any of its employees. No matter how many employees and no matter what the job, the proponents of this bill believe the State must micromanage day-to-day operations of private businesses – the economic engine of our state.
If this bill becomes law, an employer couldn’t simply give a promotion to a deserving employee – including a female employee – without first advertising the opportunity for promotion to all existing employees.
In the past year, Colorado has fallen to its worst alltime ranking (36th) by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Lawsuit Climate Index. Legislation like this shows that it could get worse!