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Pay Ranges and Practices

At the City and County of Denver, the Classification and Compensation division’s mandate is to develop and manage pay programs that are externally competitive and internally equitable that ensure compliance with applicable federal, state and local laws and regulations. Some examples are ensuring classifications meet federal tests to determine exemption status and whether the position is exempt or non-exempt from overtime.

Classification and Compensation also evaluate managements' requests for individual position audits for the reclassification of current positions as well as the classification of new or vacant positions. This includes consultation with managers on employee salary issues including internal equity, general guidance regarding compensation policy/laws (FLSA, overtime, and compensatory time), and classification guidance on appropriate salary increases.

Most employees are entitled to overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act; these employees are non-exempt.  Employers must pay non-exempt employees one-and-a-half times their regular rate of pay when they work more than 40 hours in a week. Employees not eligible for overtime based on the various tests outlined by the Fair Labor Standards Act are exempt. The determination of non-exempt/exempt status is made by the Classification and Compensation Division. All classifications are compared against the three tests:  Primary Duties, Salary Threshold test, and Salary test.  If an employee receives a salary (a set amount of pay each week regardless of hours worked), is paid higher than the Salary Threshold, and the primary duties of the job meet or exceed one of the outlined White Collar Exemptions, a job may be classified as exempt.  If any of the tests are not passed the job is classified as non-exempt and eligible for overtime.

All career service job classifications are assigned to an occupational group. Occupational groups are groupings of classifications that are so similar in the nature of the work performed that the same market adjustments resulting from the annual market pay survey can be applied. Within each occupational group there are benchmark classes, which are the classes for which pay data is collected in the market survey process.  All non-elected, non-appointed, non-collectively bargained classifications are assigned pay grades. Pay grades are identifying numbers for pay ranges within a pay schedule. A pay range represents the prevailing market range of pay in a grade, beginning at the entry rate and going to a maximum rate.

The following Career Service rules pertain to compensation and classification:

  • Rule 7 - Classification and Compensation
    The purpose of this rule is to provide a process and create a framework to ensure like pay for like work, and provide generally prevailing compensation within the city’s merit-based personnel system through the use of a systematic method of individual or group classification reviews. 
  • Rule 9 - Pay Administration
    The purpose of this rule is to explain the establishment and administration of pay practices (except merit increases and merit payments).
  • Rule 13 - Pay for Performance
    The purpose of this rule is to explain the performance review program and how the individual performance of eligible Career Service employees is evaluated, reported and rewarded with merit increases and merit payments.

To review these Career Service Rules, and other Career Serivce Rules, visit the Office of Human Resources Rules and Revisions webpage.

Equipment Differential Guide

Equipment Differential shall be paid to employees who are temporarily assigned to operate equipment, which has a higher level classification that the employee’s current classification, and who are not receiving additional pay for a work assignment outside of job classification.

Bilingual stipend is an additional payment on an employee’s paycheck, paid to employees who meet specific conditions. Career Service Rule 9 outlines the bilingual services stipend including who is eligible to receive a per pay period stipend, how much the stipend will be based on the level of proficiency, and when the employee is no longer eligible for the bilingual services stipend. Visit the Bilingual Stipend webpage to learn how to view the bilingual stipend request process, download the bilingual stipend request form, and more.

Compensation FAQs

The Office of Human Resources (OHR):

  • Reviews pay tables and pay grades every year and conducts special studies throughout the year to review individual and groups of classifications.
  • Conducts position audits to ensure employees job duties are in the appropriate classification and pay range.

Additionally, merit increases may be provided to reward individual performance.

The Annual Market Pay Survey (survey) is a study of prevailing wages in the Denver metropolitan area. The City Charter and the Denver Revised Municipal Code (DRMC) require the survey be completed and approved by the Career Service Board, the Mayor, and City Council. The survey has two parts – occupational group adjustments (which may change the pay tables), and pay grade increases (which may change the pay grades for individual classifications).

The market pay survey occupational group analysis ensures that the city’s pay ranges are competitive with comparable jobs in both the Denver metropolitan area. When the market data indicates the city’s pay for an occupational group has fallen behind the market, OHR recommends a structure increase for the occupational group. If the city’s rates are above the market, OHR recommends no change.

The occupational group adjustments are not designed to deliver a pay increase with one exception. When an employee’s pay falls below the minimum of the adjusted pay range, the employee will move to the new range minimum. Occupational group adjustments recommended in the Annual Market Pay Survey will be effective on July 1.

Individual classifications may be increased to a higher pay grade based on the results of the market analysis. The classification must be 10% behind the market to be considered for an increase.

A pay increase is granted when a classification is increased to a higher pay grade as a result of a market pay survey adjustment. The pay increase is equal to 4.55% for each pay grade increase. Pay grade increases that are recommended in the Annual Market Pay Survey will be effective on January 1 of the following year.

Annual Market Pay Survey reviews the overall pay and classification plan annually and analyzes established market relationships for trends and patterns. However, not every classification is reviewed due to the lack of available market data or conditions which may have changed since the review was initially conducted.

Classification studies are a more in-depth review of one or more classifications. They are done as needed throughout the year and typically are the result of changes in the market and the duties. For example, if a classification suddenly experiences high turnover, has ongoing difficulty in recruiting, or the industry changes the minimum qualifications for a classification, the classification and compensation team may conduct a classification study. Classification studies typically do not result in changes to individual employee pay rates unless the classification is upgraded and pay is below the range minimum.

Career Service rule 9 describes different ways that employees can receive a pay rate change. Some of the more common pay changes are promotions, reallocations, pay adjustment within the range (equity adjustment), overtime, shift differential, equipment differentials and working out of classification.

Merit pay increases are granted based on an individual employee’s performance as assessed through the annual performance management program. The amount of the potential merit increase is based on the employee’s overall performance rating and the employee’s location in the pay range.

The city’s pay ranges are divided into quartiles, or four segments.  Pay quartiles are used to determine the potential merit (performance) increase an employee may receive based on the rating from their annual performance review.

  • A pay grade is a combination of three numbers and one letter used to identify the pay range for an employee’s classification.
  • Pay ranges are a range of pay rates.  The pay range starts at the minimum pay rate and ends that the maximum pay rate.  This range is assigned a pay grade, with the range comprised of the dollar pay rate from the minimum to the maximum dollar pay rate.
  • A job code is a combination of two letters and four numbers used to identify an employee’s classification. 
  • Position numbers are specific numbers assigned to a specific position in the organization.
  • An employee ID is a unique and permanent number that identifies each employee.  This number is assigned upon hire.

Each employee’s classification title is located on the upper portion of the pay check stub.  Then see the Pay Grades, Pay Ranges & Job Titles Table to determine the pay grade.


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