United States: Changes Coming To Colorado Discrimination Claims

Last Updated: January 2 2015
Article by Adam Brown

On January 1, 2015, changes to Colorado's employment anti-discrimination statute will go into effect, drastically impacting employers facing employment discrimination claims. The changes will significantly expand the remedies available under the statute, and will make it easier and more attractive for employees to file discrimination lawsuits in state court rather than alleging violations of federal law.

Colorado Discrimination Overview

The Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA) makes it unlawful for an employer to refuse to hire, to discharge, to promote or demote, to harass during the course of employment, or to discriminate in matters of compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment against any person otherwise qualified because of disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, age, national origin, or ancestry. The CADA prohibits discrimination and retaliation in employment on the same grounds as federal anti-discrimination laws.

But Colorado law goes beyond current federal protections by prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, including transgender status, for all employers, not just those that are federal contractors. Additionally, unlike federal law, the CADA applies to all Colorado employers, regardless of size.

Under the current version of the law and for discrimination claims arising before January 1, 2015, the CADA allows prevailing employees to recover only back pay and equitable relief such as reinstatement. The parties are not entitled to a jury trial and no attorneys' fees are awarded.

These limited CADA remedies have resulted in most employees pursuing discrimination claims in federal court, alleging violations of federal antidiscrimination laws in order to seek the additional remedies available under federal law. This was fine by employers who generally prefer litigating in the more business-friendly federal court. After January 1, that is all about to change.   

Significant Changes Coming

In May of 2013, the Colorado legislature passed the Job Protection and Civil Rights Enforcement Act, which amended the CADA as applied to discriminatory conduct that occurs on or after January 1, 2015. The most important change is that the amended statute now allows prevailing employees to recover compensatory and punitive damages in discrimination lawsuits brought under state law, remedies which were previously unavailable.

In addition to back pay and reinstatement, aggrieved employees now may seek to recover front pay, compensatory damages for emotional pain and suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life and other nonpecuniary losses, as well as punitive damages. The total amount of compensatory and punitive damages will be capped at the same amounts as under federal law based on the number of employees, with additional caps for small employers not subject to the federal antidiscrimination laws, namely $10,000 for employers with one to five employees and $25,000 for employers with six to fourteen employees.

Additional changes will significantly impact Colorado employers facing discrimination claims. The CADA amendments allow the court to award attorneys' fees and costs to prevailing employees. Fees and costs may also be awarded to prevailing employers, but only in cases that are found to be frivolous, groundless, or vexatious. Either party also may demand a jury trial.

Additionally, the CADA amendments did away with the age cap of 70 for age discrimination claims, allowing age discrimination lawsuits by individuals over the age of 40, with no maximum age cap, consistent with the federal age discrimination law.

Practical Implications Of The CADA Changes

The practical effects of these amendments are game changers. First, employees alleging intentional discrimination or retaliation who file their lawsuits in state court, alleging only violations of state law, will now be able to recover the same types of damages, including attorneys' fees, as employees filing suit in federal court under federal law. In state law cases, employers will not be able to remove the lawsuits to federal court, which typically is the favored venue for employers, unless diversity jurisdiction exists, such as when the parties are citizens of different states. In other words, employers more often will find themselves in a plaintiff-friendly state court, from which they are unable to remove the case.

Litigating discrimination cases in state rather than federal courts is significant for Colorado companies in many ways. First, state courts have heavier dockets and fewer resources than their federal counterparts, meaning the judges will be pulled in many directions without magistrate judges available to handle discovery issues and other procedural matters.

Second, there is far less case law interpreting the CADA than exists for federal discrimination laws. Judges will be forced to decide issues that have not previously arisen under state law, with federal precedent merely persuasive rather than binding.

Third, employees residing in remote areas of Colorado will be able to litigate their lawsuit in the state court located in their local community, rather than having to litigate in the single federal court in Colorado located in Denver. In addition, if a jury trial is requested, the jury pool will be drawn from those local counties. In short, employers may find themselves in uncharted and unfamiliar territory.

Another major impact of the CADA amendments is that employees alleging discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation, which is not a protected category under federal law (except for certain federal contractors), will now be able to recover compensatory and punitive damages under the CADA, remedies which were previously unavailable. LGBT employees who experienced discrimination or retaliation had little incentive to file a CADA claim when potential damages were limited to back pay and reinstatement. Such claims may be more likely now that front pay, emotional distress damages, and punitive damages could result in a significant monetary award.

Finally, small employers with fewer than 15 employees will likely find themselves defending more employment discrimination and retaliation claims as they can now be held liable for the same types of damages allowed in Title VII, ADA and other federal discrimination cases. In addition, the prospect of facing increased damages, including a potential award of attorneys' fees and costs, will change the risk level for small employers who often have fewer resources in reserve to survive such lawsuits.

What You Should Do Now

Consider taking the following actions in preparation for the January 1 changes to the CADA:

  • have an attorney review your personnel policies to make sure they are up to date, and compliant with state and federal law;
  • ensure that your managers and supervisors are adequately trained in all areas of employment discrimination, specifically including how to handle employee complaints;
  • review your procedures for investigating reports of harassment, discrimination and retaliation;
  • implement and enforce a strong anti-retaliation policy; and
  • make sure that you have effective personnel practices in place, and that all managers are properly documenting disciplinary issues.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Adam Brown
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions