Don't Drink the Tea. Think With the WE.

Colorado Gov. Snubs Business Lobbies, Signs Worker-Supportive Discrimination Bill

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has built his political career on being a universally likable character. In a complicated political state, “Hick” went from brewpub owner to Denver mayoral candidate and from popular Denver Mayor to Governor of Colorado. In the eyes of Republicans, however, his reputational ubiquity has wilted following strong action on issues dear to conservative hearts.

The man who once jumped out of an airplane for a commercial despite his fear of heights has signed into law landmark gun control bills and pushed a ballot initiative aimed at fiscal responsibility. Now, the fierce independent whose name has begun to pop up alongside the number “2016″ has signed a small business discrimination bill despite the veto pleas of big business lobbies:

“As passed, we believe [HB 1136] strikes the appropriate balance between protecting small business employers from costly and frivolous litigation and providing the victims of intentional and unacceptable discrimination with appropriate remedies,” [Hickenlooper said].

Denver Business Journal explains the bill in slight detail:

The bill, sponsored by Democratic Reps.Claire Levy of Boulder and Joe Salazar of Thornton, allows plaintiffs bringing discrimination lawsuits against companies with 14 or fewer employees to receive punitive and compensatory damages and attorney’s fees, as plaintiffs bringing similar legal actions against larger companies can get.

Currently, those small-company workers can receive only back pay and reinstatement to their jobs, and many attorneys will not take their cases because of that.

Sadly, workers rights are anathema to small business interests according to their powerful lobbies. More rights means Hickenlooper loses support of the business community which thought his centrism would double as weakness in the social justice realm. In true Hickenlooper fashion, he is putting workers ahead of personal gain because he knows it is the right thing to do.

“Colorado’s business community does not support employers who would knowingly discriminate. However, this measure goes too far,” the business-group letter said of HB 1136. “These businesses do not have the capacity or capital needed to have human resource departments, in-house counsel or other resources required to defend themselves when hiring, promoting or terminating an employee under Colorado’s complex employment law.”

In response, Hickenlooper explains that there were built-in safeguards added after the original draft of the bills:

It limits damages caps at $10,000 for businesses of four or fewer employees and $25,000 for companies between five and 14 workers.

• The discrimination must found to have been intentional.

• And courts must consider the size and assets of defendant employers before awarding damages, Hickenlooper noted.

A former businessman who beats back business lobbyists? A western Governor who steps up to control guns following a tragedy? These are the makings of the type of person who could turn the heat up a notch following President Obama’s mild stay.


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