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‘You can’t opt out of labor laws:’ CDLE said companies can’t exclude Coloradans from remote job consideration

The Colorado Department of Labor said salary brackets have to be in job postings after a 9Wants to Know investigation found companies tried to avoid the law.

COLORADO, USA — The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) announced Friday that companies that post remote jobs cannot avoid complying with the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act by saying applicants cannot be based in Colorado. 

Scott Moss, director of the Division of Labor Standards and Statistics at CDLE, said if there is just one person living in Colorado and working for the company at the time of the job posting, a salary range has to be included in a job opening. According to CDLE, remote gigs do not get a waiver.

“In general, labor laws aren't opt in, opt out, they're mandatory,” Moss said. “A Colorado employer posting a job that could be done anywhere is not beyond the reach of state law. There's a company with a Colorado presence for work that can be done anywhere. An employer can have whatever preferences it wants, but the law still applies.”

The law, which was passed in 2019 and went into effect in 2021, mandates a reasonable salary bracket be included in a job posting. 9Wants to Know found at least 10 companies in May 2021 that did not include the required salary range. Instead, the posting said the remote jobs could be done anywhere but Colorado.

RELATED: Companies post jobs where you can work anywhere - except for Colorado

“Open to remote work, except in Colorado,” a posting for a human resources job at Nike said.

Credit: 9Wants to Know

That original posting is no longer on Nike’s website. A spokesperson for the company did not return repeated requests for comment but asked that 9NEWS “hold on Nike until we can give you information.” That spokesperson did not follow up with further details. 

Colorado Excluded, a website that tracks these types of postings, has found 125 companies that would not consider an applicant from the Centennial State. In total, 279 job listings have been confirmed by the website with links but not all independently verified by 9NEWS. 

Moss said CDLE is focused on educating companies about the law and what is required to be compliant. He said companies will usually fix their behavior once they know the requirements. If they ignore this guidance, then fines could follow. 

“So, we'll be reaching out individually to those employers in a cooperative, non-adversarial way to make clear that remote jobs need to post pay if you're a Colorado-covered employer, regardless of any preference you might express as to what state applicants are or aren’t from,” Moss said.

Weatherford, an international oil and gas company, did post a salary range for a manufacturing engineer job based in Colorado Springs -  but only ranging from one cent. The company did not immediately return a request for comment through their media line. 

Credit: 9Wants to Know

Moss said it is “puzzling” why companies are spending so much effort to avoid complying with the law. 

“If I were a shareholder in a company and spending thousands of dollars in legal fees to avoid telling applicants pay that it will tell them when they offer the job anyway, I'd be troubled by the use of resources by a company just to avoid a law that requires little for compliance and could do an awful lot to help pay equity in Colorado,” Moss said.

People can file a complaint via this form. Moss said anonymous tips can be considered, but that tipsters should make sure to include screengrabs and links to the postings. Otherwise, it’s difficult for CDLE to follow-up. 

More information can be found at ColoradoLaborLaw.gov. On that website, there’s a box prominently labeled “Pay/Promotion Transparency per Equal Pay Act.” Click it and more resources can be found there.  

CDLE compiled a fact sheet for companies unsure of how to be compliant under this law.

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9NEWS spoke to a person over the phone who did not want to be named since they're still on the job hunt. However, 9NEWS verified their experience.  

The person said they applied for a remote job and got pretty far into the interview process. In the end, they were rejected. They say they were told in part because they lived in Colorado.

"...companies themselves, they're missing out on a lot of really good labor," the person said. "...So there are companies out there that are actually proactively working to to make this work for everybody involved. But it's just I don't know, I guess it's kind of the typical job thing... I just think it's going out and just have to kind of keep on keeping on."  

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9NEWS also spoke to the Colorado Women's Bar Association which among other things, says they're a mission-based organization of female attorneys looking to promote the interests of women and children. 

They were big supporters of the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act.

"You know, this law was passed to create pay and promotion, transparency and fair wages for everyone, including women and those who are looking to work remotely," said Laura Wolf, who is the co-chair of the association's public policy committee. "...We have great, hardworking people here in Colorado, hardworking women, men who want to be, you know, just want some fair wages. They want to be able to speak about their pay in their workplace. They have a right to do so. And we want employers to be on board with that."

In a statement to 9NEWS, State Senator Jessie Danielson, who was a sponsor of the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, said:

“This shows that the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act is working. The Department of Labor and Employment is enforcing the law well. When corporations continue to strive so hard to continue to underpay women, the answer must be more transparency, not less. This law is critical to Colorado workers and companies must comply with it.”

Luis de Leon, a 9NEWS reporter, contributed to this story.

Send tips on this story, or any other topic, to investigative journalist Zack Newman at zack.newman@9news.com or 303-548-9044. This story was made possible by viewer tips.

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