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Denver Employment Law Blog

Proposed rule will give overtime protection to more workers

The United States Department of Labor has proposed raising the threshold that certain employees must earn before they can qualify for an exemption from mandatory overtime.

Whether an employee is exempt or not is a huge question both for employees and employers in the Denver area. The advantage to employers is that they may require, or effectively require, an exempt employee to work well over a 40-hour week without paying a dime of overtime compensation.

Workplace discrimination: Take these steps as a victim

Workplace discrimination can take on many forms. Even with federal and state laws in place to prohibit discrimination, this remains a problem in companies of all sizes and in all industries.

If you have reason to believe you were the victim of workplace discrimination, here are five steps you need to take:

  • Report the behavior to your employer: Make it clear that you know what's happening, and that the conduct is unacceptable. It's best to file a formal complaint with the HR department, and request a copy of the written report.
  • Don't let it go: Your HR department may tell you that they're looking into the incident. From there, several weeks go by and you don't hear anything. Rather than let it go, continue to follow up to determine where things stand.
  • Keep good records: You don't want your discrimination claim to turn into a "he said, she said" battle. To protect against this, keep a diary that outlines all incidents. At a minimum, write down the date, time, location, people involved and the details of what occurred.
  • Keep physical evidence: Along with written records, physical evidence can come in handy in the future. For example, if a supervisor sent you an email that backs up your claim, keep a copy of it in a safe place.
  • Read your employee handbook: It's here that you're likely to find your company's anti-discrimination policy. Read through this to ensure that your company is following the protocol they have in place.

What is the point of that "essential job functions" list?

A Denver resident who is applying for a position has probably noticed that, these days, most job descriptions include a list of "essential job functions." Usually, these are in addition to the actual description of the job and the list of required skills and experience.

Among other things, the reason employers put the list of essential job functions in a job description relates to disability discrimination. Under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, most Colorado employers are not allowed to discriminate against employees, or prospective employees, who have documented disabilities. Ordinarily, this means that an employer will need to accommodate a worker's disability if the employer can do so reasonably.

Colorado workers can still be fired for marijuana use

As many residents of Denver know, Colorado has to some extent allowed the residents of this state to use marijuana legally. While the state constitution has for over five years allowed people to possess and use marijuana in limited quantities, the drug technically remains illegal under federal law.

This is an important point for Denver workers who, whether for medical reasons or otherwise, choose to use marijuana. The reason is that the current status of Colorado law is that employers can prohibit employees from using the drug as part of their drug free workplace policies. One government institution did just that just a few months ago.

Noncompete language is not always fair

In the modern workplace, noncompete agreements are an accepted part of doing business for many employees. Employers often include some form of noncompete clause in their employment contracts, whether it is practical or even legal.

For many employees, the prospect of landing a job that they want or need is so enticing that they sign a contract they do not fully understand, especially when it comes to noncompete clauses. After all, not everyone is already thinking about a potential job after the job offer they just received.

Should you accept a severance package as is?

As an employee, you face a difficult decision any time an employer offers you a severance package. Depending on the terms of the offer, accepting the offer as it is may be the best option, but it is always wise to review the offer carefully.

Sometimes, an employer offers a severance package hoping to resolve a conflict before it becomes very costly or affects the productivity of the company. It is important to understand why your employer offered you a severance package before you accept it without any negotiation. In many instances, accepting the first offer leaves money or other benefits on the table.

High ranking Denver officer claims retaliation

A woman who was at one time the youngest person ever given the rank of Commander on the Denver Police Department has filed a retaliation claim against her employer.

In her claim, she alleges that her ex-boss, now the former Chief of Police, punished her after she complained about his actions, actions she says were inappropriate behavior for the workplace. The alleged behavior could have legally involved gender discrimination or sexual orientation discrimination.

Mandatory rest periods in Colorado

Although federal law also covers when Denver-area employees are entitled to a break, at least to some extent, Colorado has its own state-level rules that require employers in this state to give their employees certain breaks while they are on duty.

Specifically, under Colorado's law, employers must give, and pay for, a 10-minute break for every four hours of an employee's duty time. If it can be accommodated without imposing an undue burden, the break should fall somewhere in the middle of each four-hour split.

Is your employment contract enforceable if you break it?

Working in the modern world typically means signing a lengthy, detailed contract, one which is often skewed in the favor of the employer. In many cases, employees sign on to contracts they do not fully understand because they assume the fine print is standard, or simply because they need the job.

However, when the business relationship runs its course, many employees find that their contracts are surprisingly one-sided and unwieldy. For some, these contracts may be outright unfair. They may contain terms that significantly harm or disadvantage the employee without a strong justification.

Subtler forms of retaliation

As this blog has discussed on previous occasions, it is illegal for a Denver employer to retaliate against an employee who duly reports a law violation or who participates in a valid official or even intra-office investigation.

Anti-retaliation provisions specifically prohibit employers from punishing employees for filing discrimination claims with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC.

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