Legal Updates – November 2023


By:  Claire Sweetman

U.S. Health Workers Report Harassment, Burnout, and Poor Mental Health

On October 24, 2023, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a Vital Signs report that indicated that the rate of workplace harassment for health care workers has more than doubled since pre-pandemic times.[1] This Vital Signs report contains an analysis from the CDC Quality of Worklife survey focused on well-being and working conditions, comparing data from 2018 to 2022.[2] The results show that in 2022, 13.4% of health workers reported being harassed at work, up from 6.4% in 2018.[3] The report includes in its definition of workplace harassment “threats, bullying, verbal abuse, or other actions from patients and coworkers that create a hostile work environment.” The report indicates that health care workers who had reported experiencing harassment also had increased odds of reporting anxiety, depression, and burnout.[4]

Some of the mental health strains imposed on health workers is due to staffing shortages.[5] The U.S. is currently facing an unprecedented shortage of nurses.[6] Indeed, in 2022, 32% of health workers reported being short staffed at work. These staffing shortages have negatively impacted the mental health of health workers. Workers who reported staffing shortages had 1.91 times the odds of reporting symptoms of anxiety.[7] Those workers also had 2.73 times the odds of reporting burnout compared to those who did not report staffing shortages, according to the report.[8] On the other hand, trust in management and supervisor help were linked to lower odds of burnout and mental health issues.

The report notes that CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has developed a national campaign, called Impact Wellbeing, to provide resources for employers to help support the mental health of workers in the field.

Vermont Cider Company Launches Workplace Investigation

Citizen Cider, a Vermont-based hard cider company, announced over the October 28, 2023 weekend that it had hired a Burlington investigations firm to investigate workplace complaints that have led to a widespread boycott of its products by local businesses.[9] The Company came under fire after a local news publication published an article about Citizen Cider’s launch of Hey Bub beer, which included a sexually suggestive marketing campaign that some employees found to be objectionable.[10] The article reported that over a dozen employees left the Company after the campaign was launched. Unnamed former employees have reported that the workplace culture constitutes a “toxic misogynistic boys club.”[11]

On Wednesday, October 18, Citizen Cider’s president, Justin Heilenbach, posted a statement on Facebook stating that the company had been “built on the foundation of diverse people, interests, and ideas, and we celebrate them all.”[12] Heilenbach said he was aware of “perspectives and misinformation being shared on social media platforms, and they do not accurately reflect who we are.” Heilenbach denied that there had been a walkout of employees and said that the T-shirts promoting the Hey Bub beer with sexually suggestive slogans had been discontinued.[13]

POWR Act Reminder

As we head into the final months of the year, it is important for Colorado employers to be reminded of the POWR Act and its significant impact on employment law in the state. The POWR Act, which went into effect on August 7, 2023, significantly increased employers’ obligations to prevent and address harassment and discrimination in the workplace. Below is a list of key effects from the Act’s passage:

  • Lowered standard for workplace harassment
  • Limitations on affirmative defenses to harassment claims
  • Limitations on nondisclosure agreements
  • New record-keeping requirements
  • Marital status added as a protected class
  • Modified disability framework

If not already, companies with Colorado-based employees should act now to ensure compliance.


[2] Id.


[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.




[12] Id.

[13] Id.