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Help wanted, work from anywhere ... except if you're located in Colorado

Tech firms, other companies must reveal salary info in job ads if Coloradans are eligible

DigitalOcean is looking to hire a front-end software engineer who, if working remotely, is free to live anywhere in America, Canada, Germany, or Netherlands, but not in Colorado.

The US state in 2019 approved the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act and then formulated rules to apply the law [PDF], which went into effect on January 1, 2021. The statute requires, among other things, that companies posting job listings for in-state or remote positions include a salary amount or salary range. The intended purpose of the regulation is to prevent pay disparities.

DigitalOcean, which advertises about how it supports "a diverse and inclusive workplace," does not explain specifically why it won't consider hiring Colorado residents for remote positions, but its now-changed help wanted ad does make clear that Colorado is to blame.

"This position may be done in NYC or Remote (but not in CO due to local CO job posting requirements)," the online post said.

DigitalOcean software engineer ad

DigitalOcean software engineer ad ... Not very subtle. Click to enlarge

In an email to The Register, DigitalOcean said its ban on remote workers in Colorado is only temporary.

"As a global company that hires across all 50 states and in multiple countries, we decided to put a short pause on posting jobs in Colorado as we assessed the impact of the new law," a company spokesperson said. "We currently have employees in Colorado and will continue to hire in Colorado. We will be updating our job postings within the next week to comply with this new law."

Other employers running scared

Many other firms have included similar language in their job ads.

Alcohol e-commerce platform Drizly is also looking for a remote Senior Software Engineer, anywhere except Colorado. "Please note: this role can be performed remotely anywhere in the United States with the exception of Colorado," its job listing explains.

Call center biz Concentrix is trying to fill a work-at-home Sales Solution Architect position, unless home happens to be in Colorado. "Our Team enjoys the ability to work anywhere in the US with the exception of Colorado," its job advert says.

SaaS biz Milliman IntelliScript has an opening for a remote Senior Software Developer. "This position is open to remote work, with the exception of Colorado residents," the company's recruitment ad says.

Chime has an opening for a YouTube Growth Manager, though for some reason, "This role cannot be performed in the State of Colorado." Chime did not immediately respond to a request to explain its reluctance to hire people living in the Centennial State.

The impact of the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act can be seen on many compliant job postings on LinkedIn that cite the law and list specific salary ranges. There are also plenty of job ads that make no mention of the state or the pay disclosure law, like this remote Senior Vulnerability Research Engineer position at GitLab.

Legal experts anticipated that the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act would prompt employers to find workarounds to avoid complying with the law.

The fact that so many companies are choosing not to hire in the State of Colorado demonstrates how burdensome these regulations really are

In a post last November to legal website JD Supra, Littler Mendelson PC attorneys Jennifer Harpole and Joshua Kirkpatrick, wrote that an exemption to the compensation inclusion requirement "makes it even more likely that multi-state employers with remote jobs will exclude Colorado workers from consideration…"

Harpole, who is challenging the constitutionality of the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act in federal court, told The Register, that while she supports equal pay, the state has not shown that these rules will promote pay equity.

"The fact that so many companies are choosing not to hire in the State of Colorado demonstrates how burdensome these regulations really are," she said.

Wendy Mussell, an attorney with Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams LLP, told The Register in a phone interview that these sorts of laws are being passed in various states in an attempt to address pay equity issues.

"If large employers are refusing to comply, they risk being seen as refusing to address racial and gender equity," said Mussell.

Having this sort of transparency, she said, "ensures there's less likelihood for equal pay violations."

Colorado State Senator Jessie Danielson (D), one of the sponsors of Equal Pay For Equal Work Act, told The Register in a phone interview that some companies appear to be blatantly trying to avoid complying with the law and others are doing so unintentionally.

"Just recently, this has come to my attention," she said. "Women here are outraged because this bill was something they worked for years and years and the pay transparency piece was a huge part of that."

Danielson said there are questions about whether it's legal to carve out an entire state and she advised Coloradans who have been barred from consideration for jobs to avail themselves of the complaint process set up through the state's Department of Labor. She said she was aware of a number of complaints that have been filed that are working their way through the system.

Not everyone is trying to duck the job posting rules however. "On the flip side, from the time it was implemented, we saw a drastic change in most job postings," she said.

Most businesses are happy to comply with the new requirements, she said, because posting salary information helps weed out job applicants with requirements that don't match.

"If there's a need to tighten the legislation to address [non-compliance], I am more than happy to go back and legislate," she said. ®

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