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Denver Area Workers May Soon Benefit from Increased Protections Under New Wage and Workplace Laws

Anderson Barkley LLC Dec. 13, 2022

Labor and wage laws are routinely changed and reformed as workplaces and technology evolve based on customer and business demands. Unfortunately, the law is usually slow to catch up in these areas, and workers have to fight to receive proper protections and adequate wages. Attorneys who specialize in helping employees with wage claims are a crucial part of this process, as they can assist employees in receiving proper pay and other necessary benefits.

The state of Colorado is now in the process of revamping its overtime and minimum wage laws, and employers will need to comply with these new regulations when they become active.

New Regulations Will Benefit Workers Throughout the State

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment may pass some major changes to the state’s regulations regarding employer responsibilities and wage protections to make sure certain classes of workers are eligible for overtime, minimum wage, and not short changed just because they are salaried.

The reforms started about a year ago with a series of public hearings that addressed multiple wage and hour issues. The main result of these hearings was a large number of changes to the state’s Overtime and Minimum Pay Standards Order. The Colorado Fiscal Department’s director released a statement saying that this comprehensive reform will now allow thousands of workers throughout the state to become eligible to receive protections such as minimum wage, overtime for work beyond 40 hours per work week, paid break time, and other benefits. Prior minimum wage laws in the state were only meant for workers in the food and beverage, healthcare services, and retail industries, as well as employees in commercial support roles. These four narrowly tailored categories resulted in confusion and a barrage of lawsuits.

Controversies regarding wage laws, especially unpaid overtime, have reached high levels in the state in recent years. Colorado was named as the state with the largest number of workers who were denied overtime pay in the country. This was mostly blamed on the vagueness of state labor laws, which created large amounts of employment litigation between employers and their workers.

The proposed regulations will cover employees in a larger variety of industries within the state, unless they are specifically listed as an exemption. One of the main objectives of the bill is to also incentivize and bring in more construction workers to promote increased development and improvement to existing state infrastructure. Professionals such as doctors and lawyers will be excluded from these new protections, as will most teachers. Agricultural workers will still remain ineligible for overtime pay. Certain very high earners or those who have large ownership stakes in a company will also be excluded from overtime protections.

Salaried workers who make at least $35,000 were also exempted from overtime requirements, however, the state has decided that this amount will gradually increase by about $3,000 each year until it reaches the new salary threshold of $57,000. This change will allow these workers greater earning potential, even though they are technically still salaried employees. Estimates show that almost 200,000 workers in Colorado will benefit from this new regulation regarding salaries alone.

Various labor groups remain concerned, even after this reform, about the lack of protections and benefits for agricultural workers. They believe that because agricultural workers are often low earners living in poverty, they should receive more help and focus from the legislature. Agricultural workers have been historically absent from most wage protection laws throughout U.S. history.

How Common Are Wage Disputes?

As a general rule, many employers either make honest mistakes or intentionally try to withhold wages that should legitimately be paid to employees. Workers should remain vigilant and let their employers know if they have not been paid properly. While some employers are willing to review their records and make corrections without a fight, it may become necessary to retain an attorney, especially if the employer refuses to pay wages that they legitimately owe to its employees. This should be done sooner rather than later, as unpaid overtime or other unpaid wages can accumulate, and sometimes cost a worker thousands of dollars. Not only that, there may be time limitations as to how far back an employee can claim unpaid wages.

The Fear of Retaliation

Many employees are afraid to bring up wage issues to their employer because they fear they will be discharged in response. It is illegal for employers to retaliate against employees for exercising a protected right, including the right to be paid properly for work and other services that were already performed. If an employer has terminated you or taken any other disciplinary actions against you for voicing a wage complaint, it is important to let your attorney know right away, as punishments for this kind of employer conduct can be severe.

Speak with An Attorney Who Specializes in Labor Law in Colorado

To get help with any employment or labor issues in the Denver area, contact Anderson Barkley Attorneys at Law. They can assist you by answering any questions you may have. Set up a free consultation with them today to discuss any wage disputes, retaliation, and other workplace problems you may have encountered.