Wage Theft Unit

close up of a roofer laying roof tile

What is Wage Theft?

Wage theft is the failure to pay workers the full wages to which they are legally entitled. 

  • Approximately half a million Coloradans suffer from wage theft every year.
  • The average worker loses $64 a week, or $3,300 per year, due to wage theft. 
  • It is estimated that there are 390 cases of wage theft that occur in Denver every year where the value of the loss is less than $2,000.

Employers may use any number of tactics to get out of paying employees, including the following.

  • Maintaining insufficient funds in their bank account, so that employees cannot cash their paychecks when they try to do so
  • Claiming they cannot pay employees because their contractors have not paid them
  • Paying initially (e.g., daily), then paying weekly, then gradually failing to pay in full or in part
  • Promising to pay accumulated wages on the next project (called “kiting”)
  • Promising to pay on Fridays but disappearing before then
  • Intentionally misclassifying workers as independent contractors to get out of payment

While many workers and professions are impacted by wage theft, the following groups of workers are impacted most frequently.

  • Agricultural workers
  • Day laborers
  • Caregivers (mostly childcare)
  • Construction workers
  • Janitorial workers
  • Restaurant workers
  • Delivery workers

Immigrants, refugees and people of color are disproportionately impacted by wage theft.

The City’s Wage Theft Municipal Ordinance

Until Denver implemented its municipal wage theft ordinance, victims of wage theft who suffered losses of less than $2,000 had no meaningful path to criminal prosecution and, consequently, restitution. Thanks to this ordinance, victims now have a means of pursuing criminal charges. In these cases, the City Attorney’s Office would will prosecute, thus saving the victim the money needed to hire a lawyer or even a private investigator. The ordinance prohibits an employer from denying or withholding a wage owed to any worker who is not a true independent contractor. The ordinance includes provisions to ensure that workers who are misclassified as independent contractors receive protection, as well as an anti-retaliation provision, and annual reporting to City Council.

Wage Theft Complaints

Submitting a Wage Theft Complaint

If you have had wages stolen, the City Attorney’s Office can help.

  • Have you been issued an invalid paycheck?
  • Have you not received pay for hours worked?
  • Is your boss taking the tips you’ve earned?
  • Is your boss refusing to pay you as promised?

Submit a Wage Theft Complaint Online