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Colorado’s New “Equal Pay For Equal Work Act” Creates Significant New Obligations For Employers

On May 22, 2019, Governor Jared Polis signed the “Equal Pay For Equal Work Act” (SB 19-085), which will make Colorado one of the strictest states in the country when it comes to pay equity regulations.  The Act created a new private right of action for employees to sue their employers in state court for gender-related pay discrimination.  The Act also created a host of new obligations that will apply to all employers with employees in Colorado, including: (1) new requirements concerning job posting and advertising, (2) new standards for ensuring employees are paid fairly, (3) prohibitions on requesting or using information about applicants’ prior pay rates, and (4) prohibitions on disciplining employees for discussing compensation.

The good news is that companies have time to prepare for the new rules – the new law doesn’t go into effect until January 1, 2021.   But there is a lot to do get ready!  Significantly, the Act also provides an incentive for companies to conduct proactive pay analyses, providing a “safe harbor” from certain damages in future lawsuits if a reasonable self-audit has recently been undertaken.
The following is a summary of what companies need to know now to get ready for the new Colorado Equal Pay For Equal Work Act.

New Notice Requirements Concerning Job Postings

The Equal Pay for Equal Work Act creates two new notice requirements for Colorado employers, which are not found in any other state equal pay law:

  • Employers must make reasonable efforts to announce, post, or make known all opportunities for promotion to all current employees on the same calendar day.
  • Employers must disclose in each posting for each job opening the hourly or salary compensation, or a range of the hourly or salary compensation, and a general description of all benefits and other compensation offered.

New Standards for Establishing Pay Discrimination

The new law protects against discrimination based of sex (including gender identity) or sex in combination with another protected status. Employers may not pay an employee of one sex less than an employee of another sex for “substantially similar” work (measured as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility).   
This is a much broader standard than what appears in Federal law, which prohibits pay discrimination between employees doing “similarly situated work.”  The difference will make it easier for employees in Colorado to establish pay discrimination, and more difficult for employers to ensure all employees are paid equitably.  For example, under Federal law standards, a Housekeeper may only be able to compare her pay to other Housekeepers.  But under the new Colorado standard (which is the same language as used in California and New Jersey), that Housekeeper may now also be able to compare herself to Janitors and/or Maintenance Workers.    
Under the new Colorado standard, all an employee needs to do is establish that there is a pay difference between two employees of different sexes (including gender identity) doing substantially similar work.  If an employee can do so, the legal burden shifts to the company to demonstrate that the pay difference is justified by a limited list of permissible:

  • A seniority system;
  • A merit system;
  • A system that measures earning by quantity or quality of production;
  • The geographic location where the work is performed;
  • Education, training, or experience to the extent that they are reasonably related to the work in question; or
  • Travel, if a regular and necessary condition of the work performed.

The new law creates a menu of options for employees to pursue claims, including a private right of action. Employees may also still avail themselves of administrative relief for pay discrimination claims through the Colorado Civil Rights Commission OR a mediation process yet to be developed by the Director of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.
A successful plaintiff may recover up to three years of back pay and liquidated (double) damages, unless the employer can show the “act or omission giving rise” to the pay violations was made in good faith.

Prohibitions on Pay History Information

Colorado joins eight other states (California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington) with statewide salary history bans applicable to both public and private employers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average woman made 80 percent of the average man’s earnings in the fourth quarter of 2018. At the current pace, the gender pay gap would not be eliminated until approximately 2060. However, many state and local governments have taken action to speed up progress by addressing the perceived causes of the pay gap, including prohibitions on requesting or relying on prior salary information during the hiring process. The theory is that setting starting pay rate based on prior salary may have the effect of perpetuating pay discrimination. For employers, that means there may be a need to revisit long-standing practices around pay-setting decisions.
Under the new Colorado law, employers may not:
(a)    Seek/request the wage history of a prospective employee;
(b)    Rely on the wage history of a prospective employee to determine a wage rate; or
(c)    Discriminate or retaliate against a prospective employee for failing to disclose wage history.

Pay Transparency Requirements
Finally, the new Act prohibits employers from (1) preventing their employees from discussing their own compensation information with others and (2) requiring employees to sign a waiver that prohibits his or her ability to do the same.

