Domestic workers

Colorado Bill Would Expand Employment Discrimination Law to Cover Domestic Workers | Legislature

Colorado’s tens of thousands of domestic workers could soon be protected by the state’s anti-discrimination law under a new bill.

If adopted, House Bill 1367 would expand Colorado’s anti-discrimination law to cover domestic workers. The bill would also extend the time to file a complaint with the Civil Rights Commission from 180 to 300 days and increase the damages recoverable in age discrimination cases.

“The standards we currently have do not adequately protect our workers. It’s going to solve a lot of problems,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Matt Gray, D-Broomfield. “It’s not a magic bullet for workplace discrimination…but there are a lot of people whose lives are going to be made better.”

The House Judiciary Committee advanced the bill on Tuesday, sending it to the House Appropriations Committee for further review.

Colorado’s anti-discrimination law prohibits employers from discriminating against an employee because of disability, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, and nationality. Under current legislation, employees do not include domestic workers who work for private households, such as cleaners, gardeners, nannies or elderly people.

In 2020, 2.2 million people worked as domestic workers in the United States – of which 91.5% were women and 52.4% were people of color, according to a report by the Institute for Economic Policy. Domestic workers are also disproportionately older, foreign-born and live in poverty.

Iris Halpern of the Colorado Women’s Bar Association said the landmark decision not to include domestic workers in job protections was meant to exclude industries in which newly emancipated slaves worked at the start of the Jim Crow era.

“There’s a really racist story to these exclusions,” Halpern said. “Domestic workers who perform significant work and who are disproportionately women and women of color (should) enjoy the same protections under the law for the work they perform as other workers.”

On Tuesday, the committee approved the bill by a 7-4 vote, with all Republican members in opposition and all Democratic members in favour.

During the meeting, Republican Representatives Stephanie Luck of Penrose and Terri Carver of Colorado Springs repeatedly expressed concerns that the bill would prevent people from choosing the gender of their employees for jobs, such as babysitters or care for the elderly.

The bill’s drafters and others who testified said that would not happen, saying sex in some cases is a bona fide occupational qualification already protected by state law and existing case law.

“When it’s a very intimate activity like that, there’s going to be no problem with that,” said Ellen Buckley of the Colorado Plaintiff Employment Lawyers Association. “Absolutely not. This will not be considered discrimination.”

Buckley said the bill would protect domestic workers from wage discrimination based on all protected statuses, but protection for employment in general would be primarily limited to statuses, such as race and nationality, not age and sex.

If the bill were enacted, the state estimates it would result in about 200 additional discrimination complaints being filed each year.


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