Viewpoint: Colorado’s new wage law puts teeth in unpaid wages enforcement

An article by Fisher & Phillips Partner Sue Schaecher, “Viewpoint: Colorado’s new wage law puts teeth in unpaid wages enforcement,” appeared in the online edition of the Denver Business Journal August 25, 2014.

Sue Schaecher writes – schaechersue-304xx3503-5255-0-0The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment’s notices to employers of claims for unpaid wages soon will be more like subpoenas than invitations from the government to resolve their workers’ wage claims.

Starting January 1, 2015, the 2014 Wage Protection Act empowers the Division of Labor to adjudicate wage claims and impose fines and penalties on employers who fail to timely respond to its notices. The act also set aside money for enforcement, expands employee rights in additional ways, and applies to nearly every private employer in Colorado.

Here’s a rundown on some of the key changes.

Administrative adjudication

Currently, the division helps terminated Colorado workers recover their earned compensation. The division typically contacts the employer by letter and attempts to resolve the dispute. If resolution is not reached, the employee may file a lawsuit.

Under the new law, the director of the division will notify the employer of the complaint and the employer must respond within 14 days or face fines. Unless the employer pays the full amount claimed within 14 days of the notice, the director will investigate the complaint and issue a determination within 90 days.

If the director determines that the employer owes wages, the law requires the director to issue a citation and assessment for the wages, plus fines and penalties. If the employer tenders the wages due within 14 days of the determination, the director may, but is not required to, waive or reduce the fines and reduce the penalties by up to 50 percent.

Any interested party may appeal the director’s determination to a hearing officer selected by the director. If neither party appeals to a hearing officer and the employee does not file a court complaint, the director’s determination becomes enforceable as a judgment upon filing it in court.

Read the rest of the story here.