Restitution Stories

Three Denver workers receiving restitution checks from Auditor O'Brien and two members of Denver Labor.

Read below some of our returned wage stories since 2020:

Minimum Wage Stories

2023

Franchised 7-Eleven adjusts wages to meet Denver's minimum wage

Our office received a web form complaint alleging a franchised 7-Eleven was not paying Denver's minimum wage. After working with the employer, the business updated its wages and paid $528.70 in restitution to 2 underpaid workers.

Civil wage theft team recovers $9,493 for 17 workers

Denver Labor conducted an active investigation into Vivent Health, a healthcare non-profit in Denver, after receiving information about its "use-it-or-lose-it" paid time off policy. The non-profit cooperated with the investigation and provided Denver Labor payrolls and policies to assist our analysts in determining the underpayment. The case closed with our civil wage theft team recovering $9,493.58 for 17 employees who had forfeited their earned paid time off.

City’s uses up-the-chain accountability to recover workers’ wages

Denver's Civil Wage Theft Ordinance adopts an "up-the-chain accountability" approach. This means that any employer who ultimately benefits from a worker's labor may be required to pay their wages. Denver Labor's prevailing wage division recently notified the civil wage theft division of a city subcontractor named Tri-M Electric that did not pay its workers restitution for the work they performed. Our teams collaborated and applied the "up-the-chain accountability" approach to the primary contractor for the project. Our office educated the company on its responsibilities with subcontractors and the Civil Wage Theft Ordinance, including how this ordinance also applies to the City and County of Denver's prevailing wage projects. The primary contractor understood and promptly paid restitution of $5,722.82 for seven employees.

Active enforcement helps recover wages for janitorial workers

Since Denver's Citywide Minimum Wage Ordinance came into effect, our minimum wage team has resolved multiple underpayment cases in the janitorial industry. In this case, our analysts initiated an active enforcement case for Denver Janitorial Services, LLC. Upon receiving the company’s payrolls, we identified two workers who didn't receive the local minimum wage from 2020 to 2022. The business was corporative, wanted to fix the error, and paid those workers immediately after receiving the underpayment determination. The investigation ended with our office recovering $2,065.60 in restitution for two workers.

Interns protected by Denver's minimum wage received $2,478

Denver Labor initiated a proactive compliance audit on the Law Office of Thomas Young. We found that their interns were paid below Denver's minimum wage rate. The law office worked with Denver Labor to make all underpaid workers whole. Six interns recovered $2,478.98 as a result of our work.

Beard Papas Denver corrects wages for 12 workers

Our office received an online complaint because the bakery Beard Papas Denver was not paying the correct tipped minimum wage in 2023 for food and beverage establishments. Our team educated the employer on the tipped minimum wage, which is $14.27 in 2023, as long as workers receive $3.02 in documented tips. Beard Papas Denver corrected its wages and paid restitution to its workers. The case ended with 12 workers recovering $408.97.

Underpaid janitorial workers receive $31,495.52

Since Denver's Citywide Minimum Wage Ordinance came into effect, Denver Labor has identified the janitorial industry as a high-risk industry of underpayments. Our minimum wage team recently started an active enforcement investigation of the janitorial company Maintenance Resources. After conducting a payroll audit, we discovered that the business was not paying Denver's minimum wage since 2020. The employer was cooperative, wanted to make things right, and paid their workers immediately after receiving the calculations of the underpayment. As a result of the investigation, our office recovered $31,495.52 in restitution for 29 janitorial workers.

Cold Stone Creamery workers receive $4,352 in restitution

Our office received two minimum wage complaints about Cold Stone Creamery paying its tipped workers less than Denver's minimum wage for the food and beverage industry, which is $14.27 in 2023 if workers receive $3.02 in documented tips. After our team educated the employer on how to apply the tip credit, the business corrected the wages. The case closed with 38 workers recovering $4.352.12 in owed wages.

Denver Labor recovers $334,211 for remote workers

Our office received a wage complaint because 24-7 Intouch was not paying remote employees who live and work in the City of County of Denver the correct minimum wage. Our team educated the employer on Denver’s Minimum Wage Ordinance and how it applies to work performed within the geographic limits of the City and County of Denver. The employer worked with our office and corrected the workers’ wages. As a result of our work, our team recovered $334,211.23 for 161 employees.

Tellus International employees recover $1,368

A remote employee submitted a wage complaint because Tellus International was not paying Denver's 2023 minimum wage rate. Denver Labor opened an investigation and requested payroll records for all employees performing work in Denver. Upon being notified, Tellus International increased all wages for employees working in Denver to meet Denver's citywide minimum wage and made the employees whole. As a result, five employees recovered $1,368.94

Massage Envy returns $630 to underpaid workers

Denver Labor opened an active enforcement case in the wellness industry, which has been identified as a high-risk industry for underpayments. After the team reviewed the payroll records from a Massage Envy location in Denver, they identified three employees that were paid below Denver’s minimum wage for hours worked in 2020. The company worked well with our team, and upon receiving our determination, they returned the unpaid wages to workers. The case ended with three employees recovering $630.74.

