Denver, CO

Denver Labor puts $1 million back in workers' hands

Margaret Jackson

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(Courtesy of Denver Labor)

By Margaret Jackson / NewsBreak Denver

(Denver, Colo.) Denver Labor has put more than $1 million back into the hands of workers who earned the city’s minimum wage or prevailing wage this year but were paid less than the law requires.

“We are going to return a record amount of restitution to Denver’s workers in 2022,” said Denver Auditor Timothy O’Brien, whose office operates the Denver Labor division. “That’s money people worked hard to earn, but it didn’t go into their paychecks the way it should have.”

The Denver Labor team works with employers and employees to investigate and resolve underpayments related to Denver’s wage laws. The team prioritizes educating employers about the law and workers about their rights, but sometimes mistakes happen and workers get paid less than required.

“Every penny matters to the people who earned it,” Denver Labor Executive Director Jeff Garcia said. “I’m proud of the work my team is doing to help real people.”

So far, in 2022, Denver Labor has returned $1.06 million to workers. Additional restitution is pending or may be sent to collections by the end of the year.

The most recent restitution case involved a valet company in Denver. Because the valet parking industry is considered at high risk for underpayments, Denver Labor’s minimum wage team proactively audited the company’s payroll and found it was claiming a tip credit and paying some workers as low as $9.98 per hour.

After management was notified of the error, the company paid $73,595 in restitution to 98 employees.

“The new active enforcement approach helps us catch errors and work with employers earlier — before restitution becomes a larger burden,” Garcia said. “Denver’s minimum sage covers the lowest-paid people in the city, so moving quickly to get the money they are owed back in their pockets really makes a difference.”

Denver’s minimum, wage in 2022 is $15.87 per hour and only businesses in the food and beverage industry can claim the top credit of $3.02 per hour. The minimum wage rate will increase to $17.29 in 2023.

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