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Minimum wage increasing on Jan. 1, 2020

With the passage of Council Bill 19-1237, beginning Jan. 1, 2020 the minimum wage for all workers in Denver who work more than four hours a week and do not receive tips will increase to $12.85/hour, and will increase to $9.83/hour for tipped employees. 

A Livable Wage For Denver


 

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Building on previous actions to ensure Denver city employees and many city service contract employees are paid a minimum wage of $15 per hour by 2021, Mayor Hancock and Councilwoman Kniech have introduced legislation to set a citywide minimum wage for all workers employed in Denver beginning Jan. 1, 2020. 

Following outreach and feedback from five town halls, stakeholder open houses, and individual meetings with organizations, community leaders and residents, the revised proposal confronts wage inequity and cost of living affordability through a raise for 90,000 Denver workers, while giving employers three incremental steps to transition to $15.87 per hour

Six weeks of extensive outreach garnered input from surrounding local governments and community stakeholders – including chambers of commerce, large and small businesses, businesses that employ tipped workers, workers, labor unions, business improvement districts, trade associations and industry groups, non-profits, and cultural and community organizations – on the initial proposal. Balancing that feedback, Mayor Hancock and Councilwoman Kniech’s final proposal would elevate Denver’s minimum wage to:

  • $12.85 an hour on Jan. 1, 2020;
  • $14.77 an hour on Jan. 1, 2021;
  • $15.87 an hour on Jan. 1, 2022; and
  • Annual adjustments based on the Consumer Price Index each year thereafter. 

This year, Denver set a higher minimum wage for city employees and contractors. During this year’s legislative session, through HB19-1210, the Colorado General Assembly authorized local governments to set a citywide minimum wage greater than the state constitutional wage, currently $11.10 an hour and scheduled to go to $12 on Jan. 1.

Denver Wage Growth vs. Housing Growth

Denver Wage Growth vs Housing growth diagram 

Description of graph, above. Note that trend lines are shown from 2005 through 2018.

  • Median Income: Trend line stays at around 8-9%
  • Fair Market Rent: Trend line starts around 6%, drops to around $% in 2010, and then jumps and stabilizes at around 13% from 2015 through 2018
  • Home Prices: Trend line starts at around 12% in 2005, drops to around -5% in 2010, skyrockets to around 34% in 2015, and then drops to around 17% from 2015 through 2018
 

Read the ordinance

 

Frequently Asked Questions

HB19-1210 sets a maximum possible wage increase each year of 15% or $1.75, whichever is higher, and requires that wage increases coincide with the annual constitutional wage increase on January 1 each year. Six weeks of extensive outreach garnered input from surrounding local governments and community stakeholders – including chambers of commerce, large and small businesses, businesses that employ tipped workers, workers, labor unions, business improvement districts, trade associations and industry groups, non-profits, and cultural and community organizations – on the initial proposal. Balancing that feedback, Mayor Hancock and Councilwoman Kniech’s ordinance would elevate Denver’s minimum wage to:

  • $12.85 an hour on Jan. 1, 2020;
  • $14.77 an hour on Jan. 1, 2021;
  • $15.87 an hour on Jan. 1, 2022; and
  • Annual adjustments based on the Consumer Price Index each year thereafter.

CPI is the index used for the state constitutional minimum wage and for our city contracts minimum wage ordinance. We previously received feedback from the business community that use of a consistent index was preferable.

No.  State law requires that the citywide minimum wage be paid to all adult workers and emancipated minors and does not allow for exceptions. We must apply the wage to all classes of workers and employers equally.

The ordinance allows unemancipated minors (generally those under 18 still under parental guardianship) to be paid 15% below the citywide minimum wage, if employed through a city-certified job training program.

The Auditor’s Office will enforce this ordinance. Employees or others who believe workers have paid less than the citywide minimum wage can file a complaint with the Auditor’s Office. The Auditor’s Office also has the power to investigate wage underpayments company-wide after a complaint has been made. Beginning in 2022, the Auditor’s Office may conduct investigations outside of a complaint being filed is a valid basis exists.

The ordinance authorizes the Auditor’s Office or a third party (including an attorney) to assist with filing a complaint. Forms will be available in English and Spanish. The Auditor’s Office will also accept referrals from the State regarding suspected violations.

The ordinance authorizes a private right of action that can happen concurrently or as a standalone from any city enforcement process. A private lawsuit does not preclude a separate city-initiated enforcement action.

The ordinance requires payroll records to be maintained for 3 years. The Auditor’s Office’s is authorized to look back 3 years as part of an investigation after a credible complaint, private lawsuit or state referral.

A complaint must be filed within one year of a violation.

The ordinance allows for anonymous complaints and complaints filed by third parties.

The ordinance allows for a one-time right to remedy a first violation without penalty in the case of a good faith error.

Like other city fines, the penalties assessed for violations will be paid into the City’s General Fund.

Penalties are:

  • First offense – up to $50 per day, per employee
  • Second and third offense - $10-$75 per day, per employee paid below the citywide minimum wage plus a $1,000-$2,500 fine
  • Four or more offenses - $50-$100 per day, per employee paid below the citywide minimum wage plus a $2,500-$5,000 fine
  • Failure to furnish the auditor’s office with a complete, certified payroll upon request – up to $1,000 per violation
  • False reporting - $1,000 per violation
  • Failure to make workers whole for underpayment of wages – up to $5,000 per violation
  • Retaliation - $5,000 per violation

Employers are also be required to make workers whole for any underpayment of wages

If an employer is unable, despite good faith efforts, to locate and pay a worker all wages owed, the underpayment amount may be deposited in a city trust account administered by the City. Payments will subsequently be dispersed to workers who submit a verified claim for such amount for an additional three-year period after the last wage underpayment.

The ordinance sets a minimum rate solely for wages, exclusive of fringe benefits, and does not provide for a benefit offset.