Issue of Employer Wage Theft Rarely Makes it to State’s Criminal Courts

Last Updated by Anna Boiko-Weyrauch, Joe Mahoney on

Wage theft is lightly penalized in Colorado, with the maximum sentence being 30 days in jail and a $300 fine, provisions that were put into law in 1941. As a result, even notorious and repetitive offenders rarely face criminal charges, according to a Rocky Mountain PBS I-News investigation.

One of Colorado’s oldest employers has repeatedly scuffled with labor officials over wage theft issues. And even when business owners are found guilty of other offenses, it doesn’t usually work out that lost wages are restored.

The I-News analysis of federal wage law enforcement data found that $31 million had been illegally withheld from Colorado employees since 2005, while the figure nationally for that period was $1.4 billion. The state Department of Labor and Employment receives about 5,000 complaints and recovers about $1 million annually.

An I-News resource guide shows how it works, both in English and Spanish.

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Insight with John Ferrugia is in-depth, independent and incisive. John and a team of investigative journalists present thoroughly researched stories of significance to Colorado.