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 from 2020 and 2021. 

A Local Restaurant Pays $18,000 in Returned Wages to Employees

An underpaid employee from a local restaurant in Denver reached out to us by submitting a wage complaint. We discovered that the 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.

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.

Check If You Are Owed Money


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