Gov. Polis at Equal Pay For Equal Work Act signing

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis speaks before signing the Equal Pay For Equal Work Act

Gov. Jared Polis has signed an equal pay bill into law, legislation that was praised by progressives and opposed by business groups.

Senate Bill 85, called the “Equal Pay For Equal Work Act,” was signed by Polis on Wednesday. The new law will allow individuals who think they’re facing gender-based pay discrimination to sue their employers.

The law makes exceptions for pay based on merit, seniority or commission. It also prohibits employers from asking about salary history, and requires they post salary ranges for job openings.

While amendments were made aiming to help shield companies from lawsuits, the National Federation of Independent Business-Colorado urged Polis to veto the bill.

The group worries that small businesses won’t be able to shoulder expensive lawsuits that the legislation paves the way for.

“Small businesses are acutely more sensitive to – and more victimized by – frivolous lawsuits than bigger businesses, many of which have legal counsel on their payrolls,” NFIB-Colorado said in a statement before the governor signed the law. “Sometimes, it just makes more economic sense to shutter the shop than keep paying exorbitant attorney costs – even though employers might be in the right.”

“Too bad @GovofCO Gov Polis doesn't understand his failure to veto SB 085, Equal Pay, has placed the risk of runaway lawsuits on the backs of @nfib_co Small Business owners. No one supports pay discrimination however SB 085 opens the door for lawsuit abuse,” Tony Gagliardi, NFIB’s Colorado state director tweeted after the bill was signed.

Gender-based job discrimination is already illegal under the federal Equal Pay Act, but Democratic lawmakers said the legislation was necessary to address Colorado’s pay gap.

“Colorado women are paid 86 cents for every dollar paid to men for doing the same job and African-American women earn 63 cents for every dollar paid to men for doing the same job,” a press release from House Democrats said. “The law, SB19-085, provides an avenue by which Coloradans can, through mediation via the Colorado Department of Labor & Employment and through the court system, seek relief if they have been discriminated against in their compensation based on their sex.”

But some experts argue that the existing pay gap can be attributed to the different career and life choices men and women make, rather than gender discrimination.

Regional Editor

Derek Draplin is a regional editor at The Center Square. He previously worked as an opinion producer at Forbes, and as a reporter at Michigan Capitol Confidential and The Detroit News. He’s also an editor at The Daily Caller.