Skip navigation

Proposal for $15 per Hour Minimum Wage by 2021 for City Employees

As one of the city’s largest employers, the City and County of Denver is committed to consistent and equitable pay practices to attract, motivate and retain top talent in a highly competitive employment market. The success of the city’s compensation program relies on the ability to appropriately compete with the external labor market, ensure internal pay equity, recognize and reward exceptional performance and foster a shared sense of fairness. While the city workforce is compensated at current market rates, Mayor Hancock is stepping in to ensure that the small segment of the city’s lower income workforce will benefit from the minimum wage increase proposal.

The proposed ordinances will be phased in over three years, with the goal of reaching $15 per hour by July 1, 2021. Beginning July 1, 2019, pay range minimums would increase to $13 per hour. On July 1, 2020, wages would increase to $14 per hour.

Employee Q&A

The proposed ordinances will be phased in over three years, with the goal of reaching $15 per hour by July 1, 2021. Beginning July 1, 2019, pay range minimums would increase to $13 per hour. On July 1, 2020, wages would increase to $14 per hour.

The vast majority of impacted employees are the 1,868 on-call, seasonal workers who work periodically in departments/agencies across the city protecting our residents, keeping parks and recreation centers clean and safe and ensuring libraries and entertainment venues remain operational.

The vast majority of impacted employees are 1,868 on-call, seasonal workers who work periodically in departments/agencies across the city protecting our residents, keeping parks and recreation centers clean and safe and ensuring libraries and entertainment venues remain operational.

Area Median Income (AMI) is a national metric of affordability. As outlined in the Mayor’s Equity Platform, the city aims to lift residents and families to 60 percent AMI. Colorado’s minimum wage is currently $11.10, but these wages aren’t enough for Denver’s low income workers to meet that goal of 60 percent. For a family of four (with two people working full-time), increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour would place the family at just above the 60 percent AMI rate.

The City and County of Denver will phase this change in over the course of three years to provide adequate time for the city and impacted contracting establishments to adjust to the financial changes.

Employees paid less than $13 per hour will receive a pay increase, so they will be earning at least $13 per hour on July 1, 2019. Employees whose classifications are currently in a pay range with a range minimum of less than $13 per hour will have their pay grade range recalculated to meet the new minimum. Additionally, these employees will have their pay grade’s range recalculated so that $13 per hour is the new pay range minimum.

  • Affected pay ranges that get recalculated will have $13.00 per hour as the new minimum and the maximum recalculated to preserve the range’s current spread.
  • Then, any employees in an affected pay grade range earning $11.10 per hour will move to $13.00 per hour.
  • Also, other employees in an affected pay grade range will receive an increase that preserves their range position. For example, if an employee’s wage is at midpoint, which is a .50 range position, their pay rate will be increased so it will be at the recalculated pay range’s midpoint.
  • The employee must be in a classification that is in an effected pay range on July 1, 2019.

No grade changes will be provided to employees whose classifications are currently in a pay range whose minimum is already $13 per hour or higher as part of the minimum wage proposal.

No, under Charter, OHR will continue to implement the annual Pay Survey and other relevant compensation and classification adjustments will proceed in accordance Career Service Rules.

Manager Q&A

The Office of Human Resources will work with department/agency leadership with employees in this type of situation and determine a course of action. The city is committed to wage decompression, meaning wages will be proportionally increased for employees within that pay range throughout the City and County of Denver to reflect this change in the market pay rate.

No. The city is announcing its wage floor initiative in advance of the 2019 Pay Survey results because the city is committed to providing employees with a needed pay adjustment to reach the new hourly rate.

Once wages reach $15 per hour, this rate may be adjusted each year based upon the annualized change in the Denver metro area’s price index. The US Department of Labor calculates and publishes a price index measure (referred to as the Consumer Price Index [CPI]) for the metro area (currently the Denver/Aurora/Lakewood metro area). The Denver metro CPI is a commonly used metric for Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs) or other annual adjustments to reflect changes in prices and costs over time. Each year, beginning July 1, 2022, the Denver metro CPI will be used to adjust the minimum wage level for the coming year. (If the CPI falls in a given year, the minimum wage level will not be lowered from the current minimum wage level.)

The mayor seeks swift action on this measure because this is an opportunity to help employees now. Denver would evaluate and consider what action to take if the state legislature should decide to act this session to remove barriers to broader municipal action on minimum wage.

The financial impact to implement a $15 per hour minimum wage by 2021 would be roughly $5.5 million including decompression of impacted City and County of Denver employees, meaning wages are proportionally increased to preserve employee place and range.

Denver has grown in population and, with that growth, has experienced a robust demand on housing and an increase in cost of living. The mayor and his staff need to pull every lever available to us to ensure that the city’s current economic success is extended to everyone. Increasing wages is central to ensuring everyone has the opportunity to benefit from Denver’s unprecedented prosperity.

According to the State Constitution, municipalities cannot establish their own citywide minimum wage. However, cities can set a minimum base wage for their own municipal workers and for employees of companies and organizations that provide services to the city or operate in city facilities, including institutions like Red Rocks or Denver International Airport.

In addition to city employees, the city aims to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives by focusing on low wage workers providing covered services to the city or on city property. We’ve identified seven groups of services that statistically offer wages of less than $15 per hour: concession services, catering services, maintenance services, ramp and cargo services, hospitality services, security services, and a miscellaneous category, which includes activities relating to parking lot operation, shuttle services and other types of customer services activities. Any city contract or subcontract providing services to the city or on city property within one of these categories that exceeds $50,000 and 30 consecutive days will be subject to the proposed ordinance of a $15 minimum wage.

This proposal aims to empower Denver workers and stimulate the economy, making it more diverse and more equitable. We believe this proposal would make businesses more competitive employers because they will be offering current and prospective employees better wages. A small number of exemptions have been carved out, including an exemption for small businesses employing 25 or fewer employees and with contracts less than $500,000. Other exemptions have been made regarding city verified youth employment and apprenticeship programs, permits and licenses, volunteers, suppliers and goods providers, State or Federally mandated programs and intergovernmental agreements. Research evidence indicates no significant impact on the economy occurs due to this type of company or organizational leadership.

Yes, under the city’s prevailing wage and living wage ordinances, certain categories of workers operating in a city-owned or -leased facility must be paid according to wage rates set via guidelines in the ordinances. These wage rates are typically above minimum wage and, in most cases, will already be above the proposed $15 per hour threshold. Covered workers under prevailing wage include: construction contractors, doorkeepers, caretakers, cleaners, window washers, porters, keepers, and janitors. Covered workers under living wage include: parking lot attendant, security guard, or child care worker.