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Right to Work
Is Colorado a Right to Work State? 6 Questions, Answered
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AnnaMarie Houlis
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Journalist & travel blogger
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Here's everything you need to know about the right-to-work law, at-will employment and these mean in Virginia.

What is right to work?

The right-to-work law, which is also known as the Workplace Freedom or Workplace Choice law, is a law that grants workers the right to choose whether or not they'd like to join a union in their workplace. Likewise, it also makes it optional for workers already in unionized workplaces to pay union dues and other membership fees that are required for union representation (whether they're involved in the union or not).

What is at-will employment?

Every state with the exception of Montana is an at-will employment state. Under the at-will employment policy, either the employer or the employee can terminate employment at any time for any reason (unless it's illegal and proven wrongful termination, which is hard to do) without consequence — unless the employee has a contract or a union agreement that states otherwise.

Is Colorado a right to work state?

Colorado is not a right-to-work state.

That said, Colorado does boast a sort of hybrid policy under its Labor Peace Act, which suggests that "employees at most workplaces are not required to join a union or pay dues, even though they enjoy the same compensation and benefits as union members," according to Find Law. "By not joining the union, however, workers are not covered by union protections (including legal representation in employment disputes)."

That said, Colorado also allows employees to override the right-to-work provisions by becoming "all-union" shops. To do this, they need a 75 percent approval vote from employees, which is a process that the Colorado Department of Labor oversees.

Can you be fired for any reason in Colorado?

Colorado is indeed an at-will state, which means that you can be fired for any just reason at any time. Proving wrongful termination isn't always an easy feat, but your employer can only fire you for legal reasons.

What are important Colorado labor laws?

Here are three important labor laws in Colorado of which you should be aware.

1. Meals & Breaks

Colorado labor laws require employers in the retail and service industries (i.e. food and beverage, commercial support services, or health and medical industries) to provide their employees with a break for a meal period of no less than 30 minutes when they work more than five consecutive hours. During this time, they must relieve their employees of all duties during the entire period. Though the period may be unpaid, some employers choose to pay during this time.

2. Minimum Wage

The minimum wage in Colorado is $11.10, which became effective in January 2019.

"The Division of Labor Standards and Statistics has adopted Colorado Minimum Wage Order Number 35 effective January 1, 2019 through December 31, 2019, to reflect the state minimum wage of $11.10 per hour," according to the Colorado Department of Labor. "No more than $3.02 per hour in tip income may be used to offset the minimum wage of tipped employees... With the passage of Amendment 70, effective January 1, 2017, Colorado's minimum wage was increased to $9.30 per hour and is increased annually by $0.90 each January 1 until it reaches $12 per hour effective January 2020. Thereafter it will be adjusted annually for cost of living increases, as measured by the Consumer Price Index used for Colorado. This minimum wage shall be paid to employees who receive the state or federal minimum wage."

3. Vacation

Colorado wage law does not require that employers give vacation time, paid or otherwise.

"An employer may establish a vacation policy in writing or by custom and practice," according to the Colorado Department of Labor. "Employees must be made aware of the employer's policy. Employers and employees must follow established policy unless and until that policy is changed. The Division recommends that employers develop their vacation policy in consultation with legal counsel."

What are some resources for Colorado employees?

To learn more about employment laws in Colorado, check out these resources:

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.

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