DENVER – Starting today, workers and employers from anywhere in the City and County of Denver can reach out to Denver Labor in the Denver Auditor’s Office for help with the new minimum wage.
“We will use education, outreach, investigations, and accessibility to make it as easy as possible for everyone in Denver to follow this new law,” Denver Auditor Timothy M. O’Brien, CPA, said. “I want the people of Denver to be paid according to the law, and I want businesses to find that it’s easier to follow the rules than break them.”
Beginning Jan. 1, all employers in Denver are required to pay a minimum of $12.85 per hour. Employers may use up to $3.02 in tip credit income to offset some of the payment of minimum wage. However, they may not reduce wages by more than that maximum tip credit amount, and they must be able to provide evidence the tips were earned. Employers may also reduce wages by up to 15% for unemancipated minors, if the employer is certified as a youth employment program.
Analysts in Denver Labor will investigate every credible complaint we receive. Only work performed on or after Jan. 1 will qualify for the citywide minimum wage. If our office finds and investigates a credible complaint, we will inform the employer and request documentation. Employers may not retaliate against employees for their involvement in an investigation.
“We want this new process to be as user-friendly as possible,” Executive Director of Denver Labor Jeffrey Garcia said. “We have worked to create procedures and train our staff on the new law. My team of analysts will focus on accessibility and equitability in their work.”
If our office finds evidence of underpayment, the employer could be fined. For the first violation, the Auditor may choose to waive the fine if the analysts find the error was made in good faith and the underpayment is fixed within 30 days. Otherwise, the fine could be up to $50 a day for each underpaid employee.
For all additional violations, including repeated failures to pay minimum wage, retaliation against an employee, failing to respond to investigation requests, or submitting false information, Denver city ordinance now imposes mandatory fines.
“I have expressed my concerns that mandatory fines for second offenses could be a burden to small companies with high turnover and continuing good-faith errors,” Auditor O’Brien said. “Now that the law gives the Auditor no discretion on this issue, I hope to work proactively to educate employers, so they can avoid repeating errors and incurring the mandatory fines.”
If an employer underpays employees, they must make restitution and provide evidence of the payment to Denver Labor. If the employer cannot locate the underpaid employee in a timely manner, the employer can send the check for the underpaid worker to the city so workers can pick them up from our office. Denver Labor will hold minimum wage restitution checks in a special trust fund on behalf of workers for three years.
We already have a list posted of workers with checks waiting for them from previous prevailing wage projects. We will continue to update this list with names for both minimum wage and prevailing wage. See our “Are You Owed Money” page for the names of people owed unclaimed funds.
In 2019, the state passed a law allowing municipalities to pass new minimum wages separate from the statewide minimum. Denver is the first to pass an ordinance under this new law. In addition to the Jan. 1, 2020, minimum wage increase to $12.85, the Denver minimum wage will go up again to $14.77 per hour on Jan. 1, 2021 and to $15.87 on Jan. 1, 2022. After that, the minimum wage will increase each year based on the regional consumer price index.
“Starting today, Denver is taking a step forward,” Auditor O’Brien said. “My office is ready to help workers get the money they are owed according to law and to help employers navigate the new rules.”
Denver Labor analysts will also start collecting data from complaints and underpayments. Starting in 2022, our office will be able to use that information to conduct investigations without formal, complaints. Analysts will use data to track patterns and practices demonstrating an increased likelihood that certain workers within an industry are regularly not paid wages as required by law.
Important resources for employees:
- To file a minimum wage complaint, employees can submit their information on our website in English or in Spanish. Complaints may be anonymous.
- For further help or to file a complaint, employees may also call us at 720-913-5039 or email email@example.com. For more information and resources related to wage complaints, visit our website here: org/denverlabor.
- To see if you have a check waiting: Are You Owed Money
Important resources for employers:
- All employers are required to post a notice approved by our office concerning the minimum wage in both English and Spanish. The posting must be in a prominent and easily accessible location. Our office will have posters available starting later this month.
- Employers can read more frequently asked questions about complaints and investigations in our overview here.
Commonly asked questions:
Does the new minimum wage apply in the County of Denver?
- Yes, the minimum wage applies in both the city and the county. It applies to all work performed in the city and county, unless the worker was just passing through the city or performed fewer than four hours of work in Denver.
If my business is headquartered in Denver but has offices outside of Denver, do all my offices need to pay the Denver minimum wage?
- No, only work performed in the City and County of Denver is subject to the Denver minimum wage.
How should my business become certified as a youth employment program?
- Denver Economic Development & Opportunity will work with employers to certify them as qualified to employ unemancipated minors and reduce their minimum wages by up to 15%.
How does the tip credit work?
- Employers may reduce the minimum wage obligation to employees by up to $3.02 per hour, according to state law. This amount was not set by the City of Denver. Employers must keep records of the tips employees earned and be able to provide them should a wage analyst request them as part of a Denver Labor investigation. Employers are required by law to keep sufficient payroll records concerning work performed for at least three years. If an employer cannot show evidence that an employee earned at least $3.02 in tips, the employer must pay the full minimum wage. If an employee makes more than $3.02 in tips, the employer cannot reduce the minimum wage by any more than the $3.02 maximum.
When do I need to report my payroll records to the city?
- Employers must pay their employees the appropriate minimum wage and maintain payroll records for three years. There is no additional reporting requirement. This is different from prevailing wage enforcement in the city, where employers on City of Denver projects are required to submit certified payrolls every two weeks.
The Auditor’s office has been enforcing wage law in Denver since the 1950s. Auditor O’Brien oversaw an update to bring the prevailing wage ordinance into the 21st century, effective in 2017. In 2019, our office took on enforcement of a new minimum wage standard for contractors on city projects. This remains separate from the citywide minimum wage. Employers are expected to pay employees the greater of prevailing wage, contractor minimum wage, citywide minimum wage, and living wage.