FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DATE: January 26, 2022
CONTACT: Paul Westrick, 303-941-2314
Workers Advocate for Legislation for Safer and Healthier Workplaces
Bill to give Colorado workers the ability to raise concerns about workplace health and safety practices without fear of retaliation
DENVER, CO –Senators Pettersen and Rodriguez and Representatives Herod and Sullivan will be joined by Colorado workers, the Communication Workers of America, Towards Justice, American Federation of Teachers, PELA and other worker advocates at a virtual press conference in support of a soon to be introduced bill, which provides permanent whistleblower protections for workers who speak out about health or safety concerns at their workplace. The legislature passed a bill in 2020 that offered these protections only during a public health emergency. The 2022 bill will make the protections permanent.
Virtual Press conference
Worker Whistleblower Protection Legislation
“With the passage of HB 20-1415 we gave workers the protection to speak out about health and safety concerns without fear of retaliation only during public health emergencies. Essential workers will still be essential after the pandemic. We need to extend these protections permanently to keep workers and the public safe,” said State Senator Brittany Pettersen.
“The pandemic highlighted that these protections weren’t in place. No worker should have to be worried about losing their job, or having their hours cut because they speak out about working conditions that threaten them and their colleagues. As a state we owe it to workers to give them these protections because it keeps all of us safe,” said State Senator Robert Rodriguez.
“Workplace health and safety concerns existed before the pandemic and will exist after it is over. We need to make the existing protections permanent to keep workers and the public safe,” said State Representative Leslie Herod.
“Colorado workers should be able to make their voices heard without fear of losing their jobs. We need to make permanent the whistleblower protections we passed in 2020 so workplaces are prioritizing health and safety,” said State Representative Tom Sullivan.
The bill protects workers in the public and private sectors ensuring that all workers have the same protections. This includes giving workers the ability to raise concerns about workplace health and safety practices or hazards to their employer, other workers, the public, or government agency and protects workers from retaliation, discrimination, or adverse action. The legislation also allows workers to wear personal protective equipment while at work. without fear of discrimination and requires employers to notify employees of their rights.
“If you see something say something, isn’t that what we’re taught? Without whistleblower protection many essential workers fear retaliation, which is a disservice to our community. We can’t be afraid to voice safety concerns,” said Samantha Scarborough, an ICU nurse and member of CWA Local 7799.
“Many health and safety concerns workers faced prior to the pandemic will continue after the pandemic is over. There is a significant labor shortage state-wide, particularly in the field of education. The ability to attract and retain a professional, highly skilled workforce should be a top priority. All employees, including teachers and staff, deserve to work in an environment free from retaliation when reporting unsafe and inappropriate practices,” said Kevin DiPasquale, President of the Douglas County Federation of Teachers.
Prior to the passage of HB 1415 in 2020, Colorado was without its’ own protections to ensure that workers who spoke out about health and safety were not retaliated against. Federal OSHA protections are limited.
“Extraordinary power imbalances in too many workplaces prevent workers from raising legitimate health and safety concerns,” said Nina DiSalvo of Towards Justice. “But worker voice is a workplace safety imperative – and a public health imperative in the case of workers in our hospitals, schools, and other public-facing institutions. By protecting workers from retaliation when they raise workplace health and safety concerns, Colorado law will keep us all safe long into the future.”
When employees do have concerns, various remedy options are included under the bill including utilizing administrative remedies, filing a claim with the CDLE or bringing an action in court. The legislation also gives the Colorado Department of Labor and Employments (CDLE) the authority to enforce and investigate claims.