On June 16, 2020, the Colorado Partnership for Quality Jobs and Service Act (the Act) was enacted.
The Act requires WINS to represent all covered employees. Generally, covered employees are employees in the state personnel system, also known as classified employees. There are exceptions, though, including confidential employees, managerial employees, executive employees, administrative law judges, hearing officers, state troopers, employees in the legislative branch, and temporary employees.
These Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) have been developed to assist employees with questions they may have pertaining to the Act and Agreement. They have been updated following the ratification and signing of the Agreement.
Last Updated: January 19, 2022
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Who is COWINS?
A. COWINS stands for Colorado Workers for Innovative and New Solutions. It is a union representing classified, covered state employees. COWINS describes themselves as a union “working to improve the quality of services, safety, pay and benefits, working conditions, conflict resolution, staff attrition and more to ensure an effective workforce to serve all Coloradans.”
Q. How did COWINS become the union representing covered state employees?
A. Shortly after former Governor Bill Ritter signed Executive Order D 028 07 “Authorizing Partnership Agreements with State Employees” in November 2007, elections of eligible state employees were held across the state. In June 2008, more than 50% of the eligible employees who voted selected COWINS to represent them. Under Section 24-50-1105(2) of the Act, COWINS continues to be the Certified Employee Organization ( commonly referred to as “union”) representing all covered employees.
Q. How does an employee contact COWINS or find out more information about the organization?
Q. How does an employee become a member of COWINS?
A. Employees should contact COWINS at email@example.com or (720) 614-1547 for information on becoming a member.
Q. How was it determined which employees were designated as covered?
A. Initially, Human Resource representatives, in partnership with their appointing authorities, determined if an employee’s designation was covered or not covered and those determinations were provided to COWINS. These representatives consulted the attached decision tree when making these decisions. If an employee questions their designation, please refer to the designation dispute process and contact both DPA’s Labor Relations team and COWINS at firstname.lastname@example.org for additional guidance.
Q. Does COWINS have the right to participate in New Employee Orientations?
A. Yes. According to the Act and Article 7: New Employee Orientation of the Partnership Agreement, the State must provide COWINS the opportunity to hold a 30 minute session during New Employee Orientation (NEO) or scheduled new employee training time, for covered employees. New hires which are covered employees will be directed to attend the session and be paid for their time. The time of the session will be mutually determined by the agency and COWINS, but cannot be the last session of NEO. The session will be conducted by COWINS-designated representatives. If for any reason the covered employee is unable to attend NEO or new employee training time, they will be scheduled to attend the next regularly scheduled NEO or new employee training time.
The state employee facilitating the NEO should ensure that all non-covered employees are excused from the COWINS portion of the NEO or scheduled new employee training time.
Q. What will be provided to covered employees during NEO?
A. The State and COWINS will distribute employee FAQs concerning the Act, rights and duties of covered employees, COWINS, and the State, and the Partnership Agreement before the COWINS’ portion of NEO or scheduled new employee training time.
New employees should also be given notice within thirty (30) days of their start date, preferably at NEO, of their option to direct the state not to provide their personal contact information with COWINS.
COWINS has the right to distribute materials (e.g. basic educational information about the union and its mission/programs/history, the Partnership Agreement, a membership/Committee on Political Education application, a list of stewards) at this portion of the NEO or scheduled new employee training time.
Q. What is the state required to do as it relates to NEOs?
A. The State is required to provide COWINS electronic notification of the name, job title, department, and work location of any newly hired covered employees who are expected to attend the NEO session at least 48 hours in advance of the orientation. Additionally, the State is to provide at least 10 days’ notice of any NEO to COWINS. A shorter notice may be provided where there is an urgent need critical to the agency’s operations that was not reasonably foreseeable.
Q. Can a Covered employee present the COWINS NEO information?
A. Yes, as described in the Partnership Agreement, covered employees who are designated as COWINS Representatives can assist COWINS with their NEO presentation.
