Many companies want remote workers—except from Colorado

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Big companies are hiring for remote positions that can be performed in any state across the U.S. except one: Colorado.

At issue is a new Colorado law that requires companies with even a few employees in the state to disclose the expected salary or pay range for each open role they advertise, including remote positions. The rule's aim is to narrow gender wage gaps and provide greater pay transparency for employees. To avoid having to disclose that information, though, some employers seeking remote workers nationwide are saying that those living in Colorado need not apply. 

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Across the internet, an array of job listings state the work can't be done in Colorado. At Johnson & Johnson, roles recently posted for a commercial finance senior manager and a senior manager in operations include this caveat: "Work location is flexible if approved by the Company except that position may not be performed remotely from Colorado." At commercial real-estate giant CBRE Group Inc., an ad for a project management director notes in bold: "This position may be performed remotely anywhere within the United States except the State of Colorado."

At pharmaceutical distributor McKesson Corp., postings for a sales specialist and a research quality manager include similar disclaimers. Job listings for a scientist, an account executive and a manager of international tax planning at rival Cardinal Health Inc. also note: "This is a remote, work from home position. This role is to be filled outside of the state of Colorado."

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Johnson & Johnson and CBRE declined to comment, and McKesson and Cardinal Health didn't respond to requests for comment.

Businesses have argued, in part, that Colorado's rules are overly burdensome administratively for employers. The Rocky Mountain Association of Recruiters, a trade group, sought an injunction against the pay transparency rules earlier this year. Last month, a federal judge denied that request, allowing the rules to stand.

Denver, Colorado (iStock)

While labor and legal experts say there is nothing technically stopping Coloradoans from still applying and being eligible for such jobs, the disclaimers are likely to discourage people wanting to work remotely from the state from pursuing such opportunities.

"You can't stop the internet essentially at a state line. Anyone can apply for anything," said Laura A. Mitchell, a Denver based principal at the law firm Jackson Lewis P.C. "The question comes down to whether or not an employer would actually consider that candidate for the role." 

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The job-posting language is also drawing scrutiny from Colorado officials. The state's Department of Labor and Employment recently opened an investigation into a complaint about at least one company's remote job posting excluding Colorado residents, said Scott Moss, director of the department's division of labor standards and statistics, who declined to name the company or who filed the complaint.

A number of states, including California, have enacted legislation in recent years that ban employers from asking for an applicant's salary history or added requirements for employers to disclose pay ranges upon request. One difference in Colorado's Equal Pay for Equal Work Act — which went into effect in January — is its provision that employers publicly disclose compensation and benefits for each job posting in the state.

In the remote-work era where jobs can conceivably be done anywhere, that has led to some confusion, state officials say. Colorado has told employers they don't need to disclose compensation for roles to be performed entirely outside of the state. Nor do the pay-disclosure requirements apply to remote jobs posted by a company that doesn't have any Colorado employees. But if an employer does have a presence in Colorado, it would need to post salary information — even for a remote job — Mr. Moss said. 

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Many companies now do include pay information specific to Colorado on remote job postings. A listing for a software development engineer on a "work-from-anywhere" team at Amazon.com Inc., for instance, notes that the range for the position in Colorado is $116,400 to $160,000 a year, but overall compensation could vary. Amazon's listing cites Colorado's Equal Pay for Equal Work Act as its reason for including the compensation information.

"Our experience has been the law so far appears to be a great success at getting job postings to include the pay," Mr. Moss said.

Some Colorado remote workers say they are frustrated that other employers appear to be excluding them from such positions. Aaron Batilo, a software engineer near Denver, began working remotely in August 2019, and said he has found both greater pay and opportunities by remaining in Colorado and working for companies headquartered outside the state. When a former colleague mentioned that some remote job listings stated the positions were unavailable to Coloradans, his initial reaction was disbelief. "That would be such a red flag," he said.

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But after spotting a discussion about more such postings on a Reddit forum last month, Mr. Batilo decided to act. He took a day off work and spent 12 hours building a site, ColoradoExcluded.com, that tracks job listings that explicitly note they are not open to work in Colorado. He spends about five to 10 hours a week updating the site and manually verifying that listings exclude Colorado. As of Thursday, his list included 46 companies.

"To see companies kind of just taking the stance where they're like, 'We'll hire remotely but we don't want to consider Colorado,' it kind of bummed me out," said Mr. Batilo, who said he supported Colorado's law and greater salary transparency. "The fact that we need some kind of site to track this seems to me like there's something wrong happening."

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