RSVP for HR assistance

Christi Sanders

Small business owners didn’t previously have to worry about discrimination charges because federal laws didn’t apply to their operations. Neither the Civil Rights Act of 1964 nor American with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to businesses with fewer than 15 employees.

But recent state legislation in Colorado is expected to affect small businesses in a fundamental way. The Equal Pay for Equal Work Act scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1, 2021 will apply to every employer.

The law requires businesses to justify differences in wages between employees with highly similar jobs with similar levels of responsibility and authority. Differences in compensation must be based on such criteria as:

A documented seniority or merit system or a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production.

Geographic location.

Education, training, experience required or travel.

How does this affect your small business? First, it means you must look at the ways you pay your employees, document differences in pay between highly similar jobs and the ways you educate employees to ensure they understand how their compensation is calculated.

It also means employers:

Can’t stop employees from discussing their wages with others at work.

Must develop and maintain records of job descriptions and wage rate history for each employee for the duration of employment plus two years.

Must publish compensation rates or ranges and total compensation packages when positions are posted.

Must conduct a regular internal wage rate analysis to ensure no pay disparity exists.

Finally, this law allows employees to go directly to civil court without having to first go through the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment Civil Rights Division. Any employee who feels they’re being discriminated against in their compensation can sue their employer. Employers can’t fire, discipline or retaliate in any way.

While small business owners are less likely to have a human resources staff to help them navigate the changing employment law landscape, the Western Colorado Human Resource Association does offer assistance. Beginning this fall, WCHRA will offer the first course in a series of training opportunities designed for small business owners and others who perform HR-related duties as well as those who are new to HR and HR professionals who need a refresher course or continuing education hours.

These courses will be offered as either a half-day training session with 8 weeks of online access or as an 8-week online only course. Participants will also receive workbooks with detailed directions, tips and links to resources that provide continuing education and support.

These peer-reviewed courses are being developed in a partnership involving WCHRA, the Colorado Mesa University Business Department and Grand Junction employment law firm of  Bechtel, Santo & Severn to ensure the curriculum is accurate, of the highest quality and conforms to state and federal laws and regulations. WCHRA also is working with the Society for Human Resource Management to assign continuing education credit hours to each course.

Five courses are planned:

How to perform a job analysis — Oct. 18.

Writing quality job descriptions — Jan. 10, 2020.

Creating fair and equitable compensation plans — March 27, 2020.

Tying employee evaluation systems to compensation plans — June 19, 2020.

Conducting a wage audit — Sept. 11, 2020.

Ideally, participants should take courses in order. Each course builds on knowledge gained in the previous course. Participants will receive a certificate for completing each course and special certification from WCHRA for completing all five courses.

The investment for each course is $250. Those who pay for the first four courses will receive the fifth at no charge. This is less expensive than the typical retainer for a lawyer.

Class sizes are limited to the first 30 participants who sign up. Additional training dates will be added if there’s sufficient demand. For more information or to register, send an email to