The Colorado Plaintiffs Employment Lawyers Association (PELA) was founded on the belief that the individual victims of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation are not powerless, and that with the assistance of officers of the court they can achieve justice. As a group of lawyers, PELA’s goal is to expose invidious discrimination and harassment wherever it attempts to hide. Our members do this by vindicating their clients’ rights in court, in front of judges. We, as civil rights lawyers, attempt to seek justice in the court system. In order for this to occur, and in order for the full potential of American civil rights statutes to be achieved, there must be a certain basic level of trust between the litigants we represent, the employers who we file lawsuits against, and the arbiters of justice that we call judges. This is why the recent news of the Colorado Judicial Branch’s efforts to protect harassers and wrongdoers and conceal systemic cultural problems through the use of confidentiality agreements is so troubling to our organization.
First, the recent revelations indicate that some of the very judges that we and our clients depend on for fair and unbiased rulings and jurisprudence, are themselves engaging in some of the very same conduct that we are attempting to expose and eradicate in court. How can our clients trust that they are getting a fair shake when the judge, or their peers, may have engaged in conduct similar to that at issue in our lawsuits? The Colorado Judicial Branch’s conduct in failing to hold wrongdoers accountable and covering up their actions undermines the very societal trust that is necessary for our justice system to remedy the types of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation that our clients suffer on a daily basis.
Second, the Colorado Judicial Branch’s use of confidentiality agreements and an imbalance in power to silence the victims and impede the accountability of perpetrators is contrary to the values of PELA and the very definition of “justice.” Justice Thurgood Marshall once said “Where you see wrong or inequality or injustice, speak out, because this is your country. This is your democracy. Make it. Protect it. Pass it on.” The use of confidentiality agreements to silence the victims of some of the most powerful actors in our State Government flies in the face of Justice Marshall’s statement. We have seen the injustice that results when powerful predators such as Bill Cosby or Harvey Weinstein used confidentiality agreements, coupled with monetary payments, to silence their victims – accountability is delayed and more victims are exposed to a dangerous environment. The use of confidentiality agreements to shield those in the highest positions of government is contrary to the functioning of a civil society, and is especially egregious when used by those with political power to shield themselves and their peers.
Third, as lawyers we must oppose conduct that violates the requirements of Colorado’s Rules of Professional Conduct. As lawyers, we must hold ourselves to the highest standards professionally and personally. This is why the Colorado ethics rules make it a violation to engage in sexual harassment or discrimination. We urge our fellow lawyers, and the judges we appear in front of, to preserve and protect our profession by adhering to these ethics rules.
PELA condemns the apparent conduct of the Colorado Judicial Branch in condoning and covering up the alleged harassment of and discrimination against state employees and others. We call on the Colorado Judicial Branch to immediately provide for a full and complete independent third-party investigation into the allegations of harassment and the subsequent coverup. The investigation must be as transparent as possible while protecting the privacy of the victims.
The Colorado Plaintiff Employment Lawyers Association condemns the racist system that continues to devalue the lives of Black Americans. Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd are sadly only the latest victims. Their murders, like the murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955, has again brought nationwide and worldwide attention to the racial violence and injustice still so prevalent in America. We mourn the losses of these individuals’ lives and stand in solidarity with those seeking to hold the murderers accountable. BLACK LIVES MATTER!
As employment lawyers we fight to remain vigilant in the face of a judicial system that too often ignores the realities of the world we live in and the racial divide that still exists in our society today. We fight to prevent the watering down of laws that were meant to ensure justice and equal rights to all. We do not become complacent or desensitized to the world around us. We cry when our clients are denied the right to have their voices heard by a jury of their peers. We mourn every judicial decision that silently strips away the equal rights that were so hard fought by so many who have died. But we continue to fight the good fight. We call on you to get involved however possible to support an America that equally values all of its citizens. Whether that is attending a protest, writing a letter, running for office or discussing these issues with your friends, we encourage you to stay strong in the fight for social justice and against racial oppression.PELA Board of Directors and Officers
Welcome To Colorado PELA
The Colorado Plaintiff Employment Lawyers Association is an organization that promotes and increases public awareness of employee rights and provides educational opportunities, information and assistance to attorneys who represent employees. If you are an attorney who represents employees and would like to join our organization, Click here.
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Diversity, equity, and inclusion are core values of the Colorado Plaintiffs Employment Lawyers Association and essential to the achievement of our mission. When applied in unison, diversity, equity, and inclusion create meaningful representation and involvement of persons with varied backgrounds, experiences, identities, and abilities in every aspect of PELA, each with the opportunity to make robust contributions to the organization without discriminatory barriers. To express these values PELA promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion in our organizational structure and policies, leadership, membership, programs and services, employment practices, and relationships with coalition partners and donors. PELA champions the culture of participation and equal opportunity that is woven into the fabric of our mission and vision for workers and workplaces nationwide.
The National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA) has created a hub to share information, resources, and announcements related to COVID-19 and its impacts on workers.