Wage Transparency in Colorado and Beyond

David Reed

Important disclaimer: I am not an attorney. This is not legal advice.

My home state of Colorado's Equal Pay for Equal Work Act went into effect in January of 2021. This law has a number of important provisions, including a prohibition on wage discrimination across multiple protected classes. One of the most broadly visible provisions, though, is the requirement of salary transparency. Companies are required to include a good-faith salary range, along with descriptions of benefits and bonuses, in every job posting that can hire in Colorado, even if the company is not located in Colorado. This is a really, really good thing for job-seekers, especially those who are entering the technology industry for the first time and/or come from underrepresented backgrounds. Transparency helps ensure that less-well-connected and less-experienced members of the community are valued appropriately for their work. It's also a simple, pragmatic step to ensure that job-seekers can locate open roles that are compatible with their expectations.

The critical passages from the Rules established by Colorado's Department of Labor and Employment run like this:

Rule 4. Job Posting Requirements

4.1 All job postings, including but not limited to promotions: An employer is required to “disclose in each posting for each job the hourly or salary compensation, or a range of hourly or the salary compensation, and a general description of all of the benefits and other compensation to be offered to the hired applicant.” C.R.S. § 8-5-201(2).

4.1.1 Employers must include the following compensation and benefits information in each posting:
(A) the hourly rate or salary compensation (or a range thereof) that the employer is offering for the position;
(B) a general description of any bonuses, commissions, or other forms of compensation that are being offered for the job; and
(C) a general description of all employment benefits the employer is offering for the position, including health care benefits, retirement benefits, any benefits permitting paid days off (including sick leave, parental leave, and paid time off or vacation benefits), and any other benefits that must be reported for federal tax purposes, but not benefits in the form of minor perks.

4.1.2 A posted compensation range may extend from the lowest to the highest pay the employer in good faith believes it might pay for the particular job, depending on the circumstances. An employer may ultimately pay more or less than the posted range, if the posted range was the employer’s good-faith and reasonable estimate of the range of possible compensation at the time of the posting.

The penalty allowed by law for violations is a fine of no less than $500 and no more than $10,000 per violation. You can file complaint forms (PDF link) by email with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

Because I'm not currently seeking a job, I have the luxury of pushing back without worry when I see job postings and recruiters that do not know, or choose to ignore, the requirements of the state of Colorado. What I usually say is something like this:

Thank you for sharing this role. I noticed that no salary range is provided. This information is required by law in the State of Colorado, of which I am a resident, and includes any remote roles that can hire in Colorado. A growing number of jurisdictions around the country, including New York City and the states of Washington and Connecticut, have passed similar transparency laws. This information helps support equitable outcomes for candidates who are underrepresented or historically disadvantaged.

Would you please disclose the salary range for this position in the posting?

Sometimes, companies decide to dodge out of following Colorado's laws by stating "This position is not eligible to be worked in the state of Colorado". Here's one way I respond to such postings:

I'm disappointed to see that this role excludes the state of Colorado. This usually means that the company prefers not to follow Colorado's common-sense rules on disclosing salary and benefits information. I would strongly encourage the company to include a salary range on this posting rather than choosing to exclude a state of nearly 6 million people with a thriving tech community. This information also helps support equitable outcomes for candidates who are underrepresented or historically disadvantaged.

I would love to see awareness of salary transparency laws grow in the Salesforce community. Here's what I would encourage folks to pursue:

For individuals: know your rights on salary transparency and call out employers that do not comply with the laws in your jurisdiction. Even if you do not live in a salary-transparency state, companies that hire in both your state and Colorado are still bound by Colorado's laws.

For recruiters: insist that your clients follow the law. Remind them they're potentially liable for up to $10,000 in penalties in the state of Colorado. Other jurisdictions may have different requirements and liabilities.

For communities, like Discord servers, Slacks, subreddits, and user groups: use the value of your community's attention to insist that all postings include salary transparency. Recruiters and companies want access to your communities. Insist that they meet your standards to gain that access.

For companies: just follow the law. Insistence on secrecy of comp ranges is a regressive, inequitable business practice. And as 2022 rolls into 2023 you may find yourself liable to multiple major jurisdictions in tech hiring if you fail to comply with local laws.