Limits On Employment At-Will

Even though the general rule in Colorado is that employees are held at-will, that employees are completely without protection. In fact, creative attorneys may be able to find several causes of action against an employer.

These are some of the major protections that Colorado employees have:

  1. Employees may not be fired for completing jury duty.
  2. Employees generally may not be fired because someone is garnishing their wages. An employee fired for this has 90 days to bring a cause of action, and damages are limited to six weeks of lost wages.
  3. An employer may not fire or threaten to fire an employee due to the employee's connection with a lawful union, social group or political party. In fact, an employer guilty of this is subject to criminal in addition to civil penalties. Additionally, an employer may not fire an employee from participating in politics, and this, too, is criminally punishable.
  4. Discriminatory practices are prohibited on various levels, including by the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act. Complaints also may be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Colorado Civil Rights Commission (CRC). A complaint with the CRC generally must be filed within six months of the discriminatory or unfair employment practice.
  5. An employee may not be fired for a disability, although employers may work around this by showing that the employee simply cannot perform the expected job duties due to his or her disability.
  6. Age discrimination generally is not allowed, although there are limited exceptions.
  7. An employer may not discriminate based on sexual orientation.
  8. An employer may not discriminate based on religion.
  9. Married co-workers generally may not be discriminated against, although there are limited exceptions.
  10. An employer may not fire an employee for being engaged in any lawful activity off of the employer's premises during nonworking hours. However, an employer may place restrictions on what lawful activities employees may be engaged in during working hours. This is why employer may prohibit employees from consuming alcohol or medical marijuana, for example.
  11. An employee may not be fired for participating in a hearing or investigation regarding the employer's failure to comply with minimum wage laws. In fact, an employer may face criminal penalties for this.
  12. Some employers may have to provide victims of domestic violence with up to three days of leave.
  13. Employers in Colorado must provide reasonable break time to a nursing mother to provide breast milk to her child under two years of age.
  14. Under federal law, military veterans who are reemployed under Section 4312 of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act ("USERRA") and who were employed for at least 180 days prior to reemployment may not be discharged within one year of reemployment, except for cause.
  15. Negligent infliction of emotional distress: employee must prove that he or she suffered emotional distress that resulted in serious physical problems. This is a tough standard to meet.