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Denver Business and Commercial Law Blog

New Legislation Impacting Wage Claims

On May 29, 2014, Governor Hickenlooper signed into law, Senate Bill 14-005, which is also called the Wage Protection Act. This bill authorizes the Colorado Department of Labor ("CDLE") to develop an administrative process to handle wage claim cases. Wage claim cases consist of a variety of grievances including but not limited to: violations of minimum wage laws, failure to pay overtime wages, forcing workers to work off the clock, withholding a worker's final paycheck, withholding gratuity from tipped workers, failing to provide required paid breaks or unpaid lunch periods and complete non-payment for labor performed.

We help small businesses grow and expand

A growing business is a wonderful and exciting thing.  However, when business owners are ready to expand their businesses, there are many legal and financial concerns that should be addressed so that the expansion can go smoothly.

For example, when businesses plan to take on more employees, they need to be prepared to address employment law concerns such as compliance with the Family Medical Leave Act and other federal and state regulations that might not have applied to them in the past.

5 ways small business owners benefit from mediation

For a small business owner, there are few things as unsettling as being in a legal dispute. Whether it is with an employee, a vendor, a neighboring business or even a business partner, legal disputes can cause stress and disrupt business operations.

Luckily, though, not all legal disputes have to be fought inside of a courtroom through expensive litigation. Alternatively, mediation is a conflict resolution process that allows business owners to settle disputes outside of the court process with less stress and less expense. 

Venture capital investments on the rise in Colorado

Last month, we wrote about how Colorado was described as one of country’s new hot spots for venture capital after venture capital professionals from across the country met with some of the state’s top entrepreneurs at the Colorado Venture Summit.

New financial data suggests that the description could be right on as the money invested in Colorado’s venture capital deals surged during the second quarter of 2014.

The state saw a slight decrease in the number of venture capital deals from the first quarter to the second quarter of the year, but the amount invested rose from $112.8 million to $150.8 million, according to data from Thomson Reuters. 

Lawsuit over Oprah's new Colorado property dismissed

Colorado is a state that attracts many people because of its recreational opportunities. There are countless public parks in the state that are used by residents and visitors alike.

However, the need for access to Colorado's beautiful landscape sometimes interferes with the desires of businesses and land owners.

Recently, media mogul Oprah Winfrey was sued for allegedly blocking access to hiking trails with a property near Telluride. The case was dismissed because of jurisdictional issues, but the judge noted that there is also little case law to support the claims made in the lawsuit.

Colorado earns an 'A' when it comes to business friendliness

The recently-released results of a survey involving more than 12,000 small business owners from around the country suggest that Colorado is one of the best states in the nation for small businesses.

The state earned an "A" for overall friendliness to business in the Small Business Friendliness Survey, which was sponsored by the websiteThumbtack.com and the non-profit Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

Employer Liability for Employee Acts Against Co-Workers

Generally speaking, an employer can be held liable for a supervisor's conduct and even another employee's actions toward other employees. However, while an employer is strictly liable for the behavior of a supervisor; the employer is only liable for a non-supervisor's actions if the employer is negligent in their response to prior complaints. In two separate cases decided in 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States and the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit reviewed the definition of what constitutes a "supervisor."

The Supreme Court set forth a test of what constitutes a supervisor in the case entitled Vance v. Ball State University. Ms. Vance was a long-time employee in the catering department of Ball State University ("BSU"). Over the course of her employment she made a number of complaints of racial discrimination and retaliation, pertaining to another BSU catering employee, Ms. Davis. Ms. Vance filed complaints with the EEOC, and subsequently a lawsuit, claiming that she was subjected to a racially hostile work environment in violations of Title VII. Ms. Vance contented that Ms. Davis was her supervisor and that BSU was therefore strictly liable for the creation of the hostile work environment. However, it was undisputed that Ms. Davis did not have the power to hire, fire, demote, promote, transfer, or discipline Ms. Vance. The district court entered summary judgment for BSU finding that Ms. Davis not Ms. Vance's supervisor. The Supreme Court affirmed the decision that Ms. Davis was not a supervisor and BSU was therefore, not strictly liable for her actions. The EEOC argued that a supervisor status is the ability to exercise significant direction over another's daily work. However, the Supreme Court rejected the EEOC's definition, holding that the proper test to determine whether an individual is qualified as a supervisor requires the following finding: an employer may be vicariously liable for an employee's unlawful harassment only when the employer has empowered that employee to take tangible employment action against the victim. Tangible employment action means to effect a significant change in employment status such as hiring, firing, failing to promote, reassignment with significantly different responsibilities, or a decision causing a significant change in benefits.

Are patents needed to protect marijuana strands?

Intellectual property is an area of law that is based on legally-recognized exclusive rights to things that were invented or created. The rights are recognized by patents, copyright and trademarks, which allow creators to benefit from the use of their creations.

Typically, when we think about intellectual property we think of inventions, books or songs. But it might not be long before strains of marijuana join that list. Recreational marijuana use is now legal in the states of Colorado and Washington, and several other states allow medicinal marijuana use. 

Non-compete agreements on the rise in the U.S.

Non-compete agreements are growing increasingly common in Colorado and the rest of the country. From an employer's standpoint, non-compete agreements are aimed at managing the risks that are inherent to an employee's job change.

Because few employer-employee relationships last forever, there must be a way to sever the relationship while minimizing the risks for both parties. For the business, these risks are heightened if an employee should decide to work for a competing business in a similar geography.

How does the Federal Court interpret Colorado Law Regarding Marijuana Testing in the Workplace?

In a previous blog we discussed the case, Coats v. Dish Network, LLC, wherein the Colorado Court of Appeals held that Colorado's Lawful Off-Duty Activities Statute does not prohibit an employer from terminating the employment of an employee for off-the-job use of medical marijuana pursuant to a license issued under Colorado's Medical Marijuana Amendment 64. In that case, Mr. Coats was terminated after he tested positive for marijuana in violation of Dish Network's drug policy. Mr. Coats argued that his marijuana use was "lawful activity" because it was legal under state law. The trial dismissed Mr. Coats' claims, holding that medical marijuana was not a "lawful" activity because it was still federally illegal. The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision. The Colorado Supreme Court granted certiorari in January 2014 and the case is currently pending.