Denver Labor recovers $1,800 for convenience store workers

Our office received a web form complaint because a global convenience store was not paying its workers the local minimum wage. Our labor compliance analysts educated the employer on Denver’s Minimum Wage Ordinance and the current minimum wage rate. After working with the business to calculate restitution, our team recovered $1,803.65 for 12 employees.

Starbucks owed wages for after-work hours

There is no case too small for our office. Denver Labor received a wage complaint after Starbucks required its employees at two locations in Denver to perform work duties off the clock. After an investigation, our civil wage theft team determined these Starbucks locations owed wages to three employees for one to two hours of work. In total, our team recovered $184.24 for three employees.

Youth school program self-reports underpayment

A church school program that started as a volunteer opportunity for teenagers decided to start paying them an hourly rate. The church realized it was paying below Denver’s minimum wage and wanted to make things right. The organization corrected the error for all the teenagers that performed work for them, so it could meet Denver’s citywide minimum wage requirements for 2021 and 2022. As a result, our team recovered $12,950.87 of wage restitution for 51 teenagers.

Southwest Airlines underpaid 13 workers in Denver

Denver Labor received a complaint alleging that Southwest Airlines was not paying an employee and their co-workers Denver’s minimum wage. Our office requested payroll records for all workers employed in Denver that were at high risk of being paid below minimum wage. Upon receiving these payroll records, we identified 13 employees who were paid below the lawful wage, and we notified the company about our findings. The airline’s attorney worked closely with our team to meet deadlines and make their employees whole. Our office was able to recover $308 in restitution for 13 employees.

A worker receives $7,500 for wage theft and retaliation

A health and medical non-profit hired a worker and requested them to complete onboarding paperwork. After the worker asked whether they would pay them for the time spent filling out the paperwork, the organization rescinded their offer of employment. Our team received a complaint and negotiated a settlement for wage theft and retaliation with the non-profit. As a result of our work, the worker received $7,500.

Salon returns unpaid wages after active enforcement investigation

Denver Labor initiated an active enforcement investigation for a beauty salon, an industry at a high risk of underpayments. Upon receiving payroll records, our labor compliance analysts noticed the salon was paying employees straight commission, and sometimes the business was not meeting Denver’s minimum wage rate for the hours worked. Our office educated the salon’s management on how to comply with Denver’s minimum wage while still paying commissions. The salon made its employees whole and paid the owed wages. As a result, 23 employees recovered $1,859 for nearly 2,189 hours worked.

A retail marketing company pays $7,010 in unpaid wages, interest, and damages

A Denver-based employee of a national retail marketing company submitted a minimum wage complaint to Denver Labor. After reviewing the company's payroll records, we found that 23 employees in Denver were underpaid. The company worked with Denver Labor to pay $7,010.01 in restitution, interest, and damages to 23 employees.

Worker at a lawn service company receives $944 in restitution

Denver Labor received a complaint for a lawn service company. We determined that the company had been paying an employee working from home in Denver $15 per hour since 2022, a wage rate below Denver's minimum wage. Our initial review of payroll records and commission reports found regular discrepancies between amounts owed and paid. The worker was being paid below minimum wage and was not receiving the full commission she earned. Denver Labor recovered $944.91 in restitution for one employee for 1,003.11 hours worked.

Minimum wage team helps return $23,724 to valet parking workers

Denver Labor initiated an active enforcement investigation of a valet parking company, an industry with a high risk of underpayments. Upon receiving payroll records, our minimum wage team noticed the valet company was applying tips to the hourly rate. Our office educated the employer about the tip credit, which can only be applied in the food and beverage industry. The employer cooperated and worked well with our team during the investigation, and our office helped return $23,724.38 to 78 workers.

Underpaid worker in Denver recovers $518.63

Our office received an anonymous web complaint of a local food packaging company. Our minimum wage team contacted the employer and educated them about Denver’s minimum wage. As a result of our work, one worker recovered $518.63

National pet supply store adjusts pay rate to comply with Denver's minimum wage

Denver Labor conducted an active investigation of a national pet supply chain that shares geographical bounds with another county to ensure their workers earned at least Denver's minimum wage. In some instances, our team found that the business was not paying the correct wage rate. We educated the employer on the minimum wage requirements for the City and County of Denver, and twenty-six workers received $1,909.89 for 5,666 hours worked

Hotel workers recover $56,019 in unpaid wages

A Denver hotel posted a valet parking job online that was advertised below Denver’s minimum wage. Denver Labor initiated an active enforcement investigation of the hotel’s ownership group and worked collaboratively with the employer to identify 52 underpaid valets, porters, and bellhops at seven hotels in Denver. As a result of our investigation, those underpaid workers recovered $56,019.40 for 38,348 hours worked.

