Business

"No Coloradans Need Apply" Under This Law of Unintended Consequences

No Coloradans need apply.
No Coloradans need apply. Getty Images
An ad for an accounting manager for Airbnb, which does plenty of business in this state, includes this: "This is a remote job except that it is not eligible to be performed in Colorado."

An ad for a software engineering instructor posted by Boulder-based Galvanize, which got its start in this state and now does business across the country, notes this:  "We are seeking applicants from the Boston area and from any state except Colorado."

And Lime, which just got an exclusive contract approved by Denver City Council to supply scooters, has a "remote-friendly" job listing that ends with this caveat: "This job cannot be performed within Colorado."

No Coloradans need apply? Chalk that up to the law of unintended consequences.


In May 2019, the Colorado Legislature passed the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, which mandates that employers post a job's wage or salary range on their job postings. The law, which went into effect in January, was designed to help empower current and potential employees, especially women, by increasing promotion and wage and salary transparency.

But as companies across the country are making remote workers part of their permanent business plan, they're reluctant to include salaries in their advertisements — which means they cannot advertise the jobs to Coloradans without violating the new state law.

Denver-based software engineer Aaron Batilo stumbled across this phenomenon on Reddit one day, and it prompted him to create a website, coloradoexcluded.com, that tracks job listings posted by companies that specifically exclude applicants in Colorado.  The website is a community effort; anyone who comes across such a job can report it to coloradoexcluded.com.

As of June 24, "98 companies are avoiding hiring in Colorado," according to the website's home page, which lists 193 jobs off limits to Colorado.

"I think it's really sad. Companies already know what their salary ranges and budgets are for these roles. Just share them," Batilo says. "I honestly can't think of a genuinely good or positive reason for a company to hide the salary. It's pretty well understood that salary transparency leads to employees being paid more and more fairly, which I think people should definitely hold companies accountable to."

The University of Phoenix, one of the companies that appears on coloradoexcluded.com because its job postings specifically exclude Coloradans, did not respond to a request for comment. Infamous animal-rights organization PETA also made the list; PETA said it couldn't comment because its HR representative was out of the office.

Even before the remote-work loophole emerged, the law had already attracted some opposition. In December, the Rocky Mountain Association of Recruiters filed a lawsuit against Scott Moss, director of the Division of Labor Standards and Statistics at the Colorado Department of Labor, calling enforcement of the law unconstitutional; earlier this month, a federal judge declined to halt enforcement of the act.  But complaints about the no-Coloradans-need-apply ads continue coming in, and Moss's division is currently investigating at least one.

"We need to work with the department to continue to implement the brand-new law," says Senator Jessie Danielson, one of the prime sponsors of the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act. "There's still parts of it that haven't even had rules created yet."

But in the meantime, Danielson says she's extremely disappointed in the companies that have gone out of their way to evade the law — especially because Colorado has "an amazingly talented and motivated and highly educated workforce," she notes.

"It's so easy to comply with the Colorado law: All you have to do is post a salary range — which, by the way, can be anything," Danielson explains. "To claim that this is some burden, some barrier to advertising for Colorado employees, is ridiculous. I think it's shameful. These companies, these bad actors, are working incredibly hard to continue to undermine it," she says.

Despite such bad actors, Danielson says she's heard from many companies that find the new job listing requirements an effective way to match prospective employees with the right employers, and also promote equity.

"If we were able to end the pay gap," Danielson, "it would lift up the entire Colorado economy."

But not if Coloradans can't apply.
 
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Gabrielle Bye is an editorial fellow at Westword, reporting local news; she previously covered Colorado politics for almost two years. In her spare time, she loves to enjoy nature and eat locally.
Contact: Gabrielle Bye