Legislative Update: Colorado, Arizona, and Utah

Q: Is anything happening in the General Assembly that I need to know about?

A: Two Colorado bills relating to police and fire associations have been signed into law by Gov. Hickenlooper. SB17-013, which takes effect August 9, 2017, and SB17-020, effective when signed by Gov. Hickenlooper on March 8, relate to multi-employer plans and standards for modification, respectively. 

For state institutions of higher education, SB17-41 exempts jobs that are funded by revenues generated through auxiliary activities, as defined in the bill, from the provisions of current law, which:

  • limit the number and length of employment contracts and contract extensions;
  • prohibit institutions of higher education from providing post-employment compensation or benefits to a government-supported employee after the individual’s employment has ended, except in limited situations and in limited amounts; and
  • allow for public inspection of government-supported employment contracts. 

Of interest to public employers, SB17-040 would basically modify the Colorado Open Records Act to include digital files with some conditions. The bill has made it out of the Senate and into the House, but several bills, such as HB17-1001, which would have provided leave for child academic activities, and SB17-055, which would have made Colorado a “Right to Work” state, have already passed one chamber only to die in the other. Other bills, such as HB17-1119, the Colorado Uninsured Employer Act, related to workers’ compensation, and SB17-131, which would revise the statutes on garnishments, have been introduced but not yet heard in a committee.

A newly introduced bill, HB17-1237, would give the state personnel director authority to allow a local government to provide health benefits to its employees through the state employee group benefit plans. Also recently introduced is HB17-1229, which adds the definitions “psychologically traumatic event” and “serious bodily injury” to the workers’ compensation statutes for the purposes of clarifying a worker’s right to compensation for any claim of mental impairment. This bill made it through the House very quickly, and its fate will now be determined by the Senate. New bills are still being introduced this late in the session, including HB17-1300, introduced last week, which would require use of apprentices on large public projects.

Significant bills impacting all Colorado employers are not expected to be passed this late (over half way) through the legislative session.

Arizona is also halfway through its session. Many bills have been introduced, but there has been little activity thus far. One employment-related bill signed by Gov. Ducey on March 21 would allow training received in the armed forces to qualify for requirements for any commercial licensure or certification.

Bills to reform the workers’ compensation system are perennial favorites. This year, a few have been introduced but seem stalled for now. Bills that would allow for a working member of a limited liability corporation to be covered under workers’ compensation in certain circumstances have been introduced in both the House and Senate (SB1407/HB2482). Each has made it out of its respective chamber and awaits final action in the opposite chamber. SB1332 would add work search requirements or rehabilitation to partial disability workers’ compensation claims. It has been passed by the Senate and is awaiting further action in the House. SB1333 would allow for workers’ compensation lump-sum and full and final settlements, but has yet to receive a hearing.

Arizona bills relating to discrimination, wage transparency, repeal of the Right to Work law, and use of credit histories in hiring have been introduced but have lacked activity.

Utah has completed its session for 2017. A couple of generally significant bills were passed, along with some minor adjustments to the workers’ compensation system. Of the bills related to workers’ compensation that passed, the one with the most impact, SB0092, converted the quasi-public Workers’ Compensation Fund into a mutual corporation and may affect how members buy their workers’ compensation insurance.

HB0238, Payment of Wages Act Amendments, came in response to the Utah Supreme Court’s decision in Heaps v. Nuriche, LLC (Utah 2015), in which the court held that directors and officers could not be individually liable for unpaid wages under the Utah Payment of Wages Act (UPWA). HB0238 adopts the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) definition of employer, thereby ensuring that the Utah and federal standards are the same. Under the FLSA, a manager or officer of a company may be held liable for unpaid wages when certain conditions are met. Therefore, this change supersedes the Utah Supreme Court decision and will allow for individual liability under UPWA. Additionally, the bill creates a private cause of action for wages under the UPWA. With this change, an aggrieved party now has the right to file an action in state court to recover for violations of the UPWA, whereas before, Utah courts held that no such right existed. Finally, this bill contains an exhaustion-of-remedies requirement. 

HB0156S01, State Job Application Process, prohibits public employers from requiring an applicant to disclose past criminal convictions prior to an initial interview. For those familiar with the “ban-the-box” movements across the country, this is essentially a ban-the-box for public employers in Utah. Public employers will not, however, be prohibited from asking an applicant about the applicant’s past criminal history during or after the initial interview, or from considering the applicant’s conviction history when making a hiring decision.

Of interest to Utah small employers, SB0109 as passed will provide a $500 tax credit for small employers (10 to 19 employees) that offer employees access to a qualified retirement plan.

We monitor the state legislatures and general assemblies on a daily basis and will keep the members of MSEC informed of any legislation which may have an impact.

These materials are general in nature not to be construed as the rendering of legal or management advice. Send your questions to cgraves@msec.org. Please tell us if you would prefer your identity not be mentioned in our answer.