How Enforcement Works

Citywide Minimum Wage: $15.87/hour

During the 2019 legislative session, the Colorado legislature enacted a new statute permitting local governments to set a jurisdiction-wide minimum wage. In November 2019, the Denver City Council created Denver Revised Municipal Code Chapter 58-16, which sets the local minimum wage for Denver and prescribes the means for setting, enforcing, and complying with the new local minimum wage.


Receiving Complaints

HOW

Icon of a cell phone with a message blurb.Complaints can be made by

 
All complaints must be made in writing. We will assist anyone making a complaint in completing the necessary forms.

WHO

Icon of a construction worker. Complaints can be made by
  • Employees
  • A third-party: family/friends, attorney, community resources, labor organization
  • Anonymous


We encourage any party making a complaint to share contact information. We make every effort to keep complainant’s information confidentiality. Communication between the complainant and the investigator can dramatically assist an investigation.

WHAT

Badge and location icons. Complaints should include
  • Employer’s name
  • Location where the work was performed
  • A statement explaining the alleged violation

  1. The investigator assigned to the complaint may contact a complainant for additional information or documentation.
  2. Denver Labor will not ask and accept information related to a party’s citizenship or immigration status.
  3. The more information the complainant can provide, the greater the likelihood of a successful investigation.



The Six Steps of An Investigation

Step 1: Receive Complaint

Denver Labor receives a complaint about a minimum wage violation.

Step 2: Assess Complaint

Complaint will be reviewed to ensure initial investigation requirements.

Step 3: Contact Employer

Denver Labor contacts the employer to request employee, payroll and compliance documentation.

Step 4: Evaluate Complaint

Denver Labor re-examine the complaint, considering all information provided by the complainant and employer.

Step 5: Determine Underpayment and Fines

If employer has underpaid complainant, Denver Labor informs both parties of amount and levies applicable fines on employer for violations.

Step 6: Resolve Complaint

Employer provides evidence of complete restitution. 

CASE CLOSED

Without evidence, the case is referred to another agency for investigation or to an outside firm for collection of restitution.


Complaint Review Process

The complaint will be reviewed to ensure initial investigation requirements:

 Icons of documents with a dollar symbol. Icon of a calendar showing January 1, 2020. Location icon with Denver in the center.

A balance icon with a dollar symbol on one side and

1. Sufficient information was provided to permit an investigation. 2. The work was performed after Jan. 1, 2020.

3. The work was performed within the City and County of Denver.

4. The minimum wage requirements were not met.

Employer Requirements

 Denver law requires employers conducting business in Denver to retain records demonstrating compliance with Denver’s minimum wage law.

Icon of archive folders with a dollar sign in the center and the years '20, '21, '22. Icon of a 2020 annual calendar showing January 1 on the first page, surrounded by an arrow with a cross mark. Icon of an archive folder with a dollar symbol in the center, and spreadsheets inside the folder.

Icons of a female employee, male employee and the silhouette of a second female employee.
1. Sufficient payroll records for a period beginning Jan. 1, 2020 for at least three years. 2. Employers will not be asked for payroll records of work performed before Jan. 1, 2020.

3.No special format or recordkeeping system is required.

4.Records must be retained for current and past employees. 

 


Employer Requirements: Payroll Records

When Denver Labor conducts an investigation, employers must provide payroll records in a timely manner. These records must include:

Icon of a woman with a clock behind her.
Icon of a bill with a dollar symbol in the center, and a clock behind created by arrow.
Icon of a bill with a dollar symbol in the center and a dotted line that cuts a forth of the bill.

Icon of a hand holding two dollar bills.
1. The number of hours worked by each worker. 2. The hourly wage paid to each worker.

 

3. Any deductions made from worker wages, including any taxes withheld.

4. The net amount of wages received by each worker. 

 


Determine Underpayment, Violations and Fines

Complaint Unsupported

Icon of a bill with a dollar symbol in the center.
  • Investigator will inform both the complainant and the employer no underpayment or violation was found.
  • Case will be closed.
  • A determination does not bar any party from seeking alternative relief or prevent a party from resubmitting a complaint with additional information.
  • A party has 30 days from the notice of a determination to file a written appeal with the Auditor’s Office. 

