Colorado employees enjoy employee rights beyond those in Texas and many other states. Its labor and employment laws arise from a combination of influences from its violent labor law history to a long history of conservative political leadership to today’s more progressive politics. Despite these protections, employees in Denver, Fort Collins, Colorado Springs and other cities in the state may still find their employer violating these employee rights. When that happens it may be necessary to contact a Denver employment lawyer to help pursue remedies under state and federal law.
How Denver employment lawyers help Colorado workers protect their employee rights
Denver employment lawyers who work plaintiff-side for employees help Colorado workers through litigation and other administrative procedures. Most plaintiff-side employee lawyers are litigators who represent workers after an employer engaged in unlawful activity against the worker’s employment. As a result, a Denver employment lawyer must know several subjects and how to weave those areas of legal knowledge together to help clients. Some of these include:
- Colorado labor and employment laws;
- Federal labor and employment laws;
- Colorado civil procedure rules;
- Federal civil procedure rules;
- Administrative procedures through the EEOC, NLRB and other federal agencies;
- Colorado administrative procedures through the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment and other state agencies.
The combination of procedural and substantive law can turn even a relatively simple labor law or employment law claim into a complex claim. This is a good reason to schedule a consultation with a Denver employment lawyer to discuss problems at work and let him or her assess your legal options. Many labor law and employment law claims allow you to recover attorney’s fees so there is little reason not to hire an employment law attorney to represent you.
Ways an employment law attorney in Denver, Colorado can help you
The following topics discuss many common Colorado labor law and employment law issues for which you may hire a Denver employment lawyer. Many of these claims require you to take specific acts within a limited period of time. Do not wait to start looking for an employment lawyer near you to schedule a consultation. The longer you wait to contact an attorney the more you risk missing important deadlines.
Employment discrimination under federal and Colorado labor law and employment law
Employment discrimination claims are a common source of employment law claims under federal and Colorado law. Unlawful employment discrimination occurs when an employer:
- Takes an adverse employment action;
- Against an employee or applicant;
- Motivated by discriminatory animus;
- Against a protected trait or status of the employee or applicant.
Employment discrimination is an incredibly complex area of law because there are precise legal standards for every aspect of a claim but each case depends entirely upon specific facts of the given situation. Colorado employment lawyers helping clients with employment discrimination cases must understand all of these legal and factual issues. No easy task. If you think an employer discriminated against you then you should contact a Denver employment lawyer right away.
Employment discrimination and protected classes
Under federal and Colorado employment law an employer cannot discriminate against a protected class of workers. An employee is a member of a protected class if he or she possesses a trait, characteristic, or status specifically protected by law. If an employer makes employment decisions on the basis of an unprotected aspect of the worker then the employer is not liable for employment discrimination. That is true even if a bad or unfair reason motivates the employer’s adverse employment action. A Denver employment lawyer can help you assess whether the employer’s motivation is a form of employment discrimination.
Protected classes under federal and Colorado employment discrimination laws
An employment discrimination attorney, sometimes known as an EEOC lawyer, must first determine if an employee is a member of a protected class. Protected classes arise from federal and Colorado statutes. Colorado state law, the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (Colorado Revised Statutes C.R.S. 24-34-401 et seq.: Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act), generally protects all of the same classes as federal law but includes specific protections for additional classes. Several federal statutes extend protection across the nation. It is important for an EEOC lawyer to understand which laws apply to a specific situation. These include:
- Race (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1967; Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act; Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866)
- Ethnicity (Title VII; Section 1981; CADA)
- Sex (Title VII; Pregnancy Discrimination Act; Equal Pay Act; CADA)
- Gender/Gender identity/Transgender (Title VII; CADA)
- Disability (Americans with Disabilities Act; ADA Amendments Act; Rehabilitation Act; CADA)
- Religion (Title VII; CADA)
- Age (Age Discrimination in Employment Act; CADA)
- Genetic information (Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act; CADA)
- Sexual orientation (CADA; Title VII (?))
It is important to know precisely which laws apply to an employee’s situation and how a Denver employment lawyer might approach a potential case. Many federal employment discrimination statutes require workers to file an administrative charge with the EEOC within a limited time period to preserve and begin pursuing a claim. Similarly, the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act requires employees to file an administrative charge with the state. Claims may exist under multiple statutes so it is critical your employment discrimination attorney understands how to put them together into a cohesive strategy.