Rental car company returns $7,588 to underpaid workers

A major rental car company had a job posting online for jobs in Denver starting at a rate below Denver’s minimum wage, prompting Denver Labor to open an active investigation for minimum wage compliance. After reviewing multiple years of payrolls, Denver Labor identified 51 employees who were paid below the local minimum wage rate. In total, our team recovered $7,588.25 for the underpaid workers.

Workers in the beauty industry recover $8,146

Our minimum wage team received a web complaint because a national beauty service retailer was paying employees less than the required Denver's minimum wage rate. Our office educated the employer on commission wages and how to apply them properly. Our office recovered $8,146.22 for 11 employees for 4,506.51 hours worked.

A valet parking business that mistakenly applied the tip credit returns $7,363.50

Our minimum wage team started an active enforcement investigation for a valet parking company, an industry where we identified a higher risk of underpayments. Upon receiving their payroll records, we noticed the business was applying a tip credit to the workers’ hourly rate. Our team educated the employer about the tip credit, which is only allowed for businesses in the food and beverage industry. The cases ended with $7,363.50 in restitution for 29 employees.

Denver Labor recovers $40,938 for workers at a local bar

Our office received a complaint through our website because a local bar was not paying the correct minimum wage to their tipped employees, which is $14.25 per hour in 2023 if workers receive $3.02 in tips. The minimum wage team educated the employer on how to use the tip credit in the food and beverage industry and recovered $40,938.51 for forty-nine employees.

Nail salon raises wages for employees that receive commission and tips

A nail salon and spa paid their employees a straight commission and tips. Our team initiated an active enforcement investigation and found the commission was insufficient for the employer to meet Denver’s minimum wage. After notifying the business why we found underpayments, they quickly adjusted the pay and worked with our team to return the unpaid wages. Our minimum wage team also educated the employer about the required sales commission to meet Denver’s minimum wage rate for every hour worked per pay period. Denver Labor recovered $1,215.02 for eight employees.

Workers at national food chain recover $23,952

Denver Labor conducted an active investigation on a national food chain that shares geographical bounds with another county to ensure the business paid the correct minimum wage rate. Our team found the employer was not paying Denver’s minimum wage. After educating the business about the local ordinance, our team recovered $23.952.54 for 96 employees.

A physical stretching and wellness business corrects wages for 7 employees

Denver Labor received a complaint because a physical stretching and wellness business offered a job at a rate below Denver’s minimum wage. When the complainant saw the offer letter and questioned about the pay, the business withdrew the job offer. The complainant provided Denver Labor with the offer letter showing a pay rate of $11.50 an hour, which was below the rate required by Denver’s minimum wage ordinance. Our office opened an investigation based on the evidence provided and recovered $2,850.79 owed to seven employees.

Janitorial workers receive $2,218 in unpaid wages

Denver Labor received a complaint through our website related to a regional janitorial company. Their employees performed some work within the County of Denver and some outside of the county’s boundaries. Our minimum wage team worked with the employer and educated them on how to report locations and the correct hours worked within the City and County of Denver. Our office recovered $2,218 for six employees that had worked 2,087 hours.

City contractors must meet minimum wage rate

Our office received a minimum wage complaint from a prevailing wage analyst because a city contractor was not complying with the 2023 minimum wage rate of $17.29. Our office reviewed all payrolls and found that the employer paid those wages retroactively. As a result of our work, one employee recovered $515.42 for 63 hours worked.

Underpaid workers at a pizzeria recover $40,000

A pizza delivery driver submitted a complaint because their employer paid them $10 per hour in 2022, $2.85 below the minimum wage rate for tipped employees in the food and beverage industry. Upon notice of the investigation, the employer — a local pizzeria that operated multiple locations within the City and County of Denver — provided all requested payroll records. The records showed that other workers were also underpaid. The business raised wages to meet Denver's minimum wage, and Denver Labor recovered $40,026.14 in unpaid wages for 45 workers.

National food chain returns $9,567 to underpaid workers

Denver Labor conducted an active investigation on a national food chain in the City and County of Denver near the geographical border with another county. Our team found that the business was not paying the correct wages and educated the employer on Denver's minimum wage requirements. As a result, 42 employees recovered $9,567.48 for 7,520 hours worked.

