2021 Compliance Guide

2021 HR Updates and Compliance Checklist

As employment laws continue to evolve each year, we encourage employers review their employment foundation to ensure compliance with federal and state employment laws. Below are important employment law updates and reminders as we enter 2021.

Equal Pay for Equal Work Act

On January 1, 2021, Colorado’s “Equal Pay for Equal Work” law goes into effect. This new law prohibits discrimination in wages based on sex for all Colorado employers and includes specific requirements for employers as follows:

  • Employers may no longer inquire about compensation history from job applicants. Employers may ask about a candidate’s compensation requirements and should inform candidates of the range of compensation that the employer will pay. Job offers should be based on the respective pay range for the position, instead of prior salary history, in order to avoid perpetuating pay disparities between similarly situated men and women.
  • Employers are now required to announce all Colorado-based job openings and “opportunities for promotion” to their Colorado-based employees. When doing so, employers must include the respective pay range for the position in the announcement. The pay range may be stated as the lowest to the highest compensation the employer believes it may pay. 
  • Should an employer also desire to post the job opening externally, the job ad must include:
    • The pay range for the position
    • A general description of bonuses, commissions and other compensation
    • A general description of all benefits, other than “minor perks” not reportable to taxing authorities

Employers are encouraged to conduct a pay equity analysis and correct any identified pay disparities between men and women performing the same duties. Doing so will trigger a safe harbor protection, which may reduce any fines/penalties should a claim be filed under this new law.

Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (Paid Sick Leave)

Effective January 1, 2021, Colorado employers with 16 or more employees must offer 48 hours of paid sick leave per year. To comply with this new law, employers must:

  • Accrue paid sick leave at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 48 hours for all employees. Employers also have the option of granting the 48 hours at the beginning of the year
  • Allow employees access to their available sick time immediately upon accrual
  • Carryover sick leave year to year, up to a maximum of 48 hours
  • Ensure you are familiar with the acceptable reasons an employee may access this time
  • Display the HFWA and PHEW poster in a visible place and email to all employees

Colorado Overtime and Minimum Wage Standards (COMPS)

COMPS establishes the wage & hour laws for Colorado state including minimum wage, meal and rest breaks, overtime and more. Below are several critical changes that were announced in 2020:

  • Effective January 1, 2021, minimum wages increase to:
    • $9.30 for tipped employees
    • $12.32 for nonexempt employees
    • $40,500 for exempt employees
  • Cities and counties are now able to establish their own minimum wage. Check your local county website for details.
  • Employers must pay the employee for the minimum wage in the jurisdiction where they perform the work. For example, if they are performing work in Denver, they must pay Denver’s minimum wage rate for that time.
  • The 30-minute meal period requirement for hourly employees can now be waived by the employee through a written agreement.
  • Hourly employees must take a 10-minute rest break for every four (4) hours worked. They may “occasionally” skip these rest breaks, however if skipped employers now need to add an additional 10-minutes onto their timesheet for that day to compensate them for that time.
  • Employers must display the COMPS poster in a visible place and email to all employees. Additionally, employers are required to distribute the COMPS poster to employees and collect an acknowledgement anytime you distribute the Employee Handbook.

Employee Handbook Updates

Employers are encouraged to review and update their Employee Handbook on an annual basis to ensure compliance with federal and state employment laws. Below are a few important state laws that should be included in your Handbook:

  • Update to include a Paid Sick Time policy per the new HFWA
  • Ensure your Equal Opportunity policy complies with Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA)
  • Ensure your Reasonable Accommodation policies comply with Colorado’s requirement for pregnancy accommodations and workplace accommodations for nursing mothers
  • Compliance with Colorado’s data security employer requirements
  • Compliance with all COMPS requirements (overtime, meal and rest breaks, etc.)
  • Comply with Colorado state’s vacation rules that prohibit “use-it-or-lose-it” policies
  • Ensure your Drug-Free Workplace policies are compliant with Colorado’s marijuana laws
  • At-will language

Many Handbooks also establish internal policies, such as attendance, dress code and other policies. When reviewing your Handbook, always ensure that your internal policies mirror your practices.

Don’t forget to collect new Acknowledgements anytime you make changes to the Handbook! And remember the COMPS poster must now be distributed with your Handbook.

Form I-9 Document Verification

Earlier this year, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued temporary guidance for employers and workplaces that are operating remotely during the pandemic. This temporary guidance allows employers to view new employee work authorization documents electronically. This temporary policy has been extended through March 31, 2021.

Employers should be prepared to perform a visual inspection of the work authorization documents for these employees within three (3) days of this guidance being lifted.

Conduct a Form I-9 Audit

The USCIS has established specific retention requirements for Form I-9s. Employers are only obligated to retain I-9s for terminated employees for three (3) years after hire date or one (1) year after termination, whichever is longer. Each year we recommend reviewing and purging I-9s in accordance with these guidelines.

Employers are required to maintain Form I-9s for all active employees for the length of their employment.

Harassment Prevention Training

Do you have employees in New York or California? Ensure you are complying with state training requirements. All other employers are encouraged to conduct Harassment Prevention training a every two years.

New Hire Reporting

Ensure you are reporting all new hires to the State Directory of New Hires within 20 days of hire.

Labor Law Posters

It’s time to order your 2021 labor law posters! Employers are obligated to post the federal and state employment law posters in a highly visible area, such as a break room. We recommend using the Labor Law Center for this service.  

W2 Preparation

It’s a good time to ask employees to review and update their address to ensure W2s are mailed to the correct address. Use this opportunity to also request updates to emergency contact information as well. 


Solvere HR Consulting provides practical HR solutions that optimize your organizational capability and profitability through your most valuable asset — your employees. Learn more about us at www.solverehr.com.