New year, new wages: Denver minimum wage is $17.29 in 2023

Published on December 28, 2022

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DENVER – Denver’s lowest paid workers are getting an 8.94% pay increase next week, as the city and county’s minimum wage increases to $17.29 per hour.

“It’s time for employers to update their payrolls and workers to watch their paychecks,” Auditor O’Brien said. “The start of the year is the time of highest risk of minimum wage underpayments because of the increasing rate, so it is important to get the word out now.”

The Denver minimum wage is adjusted every January 1 based on the calculation performed by the Department of Finance. Ordinance requires staff to use the consumer price index to determine if the wage rate will increase each year.

The tip credit for the food and beverage industry remains $3.02 per hour, in accordance with state law. To claim a tip credit, the employer must be in the food and beverage industry and management must be able to produce documentation showing the employee received at least that amount in actual tips.

The Denver minimum wage applies to all work performed within the boundaries of the city and county. It is not dependent on the employer’s location.

In 2022, the Denver Labor team recovered a record amount of restitution for workers; over $1.1 million under the minimum wage and prevailing wage ordinances. This was in part because of the new active enforcement program. Ordinance allows us to visit minimum wage work sites proactively and begin investigations without complaints based on data and industry patterns.

Unpaid wages recovered by Denver Labor in 2022.
Chart showing annual restitution amounts for the Denver Auditor's Office. The 2022 amount is the highest at $1,101,738.

We audit 100% of certified payrolls under prevailing wage and investigate 100% of minimum wage complaints.

“Denver’s wage ordinances protect vulnerable, marginalized, and undocumented workers,” Denver Labor Executive Director Jeff Garcia said. “In the past year, our team has been able to work successfully with community groups, consulates, employers, and labor groups to get the word out about worker rights and business requirements.”

In 2022, we investigated employers in industries and locations such as those along Denver’s boundaries, national brand companies, restaurants, home care services, salons, and valet parking companies. Common mistakes we identified included businesses claiming the tip credit when they should not, businesses thinking they are outside Denver’s boundary when they are not, and businesses paying a wage based on the employer’s office location instead of where the work was done.

Minimum wage investigations came from several sources in 2022:

Sources of minimum wage investigations.
Chart showing sources of minimum wage investigations. In 2022, the sources are broken down as follows: 21 investigations started based on complaints submitted by workers; 8 investigations started based on third-party complaints; 3 investigations started based on complaints from anonymous people and 49 investigations started based on active enforcement.

Exceptions to the minimum wage include certified youth employment programs, which allow employers to pay unemancipated minors 15% less than the citywide minimum wage if the program is formally approved by Denver Economic Development & Opportunity. The minimum wage also does not apply to workers who are just passing through or to workers who spend less than four hours in Denver.

We work throughout the year to educate employers, with the goal of ensuring workers are paid correctly from their first paycheck without the need for restitution. Resources on our website include a regional address finder, a tips tracker tool, and a minimum wage calculator.

We do live “Wages Wednesday” trainings in English and Spanish on Facebook, and we post informational videos on our YouTube page. We also offer one-on-one support for employers and live trainings for employers and community groups upon request.

“We’re here to help. Both business managers and workers across the city can feel comfortable talking to my team about Denver’s wages,” Auditor O’Brien said.

The Denver City Council passed the citywide minimum wage ordinance in 2019 to take effect Jan. 1, 2020. In 2022, the council voted to change the contractor minimum wage so it would increase annually at the same time as the citywide minimum wage. Employers must pay the greatest applicable wage rate for any work performed in the city or on city projects — therefore, the lower contractor minimum wage rate does not currently apply in Denver. 

Timothy O'Brien Official Headshot
Denver's Auditor

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