The WARNING rules – an overview

Through the WARNING rules, the state strengthens protections against whistleblower retaliation for employees, and open up employers to possible new violation claims.

The state bundled together several employment protection laws together into a group commonly referred to as the WARNING rules. Taking effect March 2, 2022, the Colorado Whistleblower, Anti-Retaliation, Non-Interference, and Notice-Giving rules build upon the state’s worker protections, and the rules add to the possible alleged violations for which employers may see claims brought against them.

Therefore, it benefits employees and employers alike to understand the WARNING rules.

Protected activities

The WARNING rules establish several protected activities. As such, employees have the right to take these actions without backlash from their employers. The rules safeguard voicing opposition to perceived or potential violations. They also ensure people will not face adverse actions in the workplace for participating in informal or formal complaints, investigations, hearings, or other such processes and proceeding relating to perceived or potential violations.

The types of perceived or potential violations that employees have protection from retaliation when reporting include those of the following:

  • The Public Health Emergency Whistleblower Act – allows workers to report workplace health concerns and issues relating to the use of protective equipment
  • The Healthy Families and Workplaces Act – grants employees accrued leave for qualifying health or safety needs
  • The Chance to Compete Act – gives workers with criminal histories more meaningful employment opportunities by prohibiting employers from asking about such records during the initial application
  • The Equal Pay for Equal Work Act – prohibits wage discrimination and limits when a wage rate differential may exist

In addition to making it illegal for employers to retaliate against workers for reporting violations of these laws, the WARNING rules also apply to the COMPS order specifying the state’s minimum wage and hour requirements.

Interference

Under the WARNING rules, employers cannot interfere with protected activities. This includes any act, regardless of intent, that disrupts those actions. For example, interference includes neglecting to okay the use of a right, failing to adequately give the necessary notices, or setting consequences or otherwise discouraging employees from exercising certain employment rights. In addition to actions aiming to subvert protected activities, interference may take the form of an omission, a statement that disturbs a protected activity or an affirmative act.

Retaliation

Retaliation refers to discrimination against employees based on protected activities. For instance, the state may view an employer demoting a worker or passing the worker over for a promotion because he or she reported an employment law violation or concern as retaliation. Retaliatory acts include those taken with the intention of and having the ability to potentially deter reasonable employees from taking part in protected activities.

Workers who have their rights violated further after reporting workplace concerns may pursue their options for seeing the wrongs against them made right.

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