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February 15, 2011 09:54 PM UTC

Small Business Civil Rights Bill Passes

  • by: Colorado Pols

The Colorado Independent’s Joseph Boven reports on a bill that passed the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, but faces a hard fight all the way through the sausage maker:

The Job Protection and Civil Rights Enforcement Act of 2011, sponsored by Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, gives employees of small businesses and individuals who are discriminated against because of their sexual orientation new avenues to redress harms committed intentionally against them. The bill met stiff resistance from business advocates who feared lawsuits against Colorado’s already stressed small businesses was a recipe for disaster. Carroll, vehemently disagreed with the assertion.

“We don’t say show up, be sexually assaulted at work and do your work or you are going to lose your job without remedy. That isn’t civilized in my opinion,” Carroll said. “And I say that in strong terms because I mean that in strong terms. Nobody should have to do that.”

…SB 72, if passed, would put Colorado amongst 43 other states that no longer allow a business of less than 15 people to be exempt from seeking compensatory, punitive and attorney fees as part of their awards in discrimination cases.

…Republican committee members voted unanimously against the bill. Their line of questioning taken with those testifying in committee indicated concern that lawsuits against employers could hinder small business growth.

Sen. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, who voted against the bill, declined to give comment on his vote.

“We did hear some evidence that we are in a tough economy and I think that is true.” Carroll said. “I don’t think that providing civil rights is why we are in a recession. I don’t think that our ability to discriminate without consequence promotes the economy. I don’t think that is part of our job recovery plan and in fact we have heard the opposite.”

Essential differences here: Republicans get to defend their very most sacred constituency of “small business,” without being easily deconstructed as corporate shills hiding behind chimerical “small” businesses. Meanwhile, Democrats can assert the universal need for protection from job discrimination, even in the smallest of businesses. It seems to us that the ethical and political high ground does still reside with Democrats, but rarely is the contrast as, well, so cleanly representative of the two ideological schools of thought.

Of course, the other way of looking at this is that “small business” just acts as a cover for opposition to job discrimination protections, for which opposition can’t be justified in any other setting–and maybe, says a party-line majority in the Senate Judiciary Committee, not there either.


10 thoughts on “Small Business Civil Rights Bill Passes

    1. There are some deranged individuals out there who will file lawsuits just to cause the business pain, even if they weren’t actually wronged.  I’ve seen disgruntled fired employees do this, and unless the company is big enough, it often results in some kind of settlement.

      Corporations aren’t the only heartless bastards in this world.

      1. Speaking as a small business owner I think this is a good thing. Yes we can get hit with a frivolous lawsuit that costs money. But on the flip side there is the plus that you have a legal expectation to be treated properly at work and that improves morale & productivity.

        ps – We’re over 15 so I guess this doesn’t apply to my company. But if it did, I would still support it.

        1. The bill doesn’t just effect small business.  Basically, it extends the same remedies available under federal Title VII to plaintiffs suing under the state statute.  The two main categories protected by state statute but not federal statute are employees of small business and employees discriminated against because of sexual orientation.  I think the latter has as much to do with Republican opposition as the former, but all the talk is about the former, for tactical reasons.

  1. How is this really that hard of a decision?

    If you’re discriminating or otherwise doing harm, you’re discriminating or otherwise doing harm.  If someone files a frivolous claim against you, then you have the same redress anyone else has – the court can tell the claimant to pay you…

    I suppose by Republican logic, regulating toxic waste would hinder the growth of businesses.  They wouldn’t want to defund the EPA over that, would they?  Oh, right – they would…  Just rename them the Greedy Oligarchs Party.

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