Food demonstration company adjusts pay rate to comply with minimum wage

Denver Labor received a web complaint because a national sample demonstration company was not paying Denver's minimum wage rate of $17.29 per hour. The business operated at a national grocery store next to other counties' geographical bounds. After our investigation, the employee recovered $38.38 for 31 hours of work and received a rate adjustment.

Homecare business corrects wages for underpaid employees

Denver Labor conducted an active investigation on a local home healthcare service company. The payrolls provided by the employer demonstrated that there was an underpayment for two employees that were paid below Denver’s minimum wage. The employer corrected the wages, and our office recovered $471.95 in restitution for 1096 hours worked.

Anonymous complaint leads to wage restitution for six employees

Denver Labor received an anonymous complaint because a food supplier advertised a job opportunity at $15/hour, below Denver’s minimum wage. The complainant provided a link to the job post, and the minimum wage team determined the complaint was credible and opened an investigation. Denver Labor recovered $1,038.06 for six employees for 1,008.50 hours worked in the City and County of Denver.

2022

Active enforcement helps return $16,479 to Denver employees

Our minimum wage team contacted a valet parking company for a routine payroll audit. After we found they had been paying their employees below Denver’s minimum wage since 2021, the business cooperated with us and made all necessary corrections. All their employees now earn $16.50/hour, above the minimum wage rate in 2022. Seventy employees receive $16,479.56 in restitution for 9,500.86 hours worked.

Food Franchise Returns Wages to 36 Underpaid Employees

A delivery driver for a national fast food sandwich chain submitted a complaint to Denver Labor because he and his coworkers were being paid below Denver’s minimum wage. The franchise owner had multiple locations in the metro area, and employees who were regularly scheduled to work outside the city would sometimes cover shifts at the Denver location. The owner failed to pay those fill-in employees the correct wage. After comparing their payroll records to on-site time records, we calculated the business owed $4,085 to their employees. We worked with the company to resolve the underpayment going forward and obtained restitution for 36 employees.

Home Care Worker Recovers Unpaid Wages

Our office conducted an active investigation on a local home health care company. The payrolls provided by the business demonstrated there was a minimum wage violation for one employee. The employer corrected the mistake, and our minimum wage team helped recover $124.80 for 78 hours worked.

Marijuana Dispensary Increases Wages for Underpaid Employees

Our office conducted an investigation on a local marijuana dispensary. After requesting their payrolls, our team found that a few employees were paid less than Denver’s minimum wage. Our minimum wage team also identified overtime violations. As a result of our investigation, the business raised wages for the underpaid workers, and three employees recovered their pay for a total of 160 hours worked.

Valet Parking Employees Receive $319,000 in Restitution

Denver Labor received an anonymous complaint via webform of a national valet company not paying Denver's minimum wage. Our office was able to work with the employer and educate them on the minimum wage. We ensured all wages were corrected, and the employer paid restitution to all employees. Our office recovered $319.414.56 for 404 employees for 408,553 hours worked.



Local Retail Store Returns $7,405 to Employees

Denver Labor received a minimum wage complaint on our website because a local sporting goods retail store did not adjust its wages to comply with Denver’s minimum wage in 2022. Our office worked with the employer to correct the wages and return employees the money they were owed. Our office recovered $7,405.15 in restitution for 14 employees for 3,839 worked hours.

Denver Labor Analysts Recover $48,000 for Parking Employees

Denver Labor received an anonymous complaint because a valet parking company was underpaying their staff and independent contractors for several years. Our office opened an investigation and the business fixed the errors and started complying with the minimum wage requirements. A total of 170 employees received $48,162.65 in restitution for 15,254.50 hours worked.

Restaurant Employees Receive $19,330 in Restitution

Our office investigated a national fast-food restaurant in Denver near other counties' geographical boundaries. After requesting a sample of payrolls, our team discovered the business had been underpaying its employees since 2020. The minimum wage team educated the employer on the minimum wage ordinance and the changes in the wage rate since the ordinance came into effect. After closing the case, 125 people received $19.330.66 in recovered wages for 25,788 hours worked.


Valet Company Returns $23,355.72 to Employees

Denver Labor recovered $23,355.72 for employees in the valet parking industry. As part of our active enforcement efforts, our team initiated an investigation at a local parking company and found that the business was using a tip credit.

Our office educated the employer about the tip credit, which only allows businesses to reduce their minimum wage obligation for the tips received by their employees when they are in the food and beverage industry. As a result of our work, 27 underpaid workers received $23,355.72 for a total of 9,116.255 worked hours. 

Employees at a Hair Removal Salon Recover Almost $14,000

Denver Labor received multiple minimum wage complaints through our website because a national brow waxing company was claiming the tip credit and paying their employees less than the required Denver minimum wage. Our team educated the employer about the use of tip credit, which can only be applied in the food and beverage industry. As a result of our work, the company corrected the wages, and their employees recovered $13,711.83.

