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Colorado Rights Blog

HB 1269: Workplace Fairness Civil Remedies Act

Racial Justice
Bill Number: HB 1269
Year: 2010
ACLU Position: Active Support
Sponsors: Rep. Levy; Sen. Carroll

Description:
Current law does not allow an award of compensatory or punitive damages or attorney fees and costs to a plaintiff who prevails in a lawsuit alleging a discriminatory or unfair employment practice under state law. While federal employment antidiscrimination laws allow such damages and reasonable attorney fees and costs, only employers who employ 15 or more employees are subject to federal law. Moreover, victims of employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation are not afforded protections under federal law. Thus, employees who work for employers with fewer than 15 employees or who claim employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation are not allowed compensatory or punitive damages or to recover reasonable attorney fees and costs when they prove a case of employment discrimination. The bill establishes the "Workplace Fairness and Civil Rights and Remedies Act of 2010", which would allow the additional remedies of compensatory and punitive damages in employment discrimination cases brought under state law. These damages would be in addition to the remedies allowed under current law, namely, front pay, back pay, interest on back pay, reinstatement or hiring, and other equitable relief that may be awarded. Compensatory damages are to compensate a plaintiff for other pecuniary losses, emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, and other nonpecuniary losses. If the plaintiff shows by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant engaged in a discriminatory or unfair employment practice with malice or reckless indifference to the rights of the plaintiff, the plaintiff may recover punitive damages. The bill caps the overall damages, including both compensatory and punitive, if applicable, that may be awarded to a plaintiff, based on the size of the employer defendant, as follows: 
  • For employers with 14 or fewer employees, not more than $25,000; 
  • For employers with between 15 and 100 employees, not more than $50,000; 
  • For employers with between 101 and 200 employees, not more than $100,000; 
  • For employers with between 201 and 500 employees, not more than $200,000; and 
  • For employers with more than 500 employees, not more than $300,000. When a plaintiff claims compensatory or punitive damages in a civil lawsuit, either party to the action is entitled to demand a jury trial. If the case is tried by a jury, the court is not to inform the jury of the damage caps. Additionally, the court may award the prevailing party reasonable attorney fees and costs. In the first year after the bill takes effect, compensatory and punitive damages and reasonable attorney fees and costs would only be available against an employer with 15 or more employees. For actions accruing on or after August 11, 2011, these remedies would be available against any employer, regardless of the number of employees it employs.

Current Status:

04/09/2010 House Committee on Appropriations Refer Amended to House Committee of the Whole
03/01/2010 House Committee on Judiciary Refer Amended to Appropriations
02/05/2010 Introduced In House - Assigned to Judiciary + Appropriations
02/05/2010 Introduced In House - Assigned to Judiciary
04/13/2010 House Second Reading Laid Over to 04/15/2010
04/15/2010 House Second Reading Lost with Amendments



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