Denver's Minimum Wage in 2024: $18.29/hour

A Denver Labor analyst speaks to a worker at the Denver International Airport.

The citywide minimum wage rate is required to increase annually according to the calculation of the Consumer Price Index. Ordinance requires the Denver Department of Finance to perform this calculation, while our office enforces the calculated rate and educated employers year-round. Read more about Finance's calculation here.


Useful Tools for Workers and Employers

Minimum Wage Calculator

This calculator is a tool to assist employees confirm they are receiving Denver’s minimum wage. The total wages determined are the gross or the employee’s pre- tax and deduction earnings. Please note some exceptions may permit an employer to pay less than the calculated total wages and employers of tipped employees may only reduce hourly wages for actual tips received. If you believe you have not been paid correctly or have questions about the calculator or Denver’s minimum wage, please contact Denver Labor.

Denver Regional Address Finder

This interactive map is a tool to determine whether a business or work location is within the City and County of Denver. This tool is meant to assist in filing or responding to a complaint. Denver Labor will make a final determination regarding jurisdiction on all investigated complaints.

To start using the tool, click the blue button "OK" on the bottom right corner of the map.

Underpayment Calculator

This spreadsheet (downloadable below) is a tool to determine the amount of back pay owed to current or previous employees. To use the Underpayment Calculator, download the Excel file and enter the relevant payroll information - hours worked, hourly wage paid, and tips earned. The Excel file is available in both English and Spanish. If an underpayment is owed or you have difficulty using the Underpayment Calculator, please contact Denver Labor.

Download Underpayment Calculator(XLSX, 62KB) Calculadora para empleadores(XLSX, 50KB)

Minimum Wage Underpayment Calculator(XLSX, 62KB)


All workers in the City and County of Denver are protected by Denver’s wage ordinances regardless of their immigration status. Denver Labor will not ask about the worker’s country of origin or immigration status during an investigation. Furthermore, Denver Labor will impose penalties for any unfair immigration-related actions or threats to workers.

Denver's Minimum Wage: FAQ

Why Does Minimum Wage Matter?
  • Raising the minimum wage increases worker productivity. Studies by leading economists, including Nobel laureate George Akerlof of Georgetown University, found that employee morale and work ethic increase when employees believe they are paid a fair wage. Economists have also linked higher wages to better physical and mental health and reduced “decision fatigue,” leading to higher productivity.

  • Raising the minimum wage reduces turnover. Higher wages lead to lower employee turnover, resulting in reduced recruiting and training costs. An analysis by the Center for American Progress estimates that the cost of replacing low-wage workers is equal to about 16 percent of the employee’s annual salary.  
     
  • A 2012 study by Arin Dube, William Lester, and Michael Reich concluded that increases in the minimum wage can reduce turnover substantially, leading to savings in turnover costs. 

  • Raising the minimum wage reduces absenteeism. When workers earn higher wages, they are absent from work less, leading to increased productivity. A 2010 paper from economists Laura Bucilia and Curtis Simon concluded that higher minimum wages are associated with lower rates of absenteeism for reasons other than illness. 
     
  • Raising the minimum wage increases consumer spending and boosts the economy. A study by Doug Hall and David Cooper estimated that a $2.55 increase in the minimum wage would increase the earnings of low-wage workers by $40 billion and result in a significant increase in GDP and employment.

  • A raise in the minimum wage predominantly benefits low-wage workers, precisely those most likely to put additional income directly back into the economy, kickstarting a virtuous cycle of greater demand for goods and services, job growth, and increased productivity.

  • When the minimum wage goes up, workers’ health dramatically improves. Minimum wage increases are associated with less tobacco, drug, and alcohol use, lower rates of child neglect, improved birthweights for children born to low-income parents, and lower rates of suicide.  
2022 Minimum 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. 

Minimum Wage in 2024

When does the minimum wage increase? January 1 of each year.

How much will the wage increase? The citywide minimum wage in 2024 is $18.29 per hour. Minimum wage for tipped workers in the food and beverage industry will be $15.27 as long as they receive $3.02 in tips per hour.

Wage rates timeline for Denver's citywide minimum wage.

Transcript of Denver Wages Timeline(PDF, 69KB)

Minimum wage timeline in Denver.

The citywide minimum wage was $12.85 per hour in 2020, $14.77 per hour in 2021, $15.87 per hour in 2022, and $17.29 per hour in 2023. The rate increases to $18.29 per hour on January 1, 2024.

Is Denver’s wage rate the highest? No, Denver will be among several dozen cities nationwide with minimum wages above $17 per hour. In 2023, some peer cities will already be above $18 per hour.

How is the wage increase calculated? According to ordinance, the Denver Department of Finance calculates the annual increase based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The methodology is laid out in ordinance and is similar to how the State of Colorado calculates its statewide minimum wage. According to ordinance, the adjustment calculation compares the Consumer Price Index for the first half of the previous year to the first half of the current year. The Consumer Price Index is designed to help workers keep up with the cost of living in their area.

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:

  • $15.87 from January 1, 2022 – December 31, 2022;
  • $17.29 from January 1, 2023 – December 31, 2023;
  • $18.29 from January 1, 2024 – December 31, 2024; 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.
Are Undocumented Workers Protected by Denver’s Minimum Wage?

All workers in the City and County of Denver are protected by Denver’s wage ordinances regardless of their immigration status. Denver Labor will not ask about the worker’s country of origin or immigration status during an investigation. Furthermore, Denver Labor will impose penalties for any unfair immigration-related actions or threats to workers.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced that non-citizen workers, who are victims of or witnesses to labor rights violations, can now access a faster and more efficient deferred action request process. As a local labor agency, Denver Labor can and will request DHS to exercise its discretion on behalf of workers employed by companies identified by the agency as having labor disputes falling under our jurisdiction. This will allow us to fully investigate worksite violations and fulfill our mission of holding abusive employers accountable.

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.

What Is Active Enforcement?

Starting in 2022, Denver Labor has used data and thoughtful analysis to improve the reach of our education and enforcement work within industries where workers are at highest risk of receiving less than the wages required according to law.

Using this information, Denver Labor may begin more proactive wage investigations without receiving a complaint of potential underpayment. Active wage enforcement will include strategic onsite visits to speak with at-risk workers.


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.


Denver's Civil Wage Theft Rules and Mandatory Work Site Poster

Cover of the Civil Wage Theft Rules 2024. (PDF, 531KB)   Mandatory Work Site Poster. (PDF, 496KB)
Download the Civil Wage Theft Rules(PDF, 531KB)  Download the Mandatory Work Site Poster for 2024(PDF, 496KB)

 

Mandatory Work Site Poster for 2024


Resources and Contact

 

Resources for Small Businesses
Learn about Civil Wage Theft
Learn about Prevailing Wage


 Auditor Tim O'Brien headshot

AUDITOR TIMOTHY O'BRIEN, CPA
Denver Auditor


Denver Auditor´s Office

201 W. Colfax Ave. #705 Denver, CO 80202
Emailauditor@denvergov.org
Call: 720-913-5000
Follow us on Facebook     Connect with us on Twitter
Read our social media policy

Auditors Office Logos for Footer