Colorado Legislature – Bills Introduced as of 3/27/23
Landlords remain in the crosshairs while employer liability expands.
SB23-184 Protection for Residential Tenants
As drafted, this bill will require landlords to enter into a rental agreement with the first applicant able to demonstrate sufficient income to cover 120% of the posted rent. No provision is made to consider other debts for which the prospective renter is legally obligated to pay. Moreover, a landlord may not reject an applicant based upon financial reasons if the applicant can document that rent was paid on time for the most recent three months at a prior address. Security deposits cannot exceed the equivalent of one month’s rent and may be payable in monthly installments spread over half the term of the rental agreement.
To add further peril to landlords, any violation of prohibitions will be considered an unfair housing practice subject to enforcement by the aggrieved, the attorney general, and/or the Colorado civil rights division. In addition, an initial penalty of $50 must be paid to the aggrieved applicant. A landlord that does not cure the violation will be subject to a statutory penalty of $5,000, payable to the aggrieved applicant, along with economic damages, court costs, and legal fees. Moreover, the mere allegation of an unfair housing practice shields the tenant from eviction.
Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance (NCLA) Position: Pending
SB23-172 Protecting Opportunity and Worker’s Rights
Back for the third try, and this time it looks to clear the legislature, is a bill that will expand the definition of “harassment”, while rejecting established case law that establishes a claim of harassment must be based upon the creation of a hostile work environment. Fundamental to the definition of a hostile work environment is a determination that such conditions are “severe and pervasive”. Rather, the bill establishes that any conduct that occurs in which a reasonable person that is perceived to share similar characteristics as an aggrieved employee would consider the conduct a form of harassment. A single act could constitute harassment, and therefore, liability to the employer as engaging in unfair employment practices.
The bill further eliminates an exception under current labor law that allows an employer to assert that an individual’s disability has a significant impact on the job as rationale for any employment practice. In other words, just because an individual may not be able to perform their primary job function is not a valid reason for not hiring or retaining the individual.
Though there are provisions under which an employer is able defend itself, the requirements are quite stringent. For example, prior to any claim of harassment, the employer must: have a written policy intended to prevent harassment, deter future harassers, and protects employees from harassment; has documented that all supervisory and non-supervisory employees are familiar with the policy; that every instance of real or alleged harassment, and subsequent disposition, has been fully documented and retained within a central file; and, over the prior 5 years, no employee has alleged an incidence of harassment internally or to any governmental agency. Such documentation must be retained for at least 12 months beyond which time the business ceases operations. Presumably, this means that even if a business shuts down, they may still be subject to retroactive claims.
The applicability of non-disclosure agreements relative to employment practices is also curtailed with additional provisions that allow an employee to share information deemed to be factual.
NCLA Position: Oppose
HB23-1189 Employer Assistance for Home Purchase Tax Credit
A rare bright spot for business, this bill would create a mechanism for employers to claim a state income tax credit for providing monetary assistance to employees seeking to purchase a primary residence. The allowed credit is equal to 5% of the employer’s contribution, up to $5,000 per employee, with no more than $750,000 claimed by an employer in any one year. The bill further provides the ability of an employer to establish a savings program, whereby an employee can authorize their employer to withhold a specified amount from their paycheck for the purpose of accumulating funds necessary to purchase a home. Any employer contribution may be used for down payment and closing costs, including appraisals, mortgage origination, and inspections. As well, the employer contribution amount may be deducted from the employee’s taxable income on their state tax return.
NCLA Position: Support
NCLA Tracking Report
On a bi-weekly basis, the NCLA Board reviews and considers its position on pending legislation. See the NCLA 2023 Legislative Tracking Report for the list of bills, thus far introduced, in which the NCLA is engaged.
Source: Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce