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House bill could result in more employment claims

House Bill 1136 passed by the Colorado legislature will take effect on Jan. 1, 2015.  This bill will allow for employees to bring suits against employees for a larger number of classes of economic damages.  Lawsuits can also be brought for non-economic damages including mental anguish, inconvenience, loss of enjoyment of life and emotional pain.

The most important provisions may relate to complaints that can be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  These provisions will allow EEOC complaints to be filed in state court and can involve employers with less than 15 employees.  (Most Colorado employers have fewer than 20 employees.)

The Colorado Civil Rights Division reported that there were 339 employment discrimination suits filed in a one-year period with 313 of those cases being dismissed on the grounds the claims had no merit. However, there is concern that the new bill will result in more employers (especially small employers) being sued for employment discrimination claims. There are questions raised whether small business owners will have the resources to defend themselves in these sorts of lawsuits.

Determining the merits of the new bill may be dependent upon which side you choose to listen to. Employers will view the bill differently than will employees.

However, though we only have a limited amount of control as to what legislatures will pass, employment law attorneys can help employers avoid liability by advising them concerning what kind of company policies could be put in place that will prevent misunderstandings from occurring at all. We can review employment contracts, employee manuals, termination procedures and promotion policies. This would benefit the circumstances of both the employer and employee.

Source: The Pueblo Chieftain, "The regrettable pay up, or else, law," Tony Gagliardi, Feb. 25, 2014

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