Restaurant Incorrectly Applies Minimum Wage and Returns $4,365 to Employees

A local pizzeria failed to comply with Denver’s minimum wage requirements for the food and beverage industry. First, the employer applied the tip credit to hostesses, even though they had no documented tips. To benefit from a tip credit, employers must document their workers’ tips to prove that they receive the amount claimed in the tip credit. Teenage servers were also paid below the minimum wage rate, even though they were not part of a certified youth employment program. Finally, the pay rate for overtime work was incorrect for tipped servers and bartenders. These errors led to underpayments of $4,365 for 49 employees in 2020 and 2021. The restaurant worked with Denver Labor to pay all employees and fix wages going forward.

Valet Parking Company Raises Wages After Investigation

Denver Labor initiated a wage investigation of a local valet parking company after seeing a job posting that advertised a starting pay rate below Denver's citywide minimum wage. Our team of analysts informed the company that they could not claim a tip credit for the tips received by their employees as they are not part of the food and beverage industry. The Citywide Minimum Wage Ordinance only allows businesses in the food and beverage industry to take a tip credit to reduce their minimum wage obligation when workers receive that amount in tips. The local valet parking company worked with our office to raise wages and pay restitution to all underpaid employees. As a result, twenty employees received a total of $994.11 in restitution.

Underpaid Employees at Marijuana Dispensary Recover $7,600 in Restitution

Denver Labor’s minimum wage team received a complaint through our website that a local marijuana dispensary was paying its employees less than Denver’s required minimum wage. The business was also claiming a tip credit based on the hourly and commission wages that the employees were receiving. Our office educated the employer about using the tip credit, which can be claimed only in the food and beverage industry when employees earn at least that amount in tips. The business corrected the mistake, raised its wages, and returned $7,621.21 in restitution to 78 employees.

Thirty-three Employees Received $24,875.55 in Restitution

The Denver Labor team received a minimum wage complaint through our website because a national beauty service retailer was paying their employees less than the required Denver’s minimum wage and was claiming a tip credit. Our minimum wage team educated the employer about the tip credit, which is only allowed for businesses in the food and beverage industry to reduce their minimum wage obligation as long as their workers receive that amount in tips. The company corrected the wages for all their employees, and our office recovered $24,875.55 for 33 workers.

Effective Active Enforcement Helps Retail Store Comply with Minimum Wage

Denver Labor’s minimum wage team can conduct active wage enforcement investigations in industries or businesses with a higher risk of non-compliance with Denver’s minimum wage requirements. Our team initiated a wage investigation at a paint and coating retail store and found that the employer underpaid their workers in 2020. The business proactively corrected the underpayment while Denver Labor analysts reviewed their payrolls. As a result, five employees received $650.88 in recovered wages.


Denver Labor Recovers Almost $9,000 for Youth Employees

A local performing art group was paying their youth employees less than Denver’s minimum wage. Based on city’s ordinance, employees under 18 years old cannot earn less than the local minimum wage, unless the company obtains certification as Certified Youth Employment Program approved by Denver Economic Development & Opportunity. Denver Labor reached out to the employer, educated them about the ordinance requirements, and recovered $8,978.03 for 33 employees.

Valet Parking Company Returns $38,895.97 to Employees

After identifying valet parking as a high-risk industry for underpayments, Denver Labor conducted a routine compliance audit on a national valet parking company. Their payroll records showed that the company was taking a tip credit for the tips received by their employees, which is only allowed in the food and beverage industry based on Denver's Citywide Minimum ordinance. When Denver Labor notified the business that they could not claim a tip credit, the company worked with our team to raise wages and resolve the underpayment. Forty-nine employees received $38,895.97 in restitution.

Nail Salon Returns $7,882.94 to Employees

According to Denver's minimum wage ordinance, businesses in the food and beverage industry can claim a tip credit of up to $3.02 if their employees earn that amount in tips. Denver Labor recently closed an underpayment case where a local salon believed that they could also take a tip credit from the wages earned by their nail workers. After educating and working with the minimum wage team, the business came into compliance and returned $7,882.94 to 10 employees.

Active Enforcement Helps Return More Than $3,200 for Two Employees

On a popular online classifieds site, a local design store advertised a job opportunity in Spanish that was paying $15.50 per hour. As a result of our minimum wage active enforcement, Denver Labor opened an investigation and requested payroll records for January 2020, January 2021, and January 2022. Our team found two employees were underpaid in 2021 and earned $14.00/hour and $13.20/hour, below Denver’s minimum wage of $14.77/hour in 2021. The company was cooperative, provided all payrolls, and completed restitution promptly upon being notified of their error. The minimum wage team recovered $3,223.79 for two employees.