Complaint Supported

Icon of a bill with a dollar symbol in the center and a dotted line that cuts one forth of the bill.
  • Investigator will inform both the complainant and the employer of any restitution owed and the assessment of any applicable fines.
  • The employer can be fined for underpaying employees, failing to produce records, and providing false records.
  • Most of the fines are mandatory and cannot be waived by Denver Labor.
  • A party has 30 days from the notice of a determination to file a written appeal with the Auditor’s Office

Citywide Minimum Wage: FAQ

2022 Wage Ordinance Changes

City Council passed an ordinance on Monday, June 20, 2022 to update several elements of Denver’s wage laws. The primary sponsor of the bill was Councilwoman Robin Kniech.

Key points:

- The ordinance changed the time period used to calculate possible annual pay increases for the contractor minimum wage.  Due to this change, the contractor minimum wage rate will be calculated in the same manner and take effect the at the same time as any change to the citywide minimum wage on Jan. 1 of each year.

  • The Department of Finance will perform the calculation and will issue the decisions on potential wage rate increases.
  • The Department of Finance uses the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W).
  • The CPI-W is done by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It measures the average change in prices over time of a “basket of consumer goods and services” commonly purchased by urban wage earners and clerical workers. This did not change with the new ordinance updates. The index is currently calculated based on prices in the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood area.
  • The Department of Finance will compare the CPI-W from the first half of the prior year to the first have of the current year to determine how much wages might need to increase for the next year.
  • Because Denver law requires an employer to comply with the highest applicable wage, both the contractor and citywide minimum wage are currently enforced at $15.87. Aside from a few exceptions, including tipped food and beverage workers, no one working in the city and county of Denver should be earning less $15.87.

- The ordinance aligned both the contractor and citywide minimum wages.

  • Until now, the contractor minimum wage would increase on July 1 of each year. For half the year it might be higher than the citywide minimum wage and half the year it was lower and therefore did not apply. Now that the citywide minimum wage is consistently higher, the Denver City Council decided to align the timelines for both wage rates so there would only be one increase per year – the higher citywide minimum wage.
  • The contractor minimum wage rate will not change on July 1, 2023. However, using the CPI-W calculation it still would have been lower than the citywide minimum wage anyway. As a result, City Council determined that doing the alignment would not keep workers from receiving the highest possible pay rate

- City Council approved a repeal of the obsolete living wage ordinance. The living wage was created in the 2000 but it is lower than both the contractor and citywide minimum wages.

- The updates added legally required details for collection of unpaid wages and fees/fines.

  • The original ordinance gave our office the authority to send unpaid wages to collections and to assess fines for noncompliance with wage laws. However, some legal details were missing and our office has been unable to collect on behalf of workers.
  • The updates align the collections provisions with the standard city collections processes.
  • These changes include:
    • Notice shall be sent via first class mail to the most recent mailing address of the employer; notice deemed complete seven days later.
    • Penalties shall be due and payable 30 days after notice.
    • Clarifying a late fee of $25 and a 10% annual interest on penalties not paid within 30 days.
  • This will help our office recover significant amounts of restitution dollars from employers who were noncompliant with the wage law.

If you have questions about wage rates or which laws apply to you, do not hesitate to reach out to our office. Our analysts are happy to help. If you have questions about the changes to the ordinance, please reach out to Denver City Council. If you have questions about the next minimum wage rate increase and calculations, please contact the Department of Finance. 

When does Minimum Wage Apply?

The new minimum wage applies to all workers performing work after January 1, 2020 within the geographical boundaries of the City and County of Denver. 

What is Denver’s Local Minimum Wage?

