DENVER (KDVR) — The City of Denver is letting bosses know that cheating their employees will not be tolerated.
Denver’s city council passed an ordinance this week creating a new wage theft unit designed to make sure workers get all their money, no matter the amount they’re owed.
City Attorney Kristin Bronson said hundreds of people in Denver were being taken advantage of by their employers. She is hoping this new effort will put an end to the trend.
“If someone works hard and earns a wage, you need to pay them. If you don’t, it’s theft, and we’re gonna prosecute you,” Bronson said.
The city now has the authority to do just that after the council approved the creation of a wage theft unit, allowing Bronson’s office to prosecute cases where bosses cheated workers out of $2,000 or less.
“You’re talking about the theft of wages at $1,000 dollars or $500. It’s not worth it to go hire an attorney. So, they really don’t have much of an avenue for relief,” Bronson said. “We’re hoping through this new wage theft unit, we can get victim restitution, and lower wage earners who are victims of wage theft can get their wages paid.”
It’s an issue around Colorado, and experts say it’s likely worse than we think.
“About yearly, half a million Colorado workers experience wage theft to the tune of $750 million. And I argue that’s a large undercount because there’s scant investigations, and most workers never come forward,” said Rebecca Galemba, associate professor at the Josef Korbel School of international Studies at the University of Denver.
Bronson said many victims of wage theft live at or below the poverty level and may be afraid to lose their jobs if they speak up.
She hopes this move will encourage them to come forward. Her office is ready for the task.
Colorado’s Department of Labor and Employment “received 350 wage theft complaints from these lower wage earners that come from Denver each year, so we have a sense of some of the volume we can anticipate in terms of cases. But we don’t have exact figures,” Bronson said.
The unit will prosecute cases in all areas of employment. Construction, childcare and agricultural workers are some of the largest groups impacted by wage theft. If you feel you have been a victim of wage theft in Denver, reach out to the City Attorney’s Office.