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Elder v. Williams.

2020 CO 88. No. 19SC1009. Civil Rights—Employment Practices—Governmental Immunity—Statutory Construction.

December 21, 2020

This case principally required the Supreme Court to decide whether claims against a governmental entity for compensatory relief under the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA), CRS § 24-34-405, are barred by operation of the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act (CGIA), CRS § 24-10-106. The Court was also asked to decide whether CRS § 24-34-405(8)(g), which allows for compensatory damages against “the state,” should be read to include political subdivisions of the state and whether front pay is compensatory in nature, lies in tort, and is therefore barred by the CGIA.

The Court concluded that (1) claims for compensatory relief under CADA are not claims for “injuries which lie in tort or could lie in tort” for purposes of the CGIA, and therefore public entities are not immune from CADA claims under the CGIA; (2) “the state,” as used in CRS § 24-34-405(8)(g), includes political subdivisions of the state, and thus political subdivisions are not immune from claims for compensatory damages based on intentional unfair or discriminatory employment practices; and (3) front pay is equitable and not compensatory in nature under CADA, and age discrimination and retaliation claims seeking front pay do not lie and could not lie in tort for CGIA purposes.

The Court therefore affirmed the judgment of the division below.

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