SB22-234 Unemployment Compensation
What does it mean for restaurants? SB22-234 makes a one-time, $600-million appropriation using federal ARPA dollars to backfill the state unemployment insurance trust fund, which became completely insolvent due to pandemic-related lay-offs in the summer of 2020. This backfill was necessary to stabilize employer premiums and save small businesses, like restaurants, from the increase in costs associated with bringing the fund back to solvency.
The bill also:
- continues the COVID-19 allowance for undocumented workers to receive unemployment benefits after being separated from employment;
- repeals the requirement that an individual must wait at least one week before becoming eligible for unemployment compensation as long as the balance of the unemployment compensation fund is at least $1 billion;
- requires the division to study how to implement a dependent allowance for individuals receiving unemployment compensation;
- requires an employer to provide an employee with information about unemployment compensation at the time of separation from the employer;
- extends the suspension of the solvency surcharge through the calendar year 2023;
- and requires the division to consider certain factors in determining whether repayment of overpaid unemployment compensation benefits would be inequitable.
We have been lobbying this issue and seeking a backfill to the state fund since fall 2021, when we testified before the interim committee expressing the dire need for this policy. We are thrilled that it has come to fruition.
Sponsors: Senators Chris Hansen (D) and Bob Rankin (R) and Representatives David Ortiz (D) and Marc Snyder (D)
SB22-097 Whistleblower Protection Health and Safety
What does it mean for restaurants? During the height of COVID-19, the legislature passed a bill that prohibits an employer from taking adverse action against an employee who, in good faith, raises a reasonable concern about workplace safety violation or other significant workplace health and safety threats. SB22-097 continues those protections in perpetuity. We monitored this bill closely to ensure that it would not be expanded to unduly burden employers and are comfortable that it will not.
Sponsors: Senators Brittany Pettersen (D) and Robert Rodriguez (D) and Representatives Leslie Herod (D) and Tom Sullivan (D)
SB22-230 Collective Bargaining For Counties
What does it mean for restaurants? SB22-230 is the long-awaited collective bargaining bill, which was introduced to include all public employees, including those in higher education and those employed by quasi-governmental entities. The proponents faced staunch opposition to the proposal from the very beginning, and ultimately the bill was pared back to include just county employees. County associations lobbied the bill hard and it was only able to pass in the final hours of session with serious amendments limiting it to just the largest counties.
We kept a very close eye on this bill because although it was not related to the private sector, any proposal that streamlines collective bargaining activity is of great interest and we have seen proponents pass this type of legislation for the public sector before moving on to the private sector.
Sponsors: Senators Stephen Fenberg (D) and Dominick Moreno (D) and Representative Daneya Esgar (D)
SB22-161 Wage Theft Employee Misclassification Enforcement
What does it mean for restaurants? SB22-161, led by the subcontractor construction industry, was introduced in response to several wage theft victims working on multi-million-dollar construction projects. Advocates for the policy claimed that undocumented workers on these projects had been exploited and worked without being paid, and that there was no way for them to seek damages as the projects had gone completely bankrupt. The bill ultimately changes the way that wage-theft claims and enforcement are handled within the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment and creates a new enforcement unit within the Attorney General’s office.
We feel strongly that wage theft is an abhorrent practice and that bad actors must be held accountable, but the bill as introduced stretched too far and impacted ethical businesses along with the bad actors. We worked to adopt the following amendments to the proposal to make it more business-friendly:
|The bill repealed the employer’s ability to recover reasonable costs and attorney fees incurred in actions.
||The amendments made attorney fees available for employers who prevail in wage theft complaints.
|The bill made investigations of class claims by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment mandatory.
||The amendments made those investigations discretionary, and the bill offers no additional appropriation of funds for these investigations.
|The bill made per day damages for unpaid wages $100/day.
||The amendments made per day damages for unpaid wages $50/day.
|The bill mandated triple damages for retaliation.
||The amendments softened to double damages for retaliation.
|The bill as introduced included an entire section mandating new health and safety guidelines for workplaces.
||An amendment removed this section from the bill entirely.
In addition to the amendments above, we fought to keep the existing 14-day safe harbor that exists for employers, which allows an employer to make an employee whole with any lost wages within 14 days before being served with a notice or action based on those lost wages.
Sponsors: Senators Jessie Danielson (D) and Sonya Jaquez Lewis (D) and Representatives Monic Duran (D) and Meg Froelich (D)