Employers Have Time to Prepare 

Colorado’s new law creates significant new risks and responsibilities for employers.  While the new requirements do not take effect until January 1, 2021, Colorado employers should consider reviewing their pay policies and practices with employment counsel, under attorney-client privileged.  Policies and practices to review should include:

  • Practices regarding posting new openings.  The new law requires including a wage rate or wage range with each new job opening along with a general description of other benefits and compensation offered.
  • Practices for disseminating promotional opportunities.  The new law requires reasonable efforts to inform all current employees of promotional opportunities on the same calendar day.
  • Policies and practices surrounding compensation.  Employers should review hiring practices and avoid asking questions about compensation history of an applicant and may no longer require employees sign a waiver that forbids the employee from discussing compensation information.  The Colorado law does not forbid employers from asking applicants their salary expectations.  

“Mini-Safe Harbor” For Proactive Pay Audits

The Equal Pay For Equal Work Act provides an incentive for employers to conduct proactive self-evaluations of their compensation practices. While not a complete defense against lawsuits, employers may use evidence of a “thorough and comprehensive pay audit” with the “specific goal of identifying and remedying unlawful pay disparities” to avoid an award for liquidated (double) damages.
Colorado employers should therefore consider conducting a proactive pay audit, preferably under attorney-client privilege, to take maximum advantage of the two-year “mini safe harbor.” Conducting an analysis will allow employers to identify and begin remedying any unexplained pay differences.  Best of all, the audit may be used as evidence of “good faith” to minimize damages in any litigation under the Act.  

For more information or assistance conducting proactive, attorney-client privileged reviews of compensation practices, please contact Jackson Lewis attorneys Peter Bulmer [email protected], Scott Pechaitis (303-876-2201 or [email protected]) and Melisa H. Panagakos (303-876-2203 or [email protected])





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2018 SHRM Excel Platinum Chapter

BOULDER AREA HR ASSOCIATION Awarded For Elevating Human Resources, Improving Workplaces
Boulder, CO May 29, 2019 — SHRM (the Society for Human Resource Management) recently awarded the Boulder Area HR Association its prestigious EXCEL Platinum Award for the BAHRA’s accomplishments in 2018.

The EXCEL award aligns individual chapters’ and state councils’ activities with SHRM’s aspirations for the HR profession. The award recognizes major accomplishments, strategic activities, and tactical initiatives that elevate the profession of human resources.  

“So much of SHRM’s success in shaping better workplaces—where employers and employees can thrive together— is owed to the hard work of our chapters and state councils such as the Boulder Area HR Association.  Through their courage and leadership, BAHRA is driving true, measurable progress toward the healthy, productive, and dynamic workplaces of tomorrow,” said Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, president and chief executive officer of SHRM. “Awarding this Platinum Excel Award is just one small way for SHRM to recognize and celebrate the big steps this chapter has taken this past year.”
The EXCEL Award can be earned at four levels: bronze, silver, gold and platinum. Each level has a prescribed set of requirements and accomplishments that must be met. BAHRA will receive recognition in SHRM publications and at conferences, a logo to display on its website, and information to share with its members about the significance of this award.

“To earn this award, BAHRA submitted an application highlighting four key initiatives from last year that enhanced the member experience and HR profession. This award is due to the hard work of our Board! This is an exciting recognition for our Chapter, and I hope you all are as proud as I am. Congratulations!” said Reagan Freed, BAHRA chapter President for 2019.

For more information about BAHRA visit

About SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management)
SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, creates better workplaces where employers and employees thrive together. As the voice of all things work, workers and the workplace, SHRM is the foremost expert, convener and thought leader on issues impacting today’s evolving workplaces. With 300,000+ HR and business executive members in 165 countries, SHRM impacts the lives of more than 115 million workers and families globally. Learn more at and on Twitter @SHRM


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Board Member Spotlight-DePuy



As an HR-executive-turned-career-coach, Teri guides her clients through the challenging job transition process by helping them understand and embrace the value of being who they are, inspiring them to get intentional about where they really want to go next, and supporting them in navigating how to confidently get there through her work at the company she founded, InsideOut Advising.

Teri’s multidimensional background and experience are of high value to her clients. Her professional career began as manager of a 9-1-1 communications center, which launched her career in training and leadership roles in public safety, technology, telecommunications, and higher education.
A pivotal career change occurred when Teri was leading Human Resources as the Senior Vice President of Organizational Development where she oversaw leadership development, executive compensation, and succession planning initiatives. This role shined a bright light on her passion for developing individuals and teams to achieve their full potential that ultimately led her to launch her consultancy and doing the work she loves today.

FUN FACT ABOUT TERI - Teri has an identical twin sister that lives in Broomfield. If you see "Teri" out in town make sure you confirm that it's really Teri!

