When I met with a state legislator this week, he emphasized the importance of letting our legislators know how we feel about the bills before them. Input from constituents can be the deciding factor in how they vote, he said.

You can meet them at their offices, call, attend a town hall meeting or send an email. Find out who your state legislators are at votesmart.org.

HB13-1227, the Colorado Income Protection Act, seeks to stop employers from engaging in wage theft, defined as "the failure to pay wages or compensation due to an employee or falsely denying the amount of wages or compensation due." Rep. Jonathan Singer is the primary sponsor.

Wage theft causes great hardship for employees and their families. It can result in evictions from their homes, cause hunger and loss of utilities, and other major family disruptions.

The bill criminalizes wage theft and is meant to punish people who intentionally cheat their employees. Criminal penalties are essential because these employers are repeat offenders and will not respond unless they are threatened with severe consequences. The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment would also get stronger enforcement power. Contact Angela Williams (angela.williams.house@state.co.us), the chair of the business committee, with your input.


Another bill is SB13-18, Permissible Use of Credit Information By Employers. This bill prohibits use of credit information in most hiring decisions. According to fact sheet put out by a broad coalition of groups, "Credit information is not a valid indicator or predictor of the worth or skills of an employee, even according to FICO, one of the main companies that computes credit scores." This practice tends to hurt veterans, single parents, minorities, students, seniors, people with disabilities and laid-off workers the most.

HB13-1136, The Job Protection and Civil Rights Enforcement Act, would ensure that employees who are intentionally harassed or discriminated against at a business of 14 or fewer employees (and therefore are not covered by federal law), can get compensatory and/or punitive damages and attorney's fees from a judge. The bill also removes the age cap for age discrimination (currently at 70), and also modernizes state law in regard to disability discrimination.

The Colorado State Legislature website is http://leg.state.co.us. Colorado Capitol Watch (coloradocapitolwatch.com) also provides a lot of free information.

Carolyn Bninski is on the staff of the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center.