Colorado’s strong labor laws allow workers who have been short-changed on wages to pursue compensation through the civil court system. Underpaid for overtime? Making less than minimum wage? Employers shouldn’t be allowed to steal from their employees by violating wage and hour laws.
Wage & Hour Attorneys In Colorado
Here at WageAdvocates.com, our experienced overtime lawyers are not licensed to practice law in the State of Colorado. But we often work with an alliance of unpaid wage lawyers nationwide, including legal representatives in Colorado. To learn more about our services, contact our attorneys now to secure a free consultation. Our lawyers can help you understand your legal rights and options – all at no charge and no obligation.
What Is The Minimum Wage In Colorado?
As of January 1, 2018, Colorado’s minimum wage is $10.20 per hour, which is higher than the federal minimum wage set by the Fair Labor Standards, America’s primary national labor law. The federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 per hour for several years. Employees who are covered both by the federal Fair Labor Standards and Colorado’s Minimum Wage Order are entitled to the higher of these two rates. That’s $10.20 per hour in 2018.
But Colorado is planning on increasing its own minimum wage over the next three years. Every year, the State’s minimum wage will increase by $0.90 on January 1:
- January 1, 2018 – $10.20
- January 1, 2019 – $11.10
- January 1, 2020 – $12
After reaching $12 per hour in 2020, Colorado’s minimum wage will continue to change on an annual basis, but these future changes will be based on the Consumer Price Index. That’s a calculation that estimates the change in prices for goods and services that average households purchase every year. In theory, then, Colorado’s minimum wage will go on to track increases or decreases in the cost of living.
Tipped Wage For Servers
The Fair Labor Standards Act allows employers to pay workers who regularly make tips a sub-minimum wage. When a worker normally makes more than $30 a month in tips, the employer can use those tips to reduce the hourly cash wages owed to the employee. Colorado allows this, too, but it gives employers less leeway.
The maximum tip credit allowed in Colorado is $3.02 per hour. So the lowest cash wage a tipped worker can be paid in 2018 is $7.18. Anything lower is illegal, even when a worker’s hourly rate of tips exceeds $3.02. The most important point to remember, though, is that a tipped worker’s cash wage, when combined with their hourly tips, must at least reach the current Colorado minimum wage.
Colorado Overtime Laws
Under federal law, the majority of American workers are entitled to overtime pay for any and all hours worked over 40 in a single workweek. Colorado’s overtime laws take these regulations a step further, granting workers in the State a right to overtime wages in two other circumstances:
- after 12 hours in a single workday
- after 12 consecutive hours of work
These two conditions might seem the same at first glance, but they’re actually very different.
Three Overtime Scenarios
The first point we noted makes workers entitled to overtime wages for any hours worked over 12 in a single day. These hours don’t have to be consecutive. Let’s say you work eight hours on a morning shift, take a two-hour break, then come back for another five-hour shift. That’s 13 total hours in the same day. You could be paid your normal wage for the first 12 hours, but the 13th hour needs to be overtime pay. The second scenario looks specifically at workdays of 12 or more consecutive hours. So if you worked 13 straight hours in a day, you’d be entitled to overtime for that 13th hour.
The daily overtime established in Colorado law is due no matter how many hours you worked for the week. You could work just one 14-hour day in a week and still be entitled to overtime. But what happens when all of these regulations come together? What happens, for example, when you work a 48-hour week (which entitles you to overtime wages), but also worked a 14-hour day during that week? According to Colorado’s Department of Labor and Employment, employers are allowed to choose which overtime scenario to use, but they have to choose the one that pays the most to the worker.
Pursuing Back Wages After A Legal Violation
As we can see, Colorado’s overtime requirements are fairly complicated. And some employers in the State underpay their workers by accident. But neither federal nor State law care about an employer’s intentions. When a wage and hour violation has been committed, labor laws treat innocent mistakes and intentional theft the same way. Both are violations of law.
Liquidated Damages & Colorado’s Wage Violation Penalty
Workers who are being underpaid deserve compensation. This is the basic premise of all wage and hour laws. When an employer violates the law, workers gain the right to pursue back wages by filing an unpaid wages lawsuit. Most civil claims demand the amount of wages that were stolen through labor law violations, but in addition to these back wages, the Fair Labor Standards Act and Colorado’s Wage Claim Act impose extra penalties.
Federal law says that workers who are successful in wage and hour claims can be awarded liquidated damages. In most cases, a liquidated damages award will double the amount of back wages that were owed. Colorado’s State labor laws, on the other hand, impose a much-higher penalty of 175% the owed back wages. So an employee owed $4,000 in back wages would secure an additional $7,000, for total compensation of $11,000.
Double Damages Under Federal & Colorado Law
It’s even possible to secure compensation under both federal and Colorado law at the same time. When an employee can file suit under both the Fair Labor Standards Act and Colorado’s Wage Claim Act, Colorado courts have ruled that they can receive both liquidated damages and the Colorado penalty. As a result, the amount of compensation can quickly skyrocket.