On May 6, 2013, Governor Hickenlooper signed House Bill 13-1136. This expansion to the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA) has been in effect since that date, and most of the bills provisions went into effect as of August 7th, 2013, but small business owners in particular should be aware of a significant provision of the bill that goes into effect on January 1st, 2015.
As of January 1st, 2015, acts of employment discrimination that occur on or after the first of the year may result in an award of compensatory and punitive damages for small businesses with less than fifteen employees. Total damages are limited to $10,000 for employers with fewer than five employees, and $25,000 for employers with between five and fourteen employees. For larger employers with fifteen or more employees, the sliding scale of damage caps under federal law will continue to apply; however, for the first time larger employers will be exposed to liability for these types of damages in cases involving discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or for discriminating against employees who are married or wish to marry another employee, both of which are prohibited under CADA but not under federal law.
Small business owners should also note that, in any civil action seeking compensatory damages or punitive damages under the 2013 expansion of CADA, either party may demand a trial by jury. Because compensatory or punitive damages did not apply to alleged acts of discrimination that occurred or will occur before January 1, 2015, no right to a jury trial exists before that date.