Handbooks: Do you Need an Update Due to the Legal Landscape of 2020?

by Lorrie Ray

Arizona,  Colorado,  Hot Topics,  Utah

In Arizona, Colorado, and Utah there was legislation in 2020 that impacted employers. Most of it impacts those with employees in Colorado. Still, those with employees in Arizona and Utah will also want to make sure they make any necessary changes. Wyoming does not have any new laws that apply.


In Arizona there is no law that would cause you to change a policy. You may be wondering if employment actions will change because the use of recreational marijuana in Arizona that is now legal. The good news is that with respect to employment the Act allows you to maintain a drug- and alcohol-free workplace where marijuana use is restricted at work and on the employer’s property.


In Colorado there are state and local laws which either came into place in 2020 or will in 2021 that will create the need for a handbook review:

  • COMPS Order – this state order now covers the majority of employers (with the exception of the public sector) and employees. It requires overtime after 12 hours in a day, breaks, and meal periods. It also outlines the state minimum wage, and the salary basis for exempt employees in Colorado.
  • Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA) – All employers must provide sick leave to their employees, but if you have 15 or fewer, the law doesn’t apply to you until 2022 – unless there is a public health emergency proclaimed by the Governor in 2021. (Chances are, there will be.) Whether you have a PTO policy or a sick leave policy, we have a sample for you to use. Here is the PTO policy – see sample number three – and here is the sick leave sample policy – see sample number four.
  • Equal Pay for Equal Work Act (EPEWA) – While there is no specific policy sample, employers do need to make sure that the policies they have do not conflict with the law. Our FYI will walk you through what you need to know.
  • Public Health Emergency Whistleblower (“PHEW”) Law – While there is no requirement for a specific policy in your handbook, employers will want to check through the handbook to be sure policies are compliant with the law. Some examples are, safety, whistle blower, and ethics policies. You can find information about PHEW here.
  • CROWN statutes, like the one passed in Colorado this year, do not allow employers to discriminate on the basis of hairstyles, creating a greater need to review those policies.
  • Denver minimum wage – if you have an employee who works in Denver for more than four hours in any week, you will need to make sure that you pay the proper rate for the work done there. Starting in January 2021, this will be $14.77 per hour. You may want to have a section in your handbook letting employees know to notify payroll if they are paid less than that and work in Denver occasionally.


In New Mexico, if you have two or more employees who work in unincorporated Bernalillo County, you will need to make sure your leave policy is in compliance with the Bernalillo County Employee Wellness Act (aka the PTO ordinance).  While there are no specific policy sample, employers do need to make sure their policies do not conflict with the law.


In Utah there are a couple of changes that bear watching:

  • Cannabis – Utah public employers who have policies concerning the use of prescription drugs should ensure that employees using medical cannabis are treated the same. Utah private employers would be wise to clarify their position regarding whether they will or will not allow employees to use medical cannabis in any drug policy.
  • Blood Alcohol Limit – You may want to update your handbook to make employees aware the alcohol level could cause an employee’s workers compensation award to be reduced or denied if the cause of the employee’s accident is related to alcohol intoxication. You may also want to make sure that you verify alcohol levels through testing that complies with Utah’s Drug and Alcohol Testing Act in order to best position your organization to seek such reductions or denials of claims. Employers Council is happy to help your organization review its alcohol and drug testing policies.

Please call Employers Council with any questions; we’re here to help.

About the author
Lorrie Ray

Lorrie's experience in the variety of problems typically facing employers includes resolution of civil rights cases before state and federal administrative agencies, federal wage and hour disputes and state law claims, employment discrimination, wrongful discharge and health and safety laws. She is also a frequent lecturer on employment law matters. Previous to working at Employers Council, Lorrie worked at the U.S. Department of Labor Office of the Solicitor for a little over three years, prosecuting wage and hour cases for the Department.