Janitorial Employees Receive More Than $32,000 in Restitution

A janitorial contractor cleaning a college campus located in Denver failed to pay employees Denver’s citywide minimum wage for 1.5 years. After an employee submitted a complaint to Denver Labor, all employees’ hourly rates increased to at least meet the minimum wage, and 25 janitors received $32,089.27 in restitution.  

Denver Labor Recovers Unpaid Wages for Afghan Refugee

Third parties can submit a wage complaint on behalf of an underpaid worker. In this restitution case, the African Community Center of Denver reached out to Denver Labor because an Afghan refugee they helped find employment to perform construction work was being paid below Denver’s citywide minimum wage of $15.87/hour. When Denver Labor notified the local contractor about the wage investigation, they eagerly worked with our office to resolve the underpayment and returned the unpaid wages in less than one week. The employer also raised the worker’s hourly wage to $16/hour.

Denver Labor Recovers More than $2,500 for Remote Employees

A call center located in Colorado Springs was not paying Denver’s minimum wage to remote employees working at Denver addresses. After receiving a wage complaint, our office contacted the employer and educated them on Denver’s minimum wage, which requires paying the local minimum wage to employees performing their work in Denver, even if the company is located in a different county. Denver Labor was able to recover $2,521.98 for eight employees. 

A Cooperative Beauty Salon Returns Wages to Employees

Starting in 2022, Denver Minimum Wage ordinance allows Denver Labor to initiate investigations without receiving a wage complaint. Our analysts found a salon job opportunity on a classified website that offered $15.00/hour and opened an investigation. The team requested payroll records for January 2020, January 2021, and January 2022 and found that the business was paying $15/hour instead of the minimum wage of $15.87 in 2022. After being notified of their error, the company promptly provided all requested payrolls and completed restitution. Seven employees recovered $423.29 in backpay.

Marijuana Dispensary Updates Wages for 13 Employees

Denver Labor received a complaint of a local marijuana dispensary with multiple locations in the metro area. The dispensary was not adjusting wages to comply with Denver’s citywide minimum wage when the work was performed at the Denver location. After educating the employer on how to track hours and update wages for those employees working within the City and County of Denver, our team recovered $398.69 for 13 employees. 

Coffee Shop Baristas Receive Back Pay

A local coffee shop was paying their tipped baristas $10 per hour—below the tipped minimum wage of $11.75 required for the food and beverage industry in 2021. Denver Labor initiated the investigation after receiving multiple wage complaints from their employees, who contacted our office through the web form available on our website. The company provided all payrolls and promptly returned $1,834.64 in back pay to 14 employees upon being notified of their error.

A National Retailer Located at Denver’s Border Returns More Than $25,000 to Employees

A national retailer located on the Denver side of the border between Denver and Jefferson Counties was paying the state minimum wage rate for two years instead of Denver’s Minimum Wage. An employee saw a social post from our office and submitted a complaint to initiate an investigation. Upon receiving the notice of investigation and information request from our office, the employer performed a self-audit and paid a restitution of $25,268.47 for 45 employees. This case illustrates how some national companies with the Human Resources department located outside of Colorado may be unaware of local minimum wage law and underpay their workers in the City and County of Denver.

Application of State Minimum Wage Leads to $24,286 in Restitution for Restaurant Workers

A large local restaurant claimed and documented the tip credit correctly but paid Colorado minimum wage instead of Denver’s citywide minimum wage to their workers for all of 2020 and part of 2021. An employee found the Auditor’s Office by searching on the web and they emailed the office to learn more about Denver’s minimum wage for tipped workers. When our team contacted the business, the manager provided Denver Labor all the required documentation and promptly returned $25,286 of unpaid wages for 19 employees.

2021

Local Restaurant Pays $18,000 in Returned Wages

An underpaid employee from a local restaurant in Denver reached out to us by submitting a wage complaint. We discovered their employer had not paid the required citywide minimum wage rate in 2020 and 2021.

After working with our analysts, the restaurant reacted quickly and returned nearly $18,000 to 20 employees. Once more, this story showcases the willingness of local businesses to collaborate with our team and do what’s right for their workers.

Nearly 200 Employees Compensated, Wages Permanently Raised

Home improvement sales employees who were compensated by a mix of base pay and commission were not being paid Denver’s citywide minimum wage when their sales goals were not met. Almost $16,000 was recovered for 194 employees and all employees’ base wage rates were raised to prevent future underpayments.