College Relations at BAHRA? The Director of College Relations role bridges relationships, programs and educational opportunities between the HR community in the Boulder area and the graduate and undergraduate students at Leeds School of Business, University of Colorado Boulder in support of our mission to elevate the profession of HR. Through our relationships with faculty, students and Career Development we support student volunteerism; participate in the Host a Student Job Shadow Day and build connections with emerging leaders via our annual Rising Professionals meet up held on campus each fall. To learn more about how you can get involved with College Relations, email Teri at [email protected]

Check out books and movies that Teri highly recommends!

  • The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni
  • Everyday Joy and Tacos, Amy Klene

 Favorite Movie: Top Gun

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Board Member Spotlight-Sizemore

Board Member Spotlight - Kacie Sizemore, Vice President Membership

Kacie Sizemore is the Founder and Intellectual Capital Leader for Joyus, LLC in Denver. As an advocate of people-centric work cultures, Kacie has spent the past 14 years enhancing leadership, culture and employee wellbeing programs for her clients- with a specific focus on creating an elevated employee experience for the employees and higher engagement levels for the employer. She does this through advanced people analytics, which helps clients make informed decisions about their workforce. Find Kacie on Twitter @KacieLSizemore

FUN FACT ABOUT KACIE!! Kacie is an avid traveler and has been all over the world. Her most thrilling experience, however, was bungee jumping off of a bridge that was labeled the World’s Highest Bungee Jump by Guinness World Records. Yikes!!!
What is Membership at BAHRA? Membership is the core of BAHRA because our members are the reason BAHRA exists. This fundamental role within BAHRA is comprised of a VP of Membership that sits on the Board of Directors, as well as a sub-committee of passionate member volunteers. The role of membership is not only to attract and retain members, it is also to help build an inclusive community of HR practitioners and folks in related fields.
Each December, the Membership Committee hosts our Exclusive Member Appreciation Event at an offsite location to provide our members with a unique networking opportunity and libations to celebrate their awesomeness!

Kacie's Picks! Check out TWO books that she highly recommends!

"The Culture Code" by Dan Coyle - an easy, interesting read on why cultures work or don’t work. A broad study of jewel thieves and the San Antonio Spurs, as well as why Kindergarteners out perform MBA graduates at certain tasks. This book uncovers the psychology behind cultures. (Yes, there are workplace studies too)

"9 Lies About Work: The Freethinking Leader's Guide To The Real World" by Marcus Buckingham - a newly-released fantastic read that uncovers the 9 lies about work that we are led to believe and how those lies cause dysfunction and poor performance in the workplace. Kacie highly recommends this book for anyone who wants to create change and break the This is the way we’ve always done it barrier.

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Board Member Spotlight-Barry



Meghan’s Story

Meet BAHRA Board Secretary and Rising HR Professional Meghan Barry!  Like many of us, Meghan’s college studies didn’t point her in the direction of a career in HR.  Meghan earned a BS in horticulture with an emphasis in floraculture, so after college she moved to Hawaii and worked on a hydroponic tomato farm.  What better place than the Aloha State, where everything grows, for someone with this educational background!  After a couple of years Meghan realized that this work wasn’t her ultimate calling, so eventually she moved back to Colorado. 

At that time, she felt called to teaching and earned a Masters degree in elementary education.  After four years as a teacher she started to feel a little burn out, but stuck with it and landed a position at a new school.  She hoped this new environment and position would be invigorating, but unfortunately her employment contract was not renewed due to funding cuts.  At first she was devastated but then, being a “glass half full person”, she realized that she had quite possibly dodged a bullet by having a reason to leave that career path.

At that point Meghan thought “What am I going to do now?”.  Being a self-starter who knows how to identify and access resources, Meghan got involved with Workforce Boulder County’s Career Services.  She took workshops and self directed labs to guide her job search and sharpen her skills.  She applied for a paid internship through their WIOA program (Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act).  She also worked with career advisor  Jane McKean who assessed her interests and skills.  The results directed her to the field of HR.  Jane suggested that Meghan attend a Boulder Area HR Association (BAHRA) event.  Meghan was new to “networking” and just the thought of doing it was nerve wracking and terrifying – but she did it!

Meghan’s very first BAHRA event was a Rising Professional meet-up at Galvanize in Boulder in fall 2017.  Right away she met and connected with BAHRA board members Teri DePuy and Kelly Marinelli who made an effort to follow up and met Meghan for coffee.  At the same event she connected with Christine Fitzgerald, Human Resources Manager for The Stepping Stones Group.  Fortunately, through the WIOA program, Meghan was able to offer her services for HR internship paid for by Workforce Boulder County.  The position met the requirements for the internship and it didn’t cost The Stepping Stones Group a dime to bring her on board!  This internship ended up being a great first HR experience for Meghan.

