A bill signed into law this week by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a small business owner himself, isn't sitting well with other small business owners.
On Monday, House Bill 13-1136 became the Job Protection and Civil Rights Enforcement Act of 2013. The law, nicknamed the "sue your boss" law, will expand an employee's ability to sue an employer for job discrimination.
Formerly, employees could only collect damages such as back pay or being rehired if they were fired. But under the new law, employees also may sue for punitive damages such as emotional pain or inconvenience.
Hickenlooper tried to reassure critics of the law, saying it caps damages at $25,000 and weeds out frivolous lawsuits. But local small business owners said the law will force them to buy insurance to protect themselves, and reluctantly retain problem employees.
"If it requires hiring an attorney, it's probably not worth it," said Mazie Baalman of the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. "It's just worth it to let them win. Most small businesses can't foot the bill for something like that. Ours can't, even though I have five stores."
"It's bad legislation," said restaurant owner Pete LeBarre. "It's a restraint in the growth of a small business owner. Most discrimination claims aren't valid anyway. The system was already working. Maybe this is enhancing someone's political career, saying they're helping employees."
The law won't take effect until January 2015, to give small business owners time to adjust to the law. It pertains only to owners of businesses with 15 or fewer workers.