On January 1, 2015 major changes to the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA) came into effect, and the implications for employers across the state are significant. Before looking at the key steps that employers should take, here is an overview of the statute and the new changes.

Overview of the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act

The Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against an employee in light of disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, age, national origin or ancestry. Unlike federal anti-discrimination laws, the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act applies to ALL Colorado employers, regardless of the number of employees.

Overview of Amendments

As noted above, key changes to the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act came into effect on January 1, 2015 (note: these changes were initially passed by the Colorado legislature in May 2013 as part of the Job Protection and Civil Rights Enforcement Act). These changes include:

  • Employees can now file discrimination lawsuits under state law vs. federal law.
  • In addition to back pay and equitable relief (i.e. reinstatement), employees can now seek to recover punitive and compensatory damages such as emotional pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, inconvenience and other losses not directly relating to or consisting of money (a.k.a. non-pecuniary losses).
  • The courts now have the discretionary power to award aggrieved employees attorneys’ fees, as well as various fees and cost associated with the actions.
  • Employers may be awarded attorneys fees and costs, but only if the court deems the case to be groundless, vexatious or frivolous.
  • Either the employer or the employee can now demand a jury trial.
  • To be more in line with federal age discrimination law, there is no longer a maximum age for employees to make a discrimination claim.

Steps that Employers Must Take

Ideally, most employers across the state have been aware of these changes for several months, and have taken steps to avoid running afoul of the new statute.

Realistically however, there are going to be many employers that have not yet made necessary adjustments, while others may not even know that changes are required.

1) Review Policies

Carefully review all policies personnel policies to ensure that they are in full compliance with the new statute, as well as prevailing federal legislation.

2) Train Staff

Ensure that all managers and supervisors are adequately trained in all anti-discrimination aspects, including allegations of harassment and retaliation, as well as the proper handling of employee complaints.

3) Review Procedures

Ensure that all procedures related to handling anti-discrimination allegations and complaints are appropriate, complete and in compliance with state and federal requirements. 

4) Enforce Anti-Retaliation

Ensure that all anti-retaliation policies are effective. These policies must fully protect employees from harm if they make an allegation or file a complaint.

5) Properly Document

Ensure that all documentation related to any anti-discrimination issue is complete, organized and properly documented.