• Rocky Mountain Employer Repeatedly Accused of Wage Theft
  • March 27, 2015 | Author: Diane Vaksdal Smith
  • Law Firm: Burg Simpson Eldredge Hersh & Jardine, P.C. - Englewood Office
  • The term “wage theft” refers to a practice by employers through which the either fail to pay employees sums that were promised or sums required under the law. Unfortunately, wage theft is far more common than most people think, with employers forcing employees to work “off the clock,” refusing to pay overtime, or simply declining to pay employees at all for hours worked. While the justifications and excuses employers offer for such practices are seemingly endless, the fact remains that wage theft in Colorado is illegal and actionable, both under federal and state law.

    Litany of wage theft complaints dogs gas station chain

    In a recent investigative report, one local employer was found to have a particularly lengthy record of wage theft complainings dating back over 30 years. The disturbing pattern reveals a practice of suspending employees for cash register and inventory shortages, in addition to reporting such employees to the police for “theft,” after which employees’ final checks are permanently withheld without any evidence of actual wrongdoing. Current and former employees of this employer, Bradley Petroleum/Sav-O-Mat, also reported policies that encourage employees to repay from their own funds any shortages that occur on their shifts. Some employees reported shelling out literally thousands of dollars to save their own jobs or those of co-workers, in addition to avoiding being arrested and facing criminal charges.

    Millions of dollars illegally withheld

    Each year the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment fields around 5,000 complaints, collecting $1 million in unpaid wages from various businesses. On the federal level, the U.S. Department of Labor has recovered more than $31 million in illegally withheld wages from Colorado employers found to have violated the Fair Labor Standards Act. While workers in blue-collar jobs are more likely to be cheated, with construction the largest single source of unpaid wages in the state, employers in all industries and wage levels are susceptible to wage theft from unscrupulously employers.

    Illegal practices

    Under Colorado law, employers may only withhold wages for up to 90 days pending the outcome of police investigations. In the event no charges are filed, employers must remit wages plus interest. The Colorado Wage Claim Act also provides for misdemeanor charges for employers who cheat workers, in addition to $300 fines and 30 days in a county jail. Despite such laws designed to protect Colorado’s workforce, employers continue to violate the law and commit wage theft, robbing hard working employers of their paychecks, and often their dignity as well.