Fast forward 3 months and Meghan attended her next BAHRA Rising Professionals event.  With her internship drawing to a close,  she announced to the group that she was looking for a full-time HR position. Dawn Scriber and Deidra Mogan, the HR team from  KPA had in fact come to the event that night with the specific purpose of looking for a new HR coordinator at their company!  The event was on a Thursday, Meghan interviewed with KPA on Friday and by Tuesday she had her first full-time HR position!

Meghan says that this experience “totally changed” her life.  Through KPA she’s received tremendous exposure to all areas of the HR profession, she been able to travel for work and she’s helped to bring on over 100 new employees!  She’s applied for a SHRM Certification scholarship that would cover the cost of the preparation materials and the exam, to the tune of $750.

Her experience at KPA has put her in the frying pan AND the fire, in a good way!  She’s had to take the reins of the department on several occasions, first when a team member left the company and again when another had to take early maternity leave.  It’s been a lot of exposure FAST, and she’s been exposed to virtually every facet of HR.  KPA’s HR team is now operating at full strength, so she works with great colleagues. The company is very supportive of Meghan attending conferences and having continuing education opportunities.

What’s Next? In addition to her position as HR Coordinator at KPA, Meghan is secretary for the BAHRA board and Chairperson of BAHRA’s Rising Professionals group!  With her leadership BAHRA’s Rising Pros will have three fun and informative events in 2019, including one event teaming up with the College Relations committee and CU’s Leeds School of Business.  Stay tuned, be sure to put those events on your calendar and remember that ALL levels of HR professionals are welcome and encouraged to attend!

Information on Workforce Boulder County (WfBC) If you’ve been involuntarily terminated from your position you are eligible for unemployment compensation in Colorado, and for services through Workforce Boulder County.  They offer a variety of career services including a Job Search Safari, assistance with resume writing and LinkedIn profiles, special services for veterans and young adults, and many others.  Meghan highly recommends these resources for anyone that may need some direction, wants to feel a sense of purpose and have some tasks to focus on, and would like to have a solid resource to rely on.  There are so many opportunities available for people who are willing to do the work!

WfBC has a tuition reimbursement program (which at the time of Meghan’s search did not have HR specific opportunities but is otherwise fantastic!) as well as their WIOA paid internship program (which also had no pre-established HR positions, but allows the flexibility for applicants to seek their own internships like Meghan did!).  The program’s purpose is to place people in new professional fields and get them some training.  Applicants who are accepted into WfBC’s WIOA paid internship program are employees of and paid by Boulder County which is a huge incentive for any companies to participate!  The WIOA program provides a huge amount of support to participants and Meghan stated that it was “invaluable for getting in the door” of her new career in HR.

For more information on WfBC programs and services, including the internship program, go to .  To take advantage of WfBC’s services you must register at Be aware that it takes 30-60 minutes to create your account and complete your registration.

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Board Member Spotlight-Chernak

Debi ChernakBoard Member Spotlight:  Meet Debi Chernak - Co-Director, Sponsorship

DEBI CHERNAK, SPHR, SPHRi, SHRM-SCP, M.Ed. is Founder & CEO of HR Cert Prep Pros, Inc., an HR Consulting & Certification Prep Company, and BAHRA’s Co-Director of Sponsorship. During her professional career, Debi has served as VP-HR for IntelePeer Cloud Communications; Sr. HR Consultant for Summit HR Solutions; Director of HR & Employee Engagement for Unisyn Medical Technologies; Director of HR for Aztek Networks; and Founder and VP—HR & Administration for Live Wire Networks.

This essential Board role serves to secure sponsorships from companies and organizations who share our passion for the HR community, and provide relevant products and services to help facilitate your success as HR professionals. In addition to offering solutions to your HR challenges, the financial contributions of our sponsors allow us to continue to deliver high-quality programs and services and maintain affordable annual membership and event fees. Thank you for visiting with our sponsors at member programs, and consider engaging them for your organization. They are here to serve you!

Debi would love to share a recent article she wrote for a book coming out soon! Her article "Ten Keys to Achieving Meaningful & Effective Performance Reviews" is one of several that Debi contributed to 102 Nuggets for Business and Professional Life by Rai Chowdhary. Click on the article title to access and download this terrific top 10 list!