In 2013, employer groups killed a proposed wage theft bill that would have imposed criminal penalties on employers for even unknowing violations of state wage payment laws. Sen. Jessie Ulibarri has reintroduced a modified version of this bill in 2014.
The modified bill, Senate Bill 14-005, does not impose criminal penalties on employers, but does:
- expand wage claims to include state minimum wage violations,
- allow employees to collect attorney fees in minimum wage actions,
- require employers to maintain pay statement records for at least three years and to make them available to the employee and the CDLE,
- authorize the CDLE to fine employers for recordkeeping violations, and
- require employers to mail wage checks to employees’ last-known addresses within 60 days, if unable to deliver checks to them in another manner.
Instead of state court, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) would adjudicate wage claims. In claims for $7,500 or less, the CDLE would be authorized to issue citations and notices of assessments to employers for any amounts due. Parties could appeal decisions to county or district court. Fines collected would be deposited in a new wage theft enforcement fund.
The bill provides that failure to respond to an employee’s written wage demand creates a rebuttable presumption that the employer’s failure to pay was willful. Service of small claims court complaints would be considered written demands and activate state penalty provisions. The bill reduces the penalties for failing to pay wages by 50 percent if an employer makes a good faith offer of the amount it believes to be due to the employee.
This is one of the Colorado bills we are tracking closely. Last Wednesday, the bill passed out of its first legislative committee. We will update you on its progress throughout the legislative session.