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Colorado Equal Pay for "Equivalent" Work starts January 1, 2021

A proposal regularly opposed by Associated Industries of Missouri was passed in Colorado and the law is set to take effect January 1, 2021.


The law requires employers to pay two people the same wages for "substantially equivalent" work and allows employees to bring civil lawsuits against employers for alleged violations of the law. Further, the law provides that each paycheck is a separate instance of alleged discrimination, which extends the amount of time available to file such lawsuits.


Associated Industries of Missouri has opposed such legislation in Missouri because, while it is promoted as providing more equality between men and women, the definitions of "substantially equivalent work" are extremely subjective. In fact, a quick review of the Colorado law does not reveal a definition of the term.


"We have consistently and successfully argued that equal pay for equal work is already the law," said Ray McCarty, President and CEO of Associated Industries of Missouri. "Not only is this type of law a setup for plaintiff's attorneys, the comparisons that have been used in other states have compared two jobs that have little in common but require similar effort, skill and responsibility. This allows comparisons to be made between very different job classes. We are not interested in providing a big payday to plaintiffs' attorneys as they file opportunistic lawsuits against even the best employers that try hard to treat their employees equally."


A secondary point of confusion is the definition of "sex" which is expanded to allow for gender identity. So a Colorado employer may be held accountable for paying two people that view themselves as the same sex, regardless of their sex at birth.


"Vague laws that contain such subjectivity provide fertile ground for frivolous lawsuits against employers," said McCarty. "Employers will likely find it difficult to defend themselves against claims due to the subjective nature of the terms in the law."


A summary of the new Colorado law was prepared by Michael Belo with Spencer Fane and you may read his article by clicking HERE.

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