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

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.

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 backpay.


Janitorial Company Faces Backpay 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

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 2020, Denver Labor recovered more than $1 million dollars for unpaid workers, exceeding the previous annual record by more than $300,000.

Restitution Chart 2021

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 $690,268 for workers.

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

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Emailauditor@denvergov.org
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