Warning Sounded About Employer Impact of CO Ballot Measures

September 17, 2008 ( - Five ballot initiatives on Colorado's November general election ballot could have a substantial impact on employers in the state, according to a client alert from a law firm specializing in workplace law.

By Fred Schneyer | September 17, 2008
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The Jackson Lewis LLP bulletin said the ballot initiatives could represent a good deal of potential legal liability for employers. "If approved by Colorado voters in November, these amendments would require significant changes to the current policies and practices of most Colorado employers, and could entail significant legal risk and financial exposure," the law firm wrote.

The item getting the most public attention, Amendment 47, the "Colorado Right to Work Amendment,"  proposes to amend the state Constitution to make Colorado the 23rd right-to-work state. This means employees could not be required to participate in a labor union or pay union dues as a condition of employment.

According to the law firm, the other four measures include:

  • Amendment 53 - proposes to amend an existing Colorado statute to expand corporate criminal liability to "Executive Officials" of a corporation.  The term "Executive Officials" includes individual officers, directors, managing partners, members, and sole proprietors.  Under Amendment 53, upon conviction, Executive Officials may be fined, imprisoned, or both if they knowingly failed to take action in situations where the company has not performed a duty imposed by law.  A complete affirmative defense is established if, prior to being charged, the Executive Official reports all facts of which he or she is aware to the Attorney General.
  • Amendment 55 - proposes to eliminate employment "at will" in Colorado by amending the Colorado constitution to require that employers have "just cause" before terminating or suspending any employee with at least six consecutive months of employment.  It further requires employers discharging or suspending an employee to provide the employee with written documentation supporting the "just cause" upon which the employer relied.  Examples of "just cause" as proposed by the amendment include an employee's incompetence, substandard performance, neglect, repeated violations of written policies and procedures, and gross insubordination, among others.  Amendment 55 would not apply to businesses with fewer than 20 employees, government entities, and most nonprofit organizations.