Q. Will COWINS be given personal contact information on covered employees?
A. Yes, unless an employee opts out of having their personal contact information provided. The Act requires the State to provide COWINS with the home address, personal and mobile phone numbers, and personal email address for each new covered employee who has not opted out. The purpose of this is to assist COWINS in carrying out its obligations under the Act to represent covered employees. The Act requires COWINS to treat the information as confidential. COWINS may not release the information to any third party except for the purpose of carrying out the Certified Employee Organization’s duties under the Act.
The law also provides a process by which covered employees can direct the State to refrain from providing this information to COWINS.
Q. How does an employee request the State to refrain from sharing any personal information with COWINS?
A. Covered employees may opt in or opt out of their personal information being shared with COWINS through the Employee Self Service (ESS) website. Navigate to the left side of the page, click on “Personal” then click “Authorization” to share personal Information with COWINS. Once at the authorization page, employees will be prompted to make a selection. After selecting an option they would click “Submit.” Non-classified and other non-covered employees will not have any information shared with COWINS and as such, there is no need to opt in or opt out.
Employees in Institutions of Higher Education or other employees that may not have access to ESS may use the web-based form to opt in or opt out of their personal information being shared with COWINS.
Should employees be directed to visit Employee Self Service (ESS) to opt-out of the State sharing any personal information with COWINS?
If a current employee asks how to opt out, you may direct them to the ESS website. The State must remain neutral regarding any communication to employees about COWINS or any other employee organization, and you should not proactively raise the issue of personal information being shared with COWINS, or the opt-out process generally. New employees will be provided an initial notification when they begin their new roles with the State.
Q. Is COWINS permitted to call employees or visit them at their personal residence?
A. Employees should contact COWINS at email@example.com or (720) 614-1547 to discuss their communications with employees.
Q. What employees does COWINS represent as a union?
A. COWINS represents covered employees regardless of whether they are dues paying members of COWINS. According to the Act, all classified employees are covered except if they are designated in one of the ten categories listed below.
Confidential Employee: A person who is required to develop or present management positions with respect to employer-employee relations or whose duties normally require access to confidential information contributing significantly to the development of such management positions.
Managerial Employee: Any employee having significant responsibilities for formulating agency or departmental policies and programs or administering an agency or department.
Executive Employee: Any employee (a) whose primary duty is management of the entity in which the employee is employed or of a customarily recognized department or subdivision thereof; (b) who customarily and regularly directs the work of two or more other employees; and (c) who has the authority to hire of fire other employees whose suggestions and recommendations as to the hiring, firing advancement, promotion or any other change of status of other employees are given particular weight.
State Personnel Director and employees of the Director working to implement the Act.
Director and employees of the Division of Labor Standards and Statistics within the Department of Labor and Employment working to implement the Act.
Governor’s Designee: the person or people the Governor designates, in writing, as the individual or individuals who will represent the state in the exercise of the state’s responsibilities under the Act.
Administrative Law Judges, and Hearing Officers.
Employees of the Legislative Branch.
Temporary Employees as defined in Colorado Revised Statute Section 24-50-114.
Note: Non-classified employees are not covered employees.
Q. Can employees become a COWINS member while still on probation?
Q. Are covered employees required to become a COWINS member?
A. No. While COWINS represents all covered employees in collective bargaining in the formation and implementation of a partnership agreement, employees are not required to be dues paying members.
Q. What is required of an employee to be a member of COWINS?
A. Employees can contact COWINS at firstname.lastname@example.org or (720) 614-1547 for information on the requirements of being a member.
If an employee no longer wants to be a member of COWINS, what is the process?
The terms of the membership are between COWINS and the employee, and as such an employee must be directed to COWINS at email@example.com or (720) 614-1547 if they no longer want to be a member or to cancel their authorization for membership dues through payroll deductions and other payments. COWINS is responsible for processing these requests in accordance with the terms of the authorization and sharing that information by the 10th of each month with each agency and institution.
Q. When can employees cancel their COWINS membership?
A. The Act provides that an employee can revoke the authorization for a payroll deduction, and thus membership, at least annually. Because membership is a matter between the employee and COWINS, an employee must be directed to COWINS at firstname.lastname@example.org or (720) 614-1547 in order to change or cancel their membership. The State has no authority to terminate a membership even at the request of an employee and must be neutral with regard to the employee’s decision.
Q. How are membership dues paid?
A. COWINS membership dues are paid through payroll deductions. When an employee decides to become a member of COWINS, the employee will provide COWINS with an authorization for a payroll deduction. Authorizations for payroll deductions can include electronic authorizations, including voice authorizations, that meet the requirements of an electronic signature. COWINS will provide each agency and institution with a list of all covered employees from whom payroll deductions should be made and the corresponding amount. Payroll staff will process the list prior to payroll processing for the next payroll.
Q. How much are membership dues?
A. Employees should contact COWINS at email@example.com or (720) 614-1547 for information regarding membership dues.
Q. Are employee membership dues used for political purposes?
A. Employees should contact COWINS at firstname.lastname@example.org or (720) 614-1547 for information regarding membership dues.
If an employee shared their personal information with COWINS and no longer wishes to be contacted, what should they do?
The employee will need to contact COWINS directly at email@example.com or (720) 614-1547 in addition to changing their election with the State.
Q. What should an employee, who has requested that their membership be cancelled but dues continue to be deducted from their paycheck, do?
A. If an employee has concerns, they should first contact COWINS at firstname.lastname@example.org or (720) 614-1547. Membership and membership dues are governed by the membership terms between COWINS and the employee.
Q. May non-covered employees choose to have payroll deductions go to COWINS?
A. Yes. A non-covered employee in most state entities and institutions can elect to have a payroll deduction go to COWINS. However, if you believe such payroll deductions for non-covered employees are mistaken, let the employee know that deductions are being made despite the fact they are not covered under the Act. If the employee requests that the deductions stop, make the appropriate payroll adjustments.
Q. Does the entity the employee works for affect their covered status?
A. No. A classified employee is a covered employee, except as described above, regardless of for whom they work or where they work in state government. For example, classified employees within the Community College System, Attorney General's Office, Secretary of State, and independent institutions of higher education are covered employees unless they are specifically exempted.
Q. How will the Act affect the relationship between covered employees and management?
A. The Act was designed to ensure that the State, through its chosen representatives, “jointly work to promote cooperative relationships with the shared goal of providing the best possible services to the taxpayers and residents of the state.” However, nothing in the Act prevents the State from convening, or engaging in discussions with any state employee or group of state employees to: (a) exercise any right or responsibility reserved to an appointing authority; (b) determine and carry out any mission, initiative, task force, agenda, policy, or program; (c) establish and oversee budget, finances, and accounting; (f) determine utilization of technology; (g) negotiate with, procure, and administer contracts; (h) make, amend and enforce, or revoke reasonable personal conduct rules; or (i) take any actions necessary to carry out any government function during an emergency.
Additionally, the State may respond to questions from a covered employee pertaining to the covered employee’s employment or any matter, provided that such response is neutral toward participation, selection, and membership in an employee organization.
Q. What rights will the State continue to have regarding operations?
A. The Act preserves certain “management rights.” Specifically, the Act recognizes the ability of the State to: (a) exercise any right or responsibility reserved to an appointing authority, the [state personnel] director, or the state personnel board pursuant to the state personnel system and rules or procedures of either the state personnel board or the [state personnel] director; (b) determine and carry out any mission, initiative, task force, agenda, policy, or program of any department, division office, or other subdivision of the state; (c) establish and oversee budget, finances, and accounting; (d) determine utilization of technology; (e) negotiate with, procure and administer contracts the state has the lawful authority to enter; (f) make, amend and enforce, or revoke reasonable personal conduct rules; or (g) take such actions as may be necessary to carry out any government function during an emergency.
Additionally, nothing in the Act prevents the State from convening or engaging in discussions with any state employee or group of state employees to accomplish any of the matters listed above.
The Partnership Agreement reiterates the Executive and Management Rights consistent with the Act.
Q. Under the Act, does COWINS play a new role representing or speaking on behalf of employees in day-to-day workplace concerns and grievances?
A. The State and COWINS have negotiated Article 5: Union Rights, Article 9: Partnership Agreement Dispute Resolution Process, and Article 18: Corrective and Disciplinary Actions in the Partnership Agreement which address union rights and employee representation during a Rule 6-10 meeting and certain investigatory interviews. Please be aware that State Personnel Board Rules BR 1-18, BR 6-9, and BR 8-13 also address employee representation during disciplinary and grievance processes and authorize an employee to request to have a representative present during Rule 6-10 Meeting regarding potential disciplinary actions or during a Step Two Grievance meeting that occurs as part of the grievance process. This representative can be a COWINS Representative.
Q. Does COWINS need to be notified of any corrective actions?
A. No. There is no requirement in the Act or the State Personnel Board Rules to notify COWINS or any employee representative about corrective actions that have been issued. If an employee chooses to share a corrective action with COWINS, it is the employee’s right to do so.
Q. How should violations of the Act’s neutrality clause relating to COWINS be reported?
A. Under the Act and the Colorado Labor Peace Act, a violation of the neutrality clause constitutes a ULP. As noted above, covered employees may refer ULP claims to CDLE-DLSS for review and processing. (See the CDLE Unfair Labor Practices Complaint Form). To the extent that the State violates Article 2: Union Recognition in the Partnership Agreement, the sole remedy is an unfair labor practice claim before CDLE-DLSS.
Q. What are the consequences of violating neutrality requirements concerning COWINS?
A. Consequences of violating the neutrality requirement could include a formal ULP complaint being filed with CDLE-DLSS. To the extent neutrality is also contained within the Act, there may be a concern regarding an overlapping Partnership Agreement dispute as well.
Q. Should COWINS be provided access to meeting and bulletin board spaces?
A. Yes, with reasonable limitations. It is suggested that requests be handled as outlined in the State Personnel Board Rules and your Department’s access protocol or any current agreement with COWINS, and in consultation with DHR’s Labor Relations team, which can be reached at DPA_LaborRelations@state.co.us.
Board Rule 1-18 states: “Employees have the right to associate, self-organize, and designate representatives of their choice.” . . . “Such conferences should be scheduled to minimize disruption to productivity and the general work environment. A supervisor’s consent shall not be unreasonably withheld.”
If a Department has a pre-existing partnership agreement pertaining to building access, meeting space and/or meeting with employees, they should abide by that agreement until it is superseded with the statewide Agreement or other Department partnership agreement.
Q. What activities is the State prohibited from doing as it relates to the Act?
A. The State cannot: (a) take any action or make any statement in favor of or in opposition to a covered employee’s decision to participate in, select or join an employee organization, or to refrain from these activities; except that the State may respond to questions from a covered employee pertaining to the covered employee’s employment or any matter described in the Act, provided that such response is neutral toward participation, selection, and membership in an employee organization; (b) expend public money or resources for a negative campaign against an employee organization or otherwise provide assistance to individuals or groups engaged in such a campaign; (c) interfere with, restrain, or coerce covered employees from exercising the rights granted them under the Act; (d) discharge or discriminate against any covered employee because the employee filed an affidavit, or gave any information or testimony under the Act, or because the employee formed, joined, or chose to be represented by any employee organization, or refrained from any such activities; (e) refuse to participate in the partnership process; or (f) refuse to participate in the partnership dispute resolution process.
Q. What happens if the State engages in any prohibited activities?
A. The State could be subjected to an unfair labor practice (ULP) filing subject to review by CDLE-DLSS if it engages in any prohibited activities or fails to discharge its duties outlined in the Act. Additionally, a State Entity could be subject to a Partnership Agreement Dispute if it violates its duties under the Partnership Agreement.
Q. May employees use their work emails to send COWINS information?
A. Covered employees are permitted to communicate with one another and with COWINS about COWINS and workplace issues using work email. Generally, covered employees can send and receive such emails before and after work, during duty-free breaks, and occasionally during work time. However, the State’s expectation is that working time is for employees to carry out their work duties for the benefit of the people of the State, and for that reason personal and non-duty related emails during working time (no matter the subject) should be limited and occasional, and should never interfere with any work or any employees’ duties. Covered employees must also follow applicable policies regarding the proper and secure use of State email systems.
Non-covered employees must remain neutral about employees’ participation, selection, and membership in COWINS, and may not use their work email to talk about COWINS or other union matters in order to encourage or discourage participation in COWINS, or in a way that could be viewed as being non-neutral.
Q. May an employee wear a pro- or anti- COWINS button or hat in the workplace?
A. In general, covered employees may wear pro- or anti-COWINS clothing so long as it complies with the dress code of your department, office or institution. If an employee is able to wear a hat for their favorite sports team, for example, they may wear items that show support for COWINS. However, a covered employee may be asked to remove an item if it poses a safety hazard due to the nature of the employee’s work.
Non-covered employees may not wear pro- or anti-COWINS clothing in the workplace because non-covered employees must remain neutral about union involvement.
Q. May an employee distribute or post COWINS literature?
A. Covered employees are permitted to distribute COWINS literature at work during non-work time. Additionally, COWINS Officials or Stewards may post COWINS literature on bulletin boards, subject to reasonable restrictions which would apply to other non-work related items, as outlined in Article 5.6: Bulletin Boards of the Partnership Agreement.
Q. May employees participate in COWINS activities during work time?
A. Aside from NEO, time spent on COWINS activities should generally be conducted outside of work time such as after work, lunch periods, and breaks. While Employees may spend incidental time at work on COWINS activities, such as reviewing communications from COWINS or visiting COWINS’ website, Employees are still expected to perform their duties during work time. Agencies and institutions should apply work restrictions about non-work-related activities uniformly. Employees that are COWINS stewards may participate in COWINS activities during work time consistent with Article 5 of the Partnership Agreement. If you have questions about whether a particular activity is allowed during work time, please reach out to your HR representative.
Q. Is the union allowed to talk to employees while they are at work?
A. Yes, with reasonable limitations. COWINS shall have reasonable access to covered employees at work through electronic communication, on-site visitation, and other means as further outlined in Articles 5: Union Rights, Article 7: New Employee Orientation, Article 9: Partnership Agreement Dispute Resolution Process, and Article 18: Corrective and Disciplinary Actions of the Partnership Agreement.
New employees and union members/representatives can talk for thirty (30) minutes on work time during new hire orientation (NEO) or scheduled new employee training time. Employees can also talk during unpaid lunch periods, breaks, and before and after work. Covered employees have the right to communicate with one another and with employee organization representatives concerning organization, representation, workplace issues, the partnership process, and the business and programs of Certified Employee Organizations by means of email systems, texts, other electronic communications, telephone, paper documents, and other means of communication subject to reasonable restrictions.
Q. What is protected concerted union activity?
A. Protected concerted union activity, or “PCA”, is the right of covered employees to:
Engage in concerted activities for the purpose of the partnership process or other mutual aid or protection. Employees have the right to engage in these activities without interference, restraint, or coercion by the state or COWINS. Interference with the PCA of a covered employee constitutes an unfair labor practice. PCA may include activities that occur during work time, such as attending a work meeting as a union steward, but may also occur outside work time, such as attending an after-hours union event. When PCA occurs during work time, employees must still follow applicable State policies and cannot disrupt, on a widespread basis, the day-to-day functioning of the state or any of its agencies or departments.
Opt-Out / Opt-In Form
The following form is a secondary method for employees to opt-out or opt back in for having personal contact information shared with WINs, in case you do not have access to ESS.
Please note: The updated Frequently Asked Questions above are currently being translated into the languages below. These will be updated as soon as possible.
- Español (Spanish)
- Preguntas frecuentes
- Tiếng Việt (Vietnamese)
- Các Câu Hỏi Thường Gặp
- 中文 (Simplified Chinese)
- 繁体中文 (Traditional Chinese)
- Français (French)
- Questions Fréquemment Posées