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Denver workers got paid millions in stolen wages in first year of new law

Matthew Fritz-Mauer, who runs Denver Labor, said his office has helped more workers recover more money since the wage theft ordinance passed.
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Posted at 4:45 PM, Jan 09, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-09 19:35:44-05

DENVER — Denver’s wage theft law, passed one year ago today, has helped workers get paid more than $2 million owed by their employers — nearly double the money recovered the year before, according to Denver Labor.

Whenever a worker is paid less than the full wages they're legally entitled to, that’s considered wage theft. The wage theft law gives anyone working in Denver the option to ask Denver Labor, a division of the Denver Auditor’s Office, for help, even if their employer isn’t based here or if they're an undocumented immigrant.

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“We've made tremendous progress,” said Matt Fritz-Mauer, who runs Denver Labor. He said the new law "really expanded the scope of the rights that we're able to enforce, and also the