Colorado’s Equal Pay for Equal Work Act Explained

January 21, 2021

Colorado recently put the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act into effect. Here is a recap of the act so businesses can make sure to comply.

Equal Pay Act Cover Image

Coming on the heels of MLK Day, it seems only appropriate that we discuss Colorado’s Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, which became effective January 1st of this year.

In case you missed the news, here is a brief history and recap of the new equal pay act.

History of Equal Pay

If you are a young person reading this, then this piece of legislation may seem redundant.  As in, obviously people should be paid fairly.  However, that hasn’t always been the case.  If you research the movements of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cesar Chavez, you will learn about two men fighting for equality in employment.  One topic on the table with both labor leaders was payment of fair wages and equal opportunity for advancement. 

While King and Chavez lived in the 20th century, employment protections in the 21st century haven’t necessarily been guaranteed.  Even within the past decade employers’ feet were not held to the fire to pay employees fairly.  Take, for example, the fact that there are still states with no law protecting employees from pay discrimination based on sex.  Furthermore, employers haven’t always been transparent with vacancies and promotion opportunities.  However, you don’t have to take my word for it.  If you don’t believe me, ask your parents or grandparents.  There is a good chance they will tell you stories of disparity in employment opportunities and pay.

Equal Pay for Equal Work Act Recap

There are several issues addressed within the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act.  Below is an explanation of each.

Equal Pay

Under Colorado’s new equal pay act, if two employees are working in a role with a similar skill level, effort level, and level of responsibility, their pay must also be comparable.  However, the following reasons could warrant a difference in pay:

  • Seniority – Length of time the employee has worked for the company
  • Merit – An employee’s overall work ethic
  • Output – Quantitative or qualitative factors
  • Location – Where the position is located and cost of living variables
  • Qualifications – Educational degree, training, or experience
  • Travel – If it is a requirement for the position
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Aside from these reasons, employees should not experience pay discrimination based on sex.


One topic that was historically off limits for employees to discuss was their salary or hourly wage.  In fact, it was quite taboo and could quickly land you in HR if someone caught word of you disclosing your pay to another employee. 

Under the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, however, employers can’t prohibit employees from having discussions about their own compensation.  This improves transparency where wage equality is concerned.


Besides testifying of wage disparity, generations before you might also tell stories of being overlooked for promotions.  It was not uncommon for advancement or open job opportunities to only be presented to “certain” people.  In other words, the general population of workers wasn’t made aware of opportunities until the position had already been filled.

Fortunately, the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act requires employers to announce new opportunities to all current employees at the same time, or within the same day.  Furthermore, employers must also detail the description, compensation, and benefits, which creates another level of transparency.


Record keeping is an essential responsibility for all business.  Additionally, various government agencies won’t hesitate to audit a company if there is concern that the company isn’t complying with regulations.

With this in mind, the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act requires employers to keep accurate records for each employee. Specifically, The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment could slap employers with a civil fine of anywhere between $500 to $10,000 per violation.

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As mentioned, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment will require employers to execute the new equal pay act.  Furthermore, the CDLE will enforce the law. This entity will also be responsible for investigating complaints and resolving issues pertaining to pay discrimination.

If you would like to view the full equal pay act, it is available here.

Labor Leaders Fought Then for Equal Pay Today

Many decades ago, the most prominent labor leaders dedicated their lives to the fight for fairness in the workplace.  Finally, we are starting to see the fruits of their labor.  In the state of Colorado, the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act does a good job of ensuring protections to employees for equal pay and opportunities for advancement.  So, let’s not forget the effort put into this movement, and let’s continue to remain aware of how far we have come, even if we still have a ways to go.

Picture collage of MLK and Cesar Chavez, who were two of the pioneers in the fight for equal pay.
Source of MLK Photo

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