COLORADO — Under current state law, government employees such as law enforcement officers and child abuse and neglect caseworkers are protected from having their information posted online by someone. It wasn't until 2019 those caseworkers were added, but now more employees within county and state Departments of Human Services (DHS) could be protected.
"This is something that really worries us," Julie Krow, Executive Director of the El Paso County DHS said, "my job as an executive director is to try to do everything to protect our staff."
Krow worked alongside local lawmakers Representative Terri Carver (R-Colorado Springs), Senators Bob Gardner (R-Colorado Springs) and Pete Lee (D- El Paso County) to bring about this piece of legislation. Boulder based Rep. Jonathan Singer (D) is also a co sponsor.
The bill expands the definition of a caseworker to employees investigating mistreatment of an at-risk adult, child support orders, fraud, or even those determining eligibility for public programs.
"Our staff are first-responders and so much like law enforcement they're going out in the middle of the night on evenings and weekends," Krow said.
It is a class one misdemeanor if someone knowingly posts the employee, or an employee's family member's information online.
Krow says in the last three years they began tracking threats made against case workers and there have been a few dozen.
"Some of our staff mentioned things like, I got into this job because I wanted to protect children or protect adults but I feel like I'm putting my own family at risk," said Krow, "that's when it really occurred to us that we needed to do something bigger in terms of privacy.
Krow says while her staff members are resilient, there's an impact on staffing when it comes to turnover of human services workers. The hope is that the legislation will add a layer of protection for human service workers.
The bill passed through a committee hearing unanimously, it is now making the rounds through the house, it will then move to the Senate.