National Store Cooperates to Increase Wages

A large national retailer with a store near Denver’s border mistakenly thought it was subject to the state minimum wage instead of Denver’s minimum wage. Through education and cooperation, the employer corrected the mistake, raised employees’ wages, and paid 25 employees more than $2,600 in back pay.


Janitorial Company Faces Back Pay and Fines

A janitorial company incorrectly classified its employees as independent contractors to avoid having to pay minimum wage. The company refused to work with Denver Labor to correct its wage rates and achieve compliance with the law. Our office worked with an outside collections agency to recover $4,000 in unpaid wages for 24 employees, in addition to fines.


Fast-Food Chain Raises Wages

Operators of a fast-food restaurant near Denver’s border mistakenly paid less than Denver’s minimum wage. Managers worked with our team to repay more than $7,000 in underpayments for 46 employees, and they permanently increased hourly pay.


Hair Salon Incorrectly Deducts Tips

Hair stylists in a national hair salon chain were paid the minimum wage, but their employer claimed the tip credit that applies only to the food and beverage industry. Our team recovered $16,000 for 25 employees.

                       

Prevailing Wage Stories

City uses up-the-chain accountability to recover workers’ wages

Denver's Civil Wage Theft Ordinance adopts an "up-the-chain accountability" approach. This means that any employer who ultimately benefits from a worker's labor may be required to pay their wages. Denver Labor's prevailing wage division recently notified the civil wage theft division of a city subcontractor named Tri-M Electric that did not pay its workers restitution for the work they performed. Our teams collaborated and applied the "up-the-chain accountability" approach to the primary contractor for the project. Our office educated the company on its responsibilities with subcontractors and the Civil Wage Theft Ordinance, including how this ordinance also applies to the City and County of Denver's prevailing wage projects. The primary contractor understood and promptly paid restitution of $5,722.82 for seven employees.

Custodial workers at the zoo recover $10,000

A contractor at the Denver Zoo was underpaying their custodial workers because they were classified as laborers. The Prevailing Wage Ordinance requires contractors to classify their workers based on the tasks they perform. Denver Labor noticed the mistake and helped recover $10,000 for 35 employees.

Apprentices at the airport receive $30,000 in unpaid wages

Denver’s prevailing wage ordinance requires apprentices to work with journeymen at a 1:1 radio, which means one apprentice to one journeyman for all hours worked on the city’s construction projects. A contractor at Denver International Airport did not comply with this requirement by employing apprentices at a rate greater than journeymen. After Denver Labor’s investigation, the employer had to pay the corrected journeymen rate to the employees. As a result, 31 employees received over $30,000 in restitution.

Apprentice Receives $2,654 in Restitution for Prevailing Wage Work

A team member in our prevailing wage division found that a city contractor classified and paid an employee as an apprentice for three months before registering them in an approved apprenticeship program. Denver’s Prevailing Wage ordinance requires all apprentices to be enrolled in an apprenticeship program registered with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Apprentice Training. Until the employee received the required apprentice certificate, the employee should have been classified and paid as a journey worker for all work performed on the prevailing wage project. After identifying the issue, Denver Labor helped recover $2,653.68 in restitution for the employee.

Denver Labor Recovers More Than $207K for Waste Services Employees

Employees working on trash removal services and disposal site contracts obtained $207,428.94 in restitution. The prevailing wage team found that workers were classified correctly. However, the contractor failed to meet prevailing wage requirements by claiming fringe credit that had not been approved by our office.

Fringes are guaranteed benefits that the employer provides for the employee’s health and welfare, such as health insurance, paid time off or 401K. Contractors must translate these benefits into an hourly fringe credit, which must be approved by our prevailing wage analyst to count toward their prevailing wage requirements.

Denver Labor worked cooperatively with the contractor to obtain accurate documentation, approve fringes retroactively, and calculate restitution for 35 employees.

A Cooperative Contractor Returns $85,826.48 to Employees at the Denver Zoo

A contractor performing custodial work at the Denver Zoo significantly underpaid its employees resulting in $85,826.48 owed to 21 employees. The contractor started performing the custodial work at the Denver Zoo before the Auditor’s Office discovered that neither the contract nor the contractor had not been set-up in our compliance software. The contractor had not submitted certified payroll records for our review. The underpayments were the result of the contractor paying its employees less than the custodian prevailing wage. The contractor was very cooperative and issued restitution checks expeditiously.

Worker Receives $7,043.41 in Restitution

The Auditor’s Office enforces Davis-Bacon compliance on City and County of Denver/federal projects. In one recent case, an out-of-state crane contractor employing a power equipment operator for cranes on a Davis-Bacon project underpaid its employee. As a result, one employee received $7,043.41 in restitution.


