On July 11, the governor of Colorado signed a bill that expands whistleblower protections in the workplace. Worker Rights Related to a Public Health Emergency’s (HB20-1415) new protections include prohibiting discrimination, retaliation, or any adverse action against an employee who has raised a reasonable workplace safety complaint in a public health emergency. The provisions outlaw discrimination against workers who choose to wear their own personal protective equipment (PPE) as long as it provides more protection than the PPE provided by their employer, the PPE they want to wear is recommended by a state or federal agency, and that it does not hinder them from doing their job. The new law also makes any confidentiality agreements that stop workers from speaking up about public health and safety violations null and void.
The bill’s new provisions substantially expand employees’ ability to report workplace violations of public health and safety codes. Potential whistleblowers will be able to file qui tam complaints on behalf of the state and receive compensation for their help in exposing possible discrimination, unsafe behavior, or fraud. Expanded protections for whistleblowers mean that companies are more likely to follow government regulations designed to keep everyone safe, especially in a public health crisis such as COVID-19. These new regulations will help keep Coloradans safe in the workplace and provide a roadmap for other states who may want to follow suit.