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Small business workers in CO to get full discrimination damages

A new Colorado state law will allow most victims of workplace discrimination to seek full damages in court from their employers, regardless of the size of the business. Starting in 2015, the new statute will remove the current exemption small businesses currently enjoy against certain damages for discriminating against their employees on the basis of race, gender, age or other factors.

The exemption prohibits victims of employment discrimination in Colorado from seeking compensatory damages or punitive damages against employers with fewer than 15 employees. Companies with larger workforces are already potentially liable for damages not directly tied to lost wages. The new law, which Gov. John Hickenlooper signed into law on May 6, unifies the rules to make all employers equally liable for discriminatory behavior toward their workers.

Opponents of the bill, which include business owners and national lobbying groups like the National Federation of Independent Business, claim that holding small businesses to the same accountability as larger employers will subject them to higher insurance premiums and frivolous lawsuits from employees. In a statement following the signing, Hickenlooper said the statute  provides protection from baseless lawsuits. He said the law will give victims of workplace discrimination the tools to seek "appropriate remedies."

The governor also believe the lengthy wait until the law takes effect will give business owners plenty of time to learn how the change will affect them. The law takes effect in January 2015. Before then, the state will provide a public education campaign to make those changes clear, the statement said.

Source: The Colorado Springs Gazette, "Colorado governor signs anti-discrimination bill affecting small businesses," Bill Radford, May 6, 2013

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