Colorado legislators have passed and the governor has signed HB 1136, which allows workers at small businesses, defined as those companies with fewer than 15 employees, to take discrimination charges to court and win compensatory and punitive damage judgments as well as attorneys' fees.

Prior to the legislation, employees at small firms suffering discriminatory actions could only win back pay and job reinstatement, making it virtually impossible to get a lawyer to represent them.

HB 1136 caps damages at $10,000 for companies with four or fewer employees and at $25,000 for businesses with five to 14 workers.

The business community lobbied Gov. Hickenlooper hard to veto the measure, but he signed it with this explanation:

“As passed, we believe [HB 1136] strikes the appropriate balance between protecting small business employers from costly and frivolous litigation and providing the victims of intentional and unacceptable discrimination with appropriate remedies.”

Those in the business community, however, noted that the lack of any cap on attorneys' fees could sink many small businessowners.