When employers fail to pay wages owed to employees either during employment or after termination the employee has rights under Colorado labor and employment law to seek recovery of wages. One option is to file a wage and hour claim with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. Administrate wage claims to the Colorado agency may be filed by the employee directly or by Denver overtime lawyers representing the employee. Wage and hour complaints to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment do not cover all unpaid wages or all types of employment law claims. For this reason you should talk to an unpaid wage attorney in Colorado before filing any claims with the Colorado agency.
Table of Contents
- Colorado Wage Act
- Remedies for unpaid wages
- Colorado Department of Labor and Employment unpaid wage claims
- Denver employment lawyers for unpaid wage claims
Colorado Wage Act protections for wages and pay rates
Colorado employees enjoy protection under federal law, such as the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which set minimum wage and overtime pay for non-exempt employees. The Colorado Wage Act improves upon and expands protections for wages. For example, while the federal minimum wage is $7.25 hourly, non-exempt Colorado workers must be paid at least $8.31 hourly. Overtime pay under the FLSA begins at forty hours within a workweek. Under the Colorado Wage Act an employee accrues overtime pay after working forty hours in a workweek, working twelve hours in a workday or working twelve consecutive hours.
Additionally, Colorado workers benefit from various pay protections under Colorado labor law that do not exist under federal law. These include:
- Limiting deductions an employer may take from an employee’s paycheck;
- A nonexempt employee must receive a thirty minute break within the first five hours of work;
- An employee terminated by an employer must be paid due wages immediately or within twenty-four hours if payroll is closed at the time of termination;
- Bonuses, commissions and vacation pay generally are treated as wages;
- An employer cannot require an employee to sign an agreement waiving protections under state law.
Remedies for unpaid wages under the Colorado Wage Act
The Colorado Wage Act offers powerful wage protections for unpaid wages. An employee with an unpaid wage claim has a two year statute of limitations to pursue claims. (Sometimes extended to three years.) For this reason, the sooner you act to discuss your case with an unpaid wage attorney the better the chances you can pursue your claim.
An important distinction between the FLSA and Colorado Wage Act is the type of wages and compensation recoverable under the law. FLSA only protects payment of minimum wage and overtime pay. The Colorado Wage Act creates a remedy for any unpaid wages or compensation. Even if the employer paid the Colorado minimum wage.
Additionally, the Colorado Wage Act prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who file a complaint about unpaid wages or participate in an investigation or adjudication of an unpaid wage complaint.
Penalties for unpaid wages under Colorado law
An employee with unpaid wages is entitled to recover the unpaid wages plus possible penalties and attorney’s fees. The penalties become available upon a specific procedure. An employee must make a written demand for payment. The employer must pay all amounts indisputably due, without condition.
If an employer makes payment within fourteen days of receipt of a written demand, the employer will not be liable for any penalty unless the employee recovers more than the amount tendered in a lawsuit or administrative proceeding. If no payment is made in the fourteen day period then the employer is deemed to tender zero dollars.
The employer’s liability for penalties follows a complex formula of either:
- 125% of the first $7500 of wages or compensation due plus 50% of wages or compensation due in excess of $7500 (plus the wages or compensation due); or
- The employee’s wages for each day up to ten days until payment is made to the employee. If the failure to pay is willful then the penalty increases by 50%.
A written demand is made by written correspondence, a complaint filed in court, or a complaint filed with the Colorado Division of Labor.
Colorado Department of Labor and Employment unpaid wages claims
Wage and hour claims filed with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment are governed by Colorado Revised Statutes 8-4-101 et seq. This employment code includes the Colorado Wage Act and its amendments in the Colorado Wage Protection Act of 2014. The Wage Protection Act expanded the powers of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment to investigate and order payment of unpaid wages to employees.
Wage and hour complaints filed for unpaid wages are free for employees and offer an alternative to a long and costly lawsuit for unpaid wages. This administrative complaint process for unpaid wages may result in an order against the employer for payment of wages. Note that this process is different from filing a complaint with the federal Department of Labor for unpaid minimum wage or overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Colorado Department of Labor and Employment complaints for unpaid wages
An employee filing a wage and hour complaint, with or without an employment lawyer, can recover only within the limits of the Colorado Wage Protection Act and Colorado Wage Act for this administrative process. Employees may have greater options to recover in a lawsuit or other venue. For example, an administrative claim cannot award attorney’s fees and may only award penalties as permitted by statute.
A wage complaint filed with the Colorado DOLE can only order recovery of wages up to $7500 including:
- Unpaid wages for work performed in Colorado including unpaid final paychecks
- Minimum wage violations
- Unauthorized deductions from paychecks
- Non-payment of overtime pay (as applicable)
- Non-payment of vacation pay earned under an employer’s policy
- Bounced paychecks
- Unlawfully withheld tips
- Unpaid commissions
- Unpaid bonuses
- Meal and rest period disputes (as applicable)
An employee with a claim for more than $7500 or for an employment law claim other than $7500 of wages must pursue remedies in other venues, such as a lawsuit or arbitration. Employees may elect to send a demand for payment to the employer before filing an administrative complaint, which can add penalties if the employer fails to pay due wages.
Demand for Payment of Wages
Under Colorado employment law and employee may choose to send the employer a demand for payment of wages. If the employee sends a demand for payment of wages and the employer fails to pay all wages owed by fourteen days then the employer may be assessed penalties by the department. Sending a demand for payment of wages does not initiate an administrative complaint with the Colorado DOLE. If the employer fails to pay all earned and unpaid wages then the employee must file an administrative complaint with the department to initiate a claim.
If the employer fails to comply with the demand for payment of wages then the department can order payment of penalties to the employee in the amount of 125% of wages owed or up to ten days of the employee’s normal wages, whichever is greater. This amount is paid to the employee in addition to the unpaid wages. Additionally, the department can order payment of fines by the employer. Fines are paid to the department, not the employee.
Should you hire an unpaid wages attorney in Denver, Colorado for a wage and hour claim?
An unpaid wage attorney in Denver, Colorado helps employees recover unpaid wages from their employer. Colorado has robust protections for employee wages, far beyond other states. States like Texas have little protection for employee wages. The Colorado Wage Act creates remedies for unpaid wages, both in an administrative and judicial forum. If you believe your employer violated the Colorado Wage Act then you should contact a Colorado unpaid wage attorney right away. Employment lawyers often help clients recover unpaid compensation.
You may have an unpaid wage claim that can be easily resolved through the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment’s administrative wage and hour claim process. However, there are several reasons why you may need to hire an unpaid wages attorney to represent you in employment law claims:
- Your unpaid wage claim is more than $7500
- Your claim for unpaid compensation is a type of compensation the department cannot help you recover
- You have additional labor and employment law claims against the employer (such as wrongful termination or employment discrimination)
- Your wage claim is $7500 or less but your claim is complicated and would benefit from an attorney’s professional advocacy skills
- Your employer retaliated against you for asking about unpaid wages even before you filed an administrative complaint
Even if you believe your unpaid wage and hour claim is $7500 or less you may have a larger claim than you realize or other claims against your employer. Scheduling a consultation with a Denver employment lawyer will allow you the opportunity to explore your situation and options to recover.