COLORADO GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES ATTORNEY
STATE AND FEDERAL EMPLOYEES IN COLORADO
Colorado has more than 30,000 state employees and almost 50,000 federal workers, including the U.S. Department of Defense. These public employees have unique legal protections under Colorado and federal law. The Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA) protects all Colorado workers from discrimination based on a person’s race, color, religion, creed, national origin, ancestry, sex, age, sexual orientation, and physical or mental disability. See C.R.S.§ 24-34-401, et seq. (2017). Some federal laws protect most Colorado employees as well. But public employees, both state and federal, have special protections not afforded to employees of private companies in Colorado.
Federal Employee Rights
Federal employees have specific protections against “prohibited personnel practices,” including:
- Discrimination based on race; color; religion; sex, including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy; national origin; age if you’re 40 or older; disability; or genetic information;
- Coercing political activity;
- Engaging in nepotism;
- Obstructing a person from competing for employment;
- Soliciting or considering employment recommendations based on something other than job-related abilities or personal knowledge;
- Retaliation or taking personnel action against someone for whistleblowing, or a complaint, appeal, or grievance action.
We assist clients in filing complaints with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which investigates and prosecutes these complaints from federal employees. We also represent clients before the:
Merit Systems Protection Board:
The MSPB is a quasi-governmental agency that protects the integrity of the federal merit systems and federal employees’ rights. The board hears appeals of federal employees facing demotion, suspension, or termination because of their conduct or performance.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:
The EEOC oversees equal employment in the workplace, handling discrimination, harassment, and retaliation claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Pay Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and other federal laws.
Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs:
The OWCP administers federal workers’ compensation and is a division of the U.S. Department of Labor. Because state workers’ compensation laws don’t apply to federal workers, the OWCP administers medical coverage and wage compensation for federal employees’ on-the-job injuries.
Colorado State Employee Rights
Colorado law does limit some protections for state and local employees, but it also offers unique statutory and procedural protections.
Limitations on State Employees:
The Colorado Governmental Immunity Act limits state, city, or county employees from filing certain tort claims against the state, county, or city for which they work. Moreover, state and locality employees do not have the same rights as private employees under the Colorado Wage Act.
Protections for State Employees:
However, state employees do have special job protections not afforded to private employees. Once state employees are past their probationary employment period, state employees are no longer “at-will” employees. This at-will status means that state and local governments can’t fire employees for just any reason, but only for “just cause.” Because state employees aren’t at-will employees, they’re entitled to a due process evidentiary hearing before the state for any action that can adversely affect their base pay, employee status, or tenure.
An appeal could reverse an adverse action taken against a public employee if the decision was “arbitrary or capricious” or contrary to rule or law. A decision is “arbitrary or capricious” if it has no rational basis or competent evidence to support it. A decision is “contrary to rule or law” if it violates a specific law, policy, rule, or procedure. A specific set of rules apply to public school teachers under the Teacher Employment, Compensation, and Dismissal Act of 1990.
Public employees in Colorado also have the right to:
- Have their case heard by an administrative law judge;
- Appeal that ruling to the Colorado State Personnel Board and then the Colorado Court of Appeals; and
- File whistleblower complaints with the Colorado State Personnel Board.
We represent and advise public employees for cases related to:
- Proposed discipline and removals (R6-10 Meetings);
- Hostile work environments;
- Failure to accommodate;
- Constructive discharge or termination;
- Denial of Family and Medical Leave Act requests;
- Disability retirement;
- Denial of leave;
- Breach of settlement;
- Whistleblower and retaliation claims;
- Grievances; and
- Other employment matters.
Federal and state administrative procedures can be a maze of bureaucracy and paperwork, so an attorney well-versed in representing federal and state workers can help you navigate the systems and make sure your rights are protected. Moreover, state and federal employees have short time frames to file complaints and appeals after an adverse decision. For example, the Colorado State Personnel Board only allows ten days to file an appeal after an adverse action. So, it’s essential to consult an experienced employment attorney as quickly as possible if you are a public employee.
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