Adrian D. Garcia
August 24, 2017
The state of Colorado is starting to name companies that steal wages from their employees, ending decades of businesses being able to shield their identities under claims of trade secret protections.
Nearly 130 employers have been ordered to pay employees $547,780.90 in back pay and penalties since April 13. The companies were also ordered to pay the state another $170,750 in fines in connection with wage-law violations, according to the data shared Monday by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.
The new transparency around wage theft violations comes after a Rocky Mountain PBS investigation into Colorado’s wage-theft secrecy in 2015 highlighting how “you can’t know if your favorite bar stiffs its servers” or “if your future employer cheats its workers” because a state law from 1915 allowed companies to keep their wage law violations from the public by claiming the information contained “trade secrets.”
In 2016, state Rep. Jessie Danielson of Wheat Ridge and former state Sen. Jessie Ulibarri of Commerce City, both Democrats, attempted to change the law. They were unsuccessful.
This spring, Danielson tried again. She partnered with state Sen. John Cooke, a Greeley Republican, and ultimately got through the Wage Theft Transparency Act.
The act, signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper in April, clarifies that wage law violations are not confidential and should be released to the public. The state still has the ability to withhold some information like an employer’s exact vacation policy if the company can successfully show why the info is a trade secret and shouldn’t be released to the public.
“These companies, in theory, without this new law could continually commit wage theft and continually cheat and steal from their employees,” Danielson said. “This is is the kind of legislation that will protect workers all across the state.”