On Wednesday, February 20, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony on Senate Bill 85, the Equal Pay for Equal Work bill, sponsored by Sen. Jessie Danielson, Sen. Brittany Pettersen, Rep. Janet Buckner and Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez.
The Colorado Chamber, the Westminster Chamber and others in the business community opposed this bill as introduced and emphasized that while the goal of SB 85 is commendable, several provisions raised serious concerns for the business community.
Those groups testified to some of the problematic provisions of the bill, including the creation of a new private right of action, discrepancies between the bill and the federal Equal Pay Act, the posting requirements for employment opportunities, the ability of employees to volunteer their prior salary to negotiate for a higher wage, and the six-year back pay and record-keeping requirements of the bill.
Ultimately, through the tremendous help of Chairman Pete Lee (D – El Paso), and agreement by the sponsors, the committee passed the bill with several amendments that improve the bill significantly:
· Changing the requirement for employers to maintain records for back pay from six years to three years.
· Changing the effective date of the bill from January 1, 2020 to January 1, 2021, allowing more time to come into compliance.
· Striking language to address concerns about the need to re-post a job if an applicant negotiates outside of the posted pay range.
· Establishing that if an employer has operated in good faith, a court should not have the discretion to award liquidated damages.
· Expanding the factors considered for pay differentials to include geographic location, education, training, experience, and travel.
· Expanding the definition of “substantially similar work.”
· Clarifying that workers have the option of seeking a wage disparity claim through the Colorado Civil Rights Division.
The next steps are for the bill be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee and on the Senate Floor for a full vote by the Senate.