At the beginning of this year, the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Action (CADA) was amended in very significant ways. As the holiday shopping season approaches and seasonal hiring subsequently increases, all employers in Colorado should be aware of the changes that were implemented and the expanded penalties and damages your business or organization may accrue for violations of the act.

Before reviewing the changes that came into effect in 2015, it is important to understand which employees are specifically protected under the act and which employers are bound by law to comply. CADA 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. In addition, CADA applies to every employer in the state of Colorado, not just those with a minimum number of required employees; this is a very important distinction, as employers with only a very small team of employees may still believe they are exempt from both state and federal anti-discrimination laws.

As of January 1, employees in Colorado who believe they have been discriminated against can file a lawsuit under state law, and in addition to back pay and reinstatement, they can also recover punitive and compensatory damages. In addition, attorneys for both the plaintiffs and defendant can collect attorney’s fees under specific circumstances, and both the plaintiff and defendant can demand a jury trial. Finally, employees are no longer bound by an age limit when filing an age discrimination claim.

The best practical defense against an employment discrimination claim is to maintain a consistent and pervasive “zero tolerance” anti-discrimination policy in the workplace, which begins with reviewing policies and procedures related to managing personnel and properly handling discrimination complaints, including fully documenting any employee allegations or complaints. Once these policies and procedures are complete, all managers and anyone who may occupy a supervisory role in any capacity must be thoroughly trained to ensure that policy is being followed and enforced at every level of your organization. Finally, it is important to ensure that proper anti-retaliation policies are in place and that your managers and supervisors are in full compliance.

If you are unsure whether or not your current policies, signage and handbooks provide the right level of protection for both your employees and your organization, or if you are simply overwhelmed preparing for the holiday shopping season, the HR professionals at Human Resources Plus will be happy to assist you in preparing an anti-discrimination policy that is compliant with CADA. Contact us today for more information or to schedule an appointment.