Denver Labor Recovered $11,350 for Airport Employees in Badge Fees

A contractor at Denver International Airport was deducting $250 in $50.00 increments from employees’ paychecks as a deposit in case employees don’t return their badges within the allotted timeframe upon termination of employment. Badge fees are considered a cost of doing business and cannot be charged upfront or considered a condition of employment. Badge fees may only be charged back to the employee if an employee loses their badge during employment, and if the contractor can provide an invoice from Denver International Airport Security and a signed statement from the employee. Denver Labor collected restitution for 48 employees totaling $11,350.00.

Misclassified Employees Received a Total of $9,575.22 at Denver International Airport

A contractor installing a solar system at the Denver International Airport misclassified their employees as roofers instead of electricians, which resulted in a significant underpayment for the workers. The minimum prevailing wage rate for roofers was $16.56 compared to the $52.68 prevailing wage that the contractor was required to pay for electrical work, which increased to $54.97 after the project’s wage anniversary. This resulted in an underpayment of up to $38.41 per hour for the workers. After the investigation, the Denver Labor analyst team recovered $9,575.22 in total restitution payment to 7 employees.

$270k Recovered for Airport Workers

Denver Labor was contacted by an employee who had concerns about his fringe benefits. After conducting an investigation, which included meeting with the employer and union, a labor analyst was able to identify a significant underpayment to workers at Denver’s airport, including the need for $270,000 in restitution to a union pension plan. The investigation was highly cooperative, and all parties are working together to ensure payment of the restitution.

Denver Labor Works with Contractor to Get Correct Payment

After failing to submit certified payroll for nine months, an asphalt company submitted the proper documents. We found the contractor underpaid seven employees by more than a total of $18,000. Initially, the contractor calculated the restitution owed as greater than the actual amount due. But our office worked with the contractor to calculate the correct amount so they could pay the actual restitution owed.


Denver Prevailing Wage Preserves Fringe Benefit Rules

A company installing solar panels on a roof failed to pay the correct fringe benefit amounts into their employees’ 401(k) plans, resulting in a $2,200 total underpayment for 10 employees. Any fringe benefits claimed by a contractor must be approved and validated by Denver Prevailing Wage.


More than $100K Collected for Airport Workers

Our office received notice of a solar panel installation project, which began in January 2019, at Denver International Airport from employees completing the work. Upon further investigation, we discovered the contractor had not submitted certified payrolls for the work performed. The contractor was then notified and required to submit certified payrolls.

After the submission, our analysts determined not all employees were reported and the majority of the employees were misclassified according to prevailing wage and paid as “laborers,” as opposed to “electricians.” In March 2020, our team collected restitution for 62 employees totaling $104,350.  


Worker Receives Almost $2,000 in Owed Wages

A large earth-moving contractor employing power equipment operators and laborers paid more than $15,000 in total restitution to 37 employees. Our analysts determined the company was claiming unapproved fringe benefits, resulting in a failure to meet prevailing wage requirements. One trackhoe operator received almost $2,000 in back pay.


Employee Receives $3,800 in Restitution

An out-of-state contractor attempted to reduce the pay of an employee who was working in Denver by subtracting their travel expenses, resulting in a prevailing wage violation. The employee received more than $3,800 in restitution.


Denver Labor Protects Workers in Training

An electrical contractor had two apprentices working without journeymen on a city project for one day, resulting in a $350 prevailing wage underpayment. All apprentices working alone must be paid the journeyman prevailing wage rate.


       

Returned Wages

Our staff always works hard to get wages recovered for workers protected by the Prevailing Wage and Minimum Wage ordinances. In 2022, Denver Labor recovered more than $1 million for underpaid workers, exceeding previous annual records. In August 2023, the team already recovered $1,479,453 for employees in Denver. You can read some of the success stories in the link below.

Wages recovered by Denver Labor as of August 4, 2023.

This graph shows Denver’s unpaid wages recovered by the labor division of the Denver Auditor’s Office by year. In 2013, $101,905 were recovered. In 2014, $142,977 were recovered. In 2015, $84,232 were recovered. In 2016, $701,787 were recovered. In 2017, $417,271 were recovered. In 2018, $265,243 were recovered. In 2019, $678,559 were recovered. In 2020, $1,017,363 were recovered. In 2021, Denver Labor recovered $690,298 for workers. In 2022, Denver Labor recovered $1,101,737.73. As of August 4, 2023, Denver Labor recovered $1,479,453 for underpaid workers in the City and County of Denver.

 

If you think you have been underpaid and are owed money from your employer, check if your name is on our list. We may have a check waiting for you.

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AUDITOR TIMOTHY O'BRIEN, CPA
Denver Auditor



Denver Auditor´s Office

201 W. Colfax Ave. #705 Denver, CO 80202
Emailauditor@denvergov.org
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