Workers are the very foundation of any business. Products and services cannot be delivered without the workforce, and thus, they have the right to be given fair wages. Wage theft is no longer an option for employers who want to lower the cost of labor and let the workers suffer.
For so long, Colorado workers have been hit the hardest when it comes to wage theft. Working overtime without pay, work through an unpaid lunch break, or total withholding of wage are some forms of wage theft. You may never know but it happens almost everywhere.
Fortunately, protecting our workers’ wage is the main goal of the wage act signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper on May 29, 2014. Called the Wage Protection Act of 2014, it aims to ensure that Colorado workers receive fair wages, protects honest business owners and their workers, and overall strengthens Colorado economy.
Simplified Wage Claim Process
The Wage Protection Act of 2014 simplifies the process of wage claims and penalties against the employer. Beginning January 1, 2015, written demand or early notice of claim will no longer be required. Employees have two years to file a wage complaint with the Division of Labor or a court, and this filing of wage complaint will trigger the penalty provision. The penalties will accumulate from the date the wages were owed, NOT from the date of demand. On the other hand, the employers will still have the ability to informally resolve the complaint prior to any administrative or court actions.
The Act also grants the Division of Labor in the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) extended authority to pursue wage claims on behalf of the employees. They will have enough authority and capacity to investigate smaller claims and wage claims that involve violations of the minimum wage. Colorado employers are required to keep payroll records for at least three years after the wages were due. Failure to comply will result to fines and penalties amounting to $250 per employee per month up to $7,500 as maximum.
New Imposed Fines and Penalties
When a wage claim has started, employers are expected to respond to a division notice in a timely manner. Failure to do so will trigger a fine of $250 for each division notice. This notice serves as subpoenas, and failure to testify or produce records will be an offense and will result to fines amounting to $200, 60 days in jail or both.
All fines imposed by the Division will be credited to the State Wage Theft Enforcement Fund to be used for the enforcement of this law.
This Act empowers the Division of Labor to initiate an administrative procedure for adjudicating claims of $7,500 beginning January 1, 2015. The director will notify the employer of the complaint and response is expected within 14 days of the notice.
Unless the employer pays the full amount of wage claim within 14 days, an investigation of the complaint will be done and the director will issue a determination within 90 days. Once the director determines that wages are owed, a citation and assessment that includes fines and penalties must be issued. If the employer gives the wages determined, the director may waive or reduce the fines and reduce the penalties by up to 50%. The director’s determination can be appealed by any of the interested parties to a hearing officer selected by the director. If it is not appealed and the employee does not file a court complaint, the director’s determination will be enforced as a judgment.
These key changes clearly shows that our workers’ rights to their wages are protected, thus, creating a healthier workplace environment. A healthy work environment is paramount and it makes any Colorado worker safe, empowered and satisfied.
Do you or someone you know needs help with claiming workers’ compensation in Denver or the Northern Colorado area? We may be able to help you. For questions regarding this matter as well as other worker compensation concerns, call Kaplan Morrell Workers’ Compensation attorneys at 866-356-9898 for a FREE CONSULTATION.