Denver’s local minimum wage is:

  • $12.85 from January 1, 2020 – December 31, 2020;
  • $14.77 from January 1, 2021 – December 31, 2021;
  • $15.87 from January 1, 2022 – December 31, 2022; and
  • Increase by the prior year’s increase in the regional consumer price index every year thereafter.

When May Employers Pay an Employee Less Than the Minimum Wage?

An employer can reduce the its minimum wage obligation for actual tips received by its employees up to $3.02 an hour (“tip credit”) only in the food and beverage industry. During an investigation, an employer may be asked to produce evidence their employees received tips equal to or greater than the tip credit taken by the employer.

Employers of unemancipated minors performing work pursuant to a city certified youth employment program may pay those minors 15% less than the minimum wage.  

Are There Any Exclusions?

Denver’s local minimum wage does not apply to:

  • Work performed outside of Denver;
  • Where an employee works less than 4 hours within Denver in a week; and
  • Where the employee is only traveling through Denver while working.

What Minimum Wage Rate Applies?

The applicable minimum wage is the greater of the applicable prevailing wage, living wage, Denver contractor minimum wage as set in D.R.M.C. §20-84, the local minimum wage as set in D.R.M.C. §33.7-16 or other state or federal for the class of work being performed.

How Do Employers Comply with Denver’s Local Minimum Wage Requirements?

To be compliant, employers must pay their employees the appropriate wage and maintain payroll records for three years.  There is no additional reporting requirement.

Who May Make a Complaint?

Complaints may be submitted by any person or entity. Complaints may be submitted anonymously. In addition, the Auditor’s Office may initiate an investigation based on an employer’s pattern of violations or credible government data.

How Are Minimum Wage Complaints Made?

Individuals who wish to make a complaint related to Denver’s minimum wage may e-mail the Denver Auditor’s Office at wagecomplaints@denvergov.org or call 720-913-5039.

How Are Minimum Wage Complaints Investigated and Resolved?

The Denver Auditor’s Office will investigate all credible complaints submitted. Complaints may be resolved by referral to another agency or mode of remedy. Where the Auditor’s Office finds and investigates a credible compliant, the Auditor’s Office will inform the employer of its investigation and request documentation from the employer demonstrating compliance with minimum wage requirements. When the investigation is complete, an assigned investigator will seek restitution for any underpaid employee and possibly levy fines or inform the complainant and employer no evidence of underpayment was found. Employers must provide the Auditor’s Office evidence of any restitution payment made.    

Employers may not take adverse action against an employee for their involvement in an investigation. Such retaliatory conduct is unlawful and subject to a $5,000 fine.

Are There Penalties for Failing to Comply with Denver’s Minimum Wage Requirements?

For an employer’s first violation, the Auditor may impose a fine of as much as $50 a day for each employee paid less than minimum wage unless the Auditor finds the error was made in good faith and corrected within 30 days.

For an employer’s second and third violations in a three-year period, the Auditor must impose a fine of $1,000 – $2,500 and $10-$75 a day for each employee paid less than minimum wage.  For all violations after the third violation in a three-year period, the Auditor must impose a fine of $2,500 – $5,000 and $50-$100 a day for each employee paid less than minimum wage. 

Where an employer fails to submit certified payroll records or submits false records in response to an investigatory request by the Auditor, the Auditor must fine the employer $1,000. 


 

This page is meant for educational and informational purposes. Nothing on this page alters any party’s rights, duties, or obligations to comply with any law. All parties are encouraged to thoroughly review the law ensure lawful compliance.


Resources and Contact

 

Submit a Complaint Form

Return to Citywide Minimum Wage 

Return to Denver Labor


Timothy O'Brien Official Headshot
AUDITOR TIMOTHY O'BRIEN, CPA
Denver's Auditor


Denver Auditor's Office
201 W. Colfax Ave. #705 Denver, CO 80202
Email: auditor@denvergov.org 
Call: 720-913-5000
Follow us on Facebook  Connect with us on Twitter
Read our Social Media Policy Here

Auditor´s Office Logos for Footer