Employment discrimination claims under the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act and federal law
An employer becomes liable for an employment discrimination claim when it takes an adverse employment action against the Colorado worker motivated by a discriminatory animus against the worker’s protected trait, characteristic, or status. It is not enough for the employer to merely dislike the worker for a protected classification. The employer must act in a manner that is harmful to the worker’s employment or the terms and conditions of employment.
Primarily an adverse employment act underlying an employment discrimination claim involves continued employment or compensation for continued employment. An employment discrimination case does not have to be strictly a wrongful termination or harassment. It may include:
- Refusal to hire;
- Failure to promote;
- Pay differences;
- Executing a reduction in compensation;
- Taking away important job responsibilities;
- Unfavorable distribution of new job responsibilities;
- Unfavorable application of employment benefits;
- Moving the employee to a less prestigious job site;
- Harassment/hostile work environment
Employment discrimination and unlawful motivation
A discrimination claim must pair an adverse employment act with a discriminatory animus. Generally, that means the employee or applicant must prove the employer intentionally executed the adverse action because of the employee or applicant’s protected attribute. (A less common employment discrimination claim involves disparate impact in which the employer’s policies unintentionally discriminated and the employer failed to act to adjust the policy to end the discriminatory effect.) Additionally, an employee may have an employment discrimination case when the employer fails to reasonably accommodate a disability or religious practice upon the employee’s request. The law around reasonable accommodations is itself a complex area.
If you believe an employer discriminated against you on the basis of a protected attribute then you should contact a Denver employment lawyer right away. You may have a brief window of opportunity to pursue claims for the harm to your career. Your attorney can discuss with you the applicable laws and options to deal with your workplace situation. It may be necessary to proceed to a government agency or to file a lawsuit.
How a Denver employment lawyer can help with wrongful termination
Wrongful termination or wrongful discharge are phrases commonly thrown around without a clear understanding of the legal meaning. Your employer may terminate your employment for a bad, unfair, wrong, or misinformed reason. In a general sense we might call that a wrongful termination. For employment lawyers this generally is not enough to sustain a wrongful termination claim for your job. (It might be enough to prevail on an unemployment claim.) Wrongful termination claims arises when an employer terminates you for a reason specifically prohibited by statute or common law.
At-will employment in Colorado
Colorado is an at-will employment state so an employer can fire you for any reason not prohibited by law. Federal and Colorado law provide several protections from wrongful termination; but a lawsuit must rely upon one of these legal reasons and not a general sense of unfairness. If you believe your employer fired you for an unjust reason you should contact a wrongful termination lawyer in Colorado to discuss your situation. Let your attorney review your situation and assess whether your Colorado employer’s acts violate state or federal law.
Federal and Colorado laws prohibiting wrongful termination
Generally, an employer wrongfully terminates an employee for one of three reasons. First, an employer may fire an employee as an act of employment discrimination as discussed above. Second, wrongful termination may arise from the employer terminating the employee in violation of public policy. This often includes retaliating against the employee for exercising a legal right under Colorado law, such as voting or fulfilling jury duty, or because the employee refused the employer’s instruction to perform an illegal act. Third, the employer wrongfully fires the employee for exercising or attempting to exercise a statutory right under federal or Colorado labor laws and employment laws.
Wrongful termination laws in Colorado
Many federal and Colorado labor laws and employment laws include protections from termination and other adverse employment acts for exercising the rights protected by those statutes. Without these anti-retaliation provisions it would be hard for employees to exercise these employee rights without constant fear of retaliation. Employers violate these provisions by less severe retaliatory acts, such as demotions or pay cuts, but also violate them by firing employees. Some of these include:
- Requesting leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act or the Colorado FMLA;
- Requesting a reasonable accommodation to a disability or religious practice;
- Filing a worker’s compensation claim;
- Whistleblowing on illegal acts or dangerous work conditions;
- Reporting or participating in a proceeding of an employment discrimination claim;
- Opposing an unlawful wage practice;
- Participating in or supporting a union or other cooperative labor practice.
If you believe your employer fired you in retaliation for exercising a legal act you should talk to a Denver employment lawyer right away. Each statute or common law claim has its own procedural requirements to follow. Some of these requirements include acting within a short window of time to preserve your ability to defend your employee rights. A wrongful termination lawyer in Colorado is familiar with these claims and the requirements to pursue them.
Employment laws and Colorado labor laws on hostile work environment
Harassment and hostile work environment are legal terms of art within labor law and employment law. Often people talk about a toxic workplace using these terms in a common language sense; but to pursue a claim for hostile work environment the workplace must meet the legal standard. These claims under federal and Colorado law are complex for several reasons. If you believe your employer subjected you to a hostile work environment then you should contact a workplace harassment attorney right away.
To prevail on a hostile work environment the employee must prove:
- Harassing behavior meets the legal standard for offensive conduct;
- Motivation for the harassing behavior was unlawful; and
- Employer is liable for the workplace harassment.
Offensive conduct under Colorado labor laws and employment laws
The first issue in a hostile work environment claim for an employment lawyer to assess is whether the harassing behavior meets the legal standard. This is a far more difficult question than you might imagine. There are several subparts to this analysis under federal and Colorado law. First, we must show that the conduct was unwelcome to the employee. Second, we must determine whether the conduct was severe or pervasive in the workplace. Third, we either must determine if enduring the behavior became a condition of continued employment (quid pro quo harassment) or if a reasonable person would find the offensive conduct hostile, intimidating, or abusive. If all three of these technical and factual questions are true then we move to the second issue.
Unlawful motivation for hostile work environments
The second issue is to determine why the conduct occurred. A hostile work environment only creates a legal claim if the purpose or motivation for the offensive conduct is specifically prohibited by law. Generally this occurs under two scenarios: employment discrimination and retaliation. An employer may create a hostile work environment because of the employee’s protected class membership. For example, a supervisor may engage in physical sexual advances because the employee is a woman or ruthlessly attack an employee with slurs because of her race. On the other hand, an employer may harass an employee in retaliation for exercising a legal right such as complaining about discrimination or taking FMLA leave.
Colorado employment lawyers for hostile work environment claims
If the offensive conduct is for any other purpose not specifically prohibited by federal or Colorado law then the environment is certainly awful but likely will not support a legal claim against the employer. If you believe your employer harassed you in violation of a labor law or employment law then you should contact a Denver employment lawyer right away. An experienced employment lawyer can assess the situation to determine if the employer’s conduct may violate Colorado labor laws on hostile work environment.
Employer liability for hostile work environments
The third issue in a hostile work environment claim is to determine the employer’s liability. This step also relies on technical and factual issues. Your Colorado employer’s liability depends upon who engaged in offensive conduct and what, if anything, the employer did to stop it. If a supervisor engages in the harassing behavior which leads to a negative employment action against your job (a tangible employment action) then the employer is automatically liable for the supervisor’s harassment.
If the supervisor’s harassment did not result in a tangible employment action but still created a hostile work environment then the employer is liable unless it reasonably tried to prevent and promptly correct harassing behavior and the employee failed to take advantage of policies to stop and correct the harassment. Alternatively, if any other individual in the workplace caused the hostile work environment then the employer is liable if it knew or should have known about the hostile work environment and failed to take prompt corrective action.
Workplace harassment attorney in Colorado
This somewhat brief description only scratches the surface of analyzing hostile work environment claims under labor and employment law. These claims rely on a number of technical legal questions and specific facts of individual situations. Employers often fight these claims diligently and will look at every factual and legal question to find a defense. In addition to the fact issues your workplace harassment attorney must determine the appropriate procedure to pursue your claims.
There is not a general purpose anti-harassment policy under federal or Colorado law. Instead your claim arise under individual statutes that govern claims for the particular unlawful motivation. Each statute has its own legal procedures for claims and you must follow those procedures. Your workplace harassment attorney in Colorado can make sure your claim follows the right procedure.
Colorado labor laws and unpaid wage attorneys
Federal and Colorado labor laws and employment laws provide employees several wage and compensation protections. The basis of the employment relationship for employees in Denver and other parts of Colorado is the exchange of labor for wages. When an employer fails to pay wages to employees the employer robs the employee of the value of labor. Wage laws protect a minimum value of labor and payment of wages and other compensation. Primary protections include:
- Minimum wage protections under federal and Colorado law
- Overtime pay for nonexempt employees
- Timely payment of paychecks, including final paychecks
- Protection from retaliation for opposing unlawful wage practices
Federal and Colorado wage laws also deal with other wage and hour issues. Federal law sets minimum standards for wage and hour issues while Colorado law expands and enhances those protections. For example, the Fair Labor Standards Act sets a national minimum wage. Colorado law sets a higher minimum wage and other protections for compensation and work hours. Colorado labor laws on breaks establishes limited protection for break and rest periods.
Colorado minimum wage and overtime pay laws
Minimum wage in Colorado sets a higher wage than federal minimum wage under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Colorado minimum wage. Under state minimum wage law, Colorado sets a higher wage rate that will increase every year until it begins tracking increases against inflation. Federal wage law remains static unless Congress passes new legislation increasing the federal rate. This is just one of the ways Colorado employment law expands the legal protection of employees over federal law.
If you believe your employer failed to pay wages in accordance with federal or Colorado wage law then you should contact an unpaid wages attorney right away. You may be able to recover unpaid wages, liquidated damages, attorney’s fees and other compensation. Colorado has multiple venues to recover unpaid wages from litigation in court to the state’s administrative process. Unpaid wage claims under federal and Colorado law often require you to act within a limitations period. The longer you wait to talk to a Colorado unpaid wages attorney the greater the risk you may miss out on opportunities to recover wages.
Denver employment lawyers and Colorado labor laws
Colorado labor laws protect the right of employees to work together to improve workplace conditions and the benefits of the job. For many people labor laws in Colorado protect the right to unionize and represent themselves through a formal union. These laws also protect the right of workers to informally cooperate to improve the job. These laws and labor rights include important protections for workers and their jobs.
Colorado labor laws establish a unique labor law framework. Employees in the state enjoy protections under both federal and Colorado labor law. Federal labor law, such as the National Labor Relations Act, establishes a basic framework to protect labor rights of workers. These include:
- Labor rights to engage in concerted activities with coworkers
- Formal election procedures to elect union representation
- Legal structure for union representation of workers
- Procedures to decertify a union
- An administrative procedure to resolve disputes through the NLRB
Colorado Labor Peace Act and Labor law attorneys
Colorado labor laws expand these procedures to identify how employees may elect to improve the power of union representation. This gives employees in Denver and other parts of Colorado greater ability to negotiate terms of employment. People often ask is Colorado a right to work state. The Colorado Labor Peace Act does not make Colorado a right to work state.
If you believe your employer violated your labor rights under federal or Colorado labor laws then you should contact a local labor law attorney right away. Remedies for labor law procedures can be complex. Often they require employees to act in specific ways in limited time periods. Failure to follow these procedures may limit your ability to pursue claims. Your labor law attorney can explain these procedures in greater detail.
Finding a Denver employment lawyer in Colorado
If you believe a workplace situation violates a federal or Colorado labor or employment law then you should contact a local attorney. The first step is finding a Denver employment lawyer or law firm near you in Colorado. Finding lawyers and attorneys in Colorado is not difficult. There are several ways to find a Denver employment lawyer:
- Searching internet search results;
- Reviewing online maps of local employment lawyers;
- Reviewing law firm websites;
- Attorney directories for Colorado;
- Referrals from other lawyers;
- Lawyer referrals from non-lawyers;
- Bar association referrals;
- Referrals from labor and employment law associations.
There is not a single right way to find a Denver employment lawyer. The right way to find an employment law attorney or labor law attorney depends on several factors. Often it is best to research lawyers multiple ways. Consider the factors important to you and your situation. There are many employment lawyers in Colorado to research. The sooner you begin research the sooner you can find a Denver employment lawyer who fits your needs.
When is it time to contact Denver employment lawyers?
Generally it is always best to begin researching and scheduling consultations with Denver employment lawyers as soon as you believe your Colorado employer violated your rights. Many federal and Colorado labor law and employment law claims require employees to take specific acts within limited time periods.
The sooner you contact a Denver employment lawyer the sooner your attorney can get to work on your case. The longer you wait the greater the chance you miss the opportunity to protect your rights. Additionally, waiting may exhaust limitations periods and entirely prevent you from recovering on meritorious claims. If you believe your employer violated your employee rights then you should contact a Denver employment lawyer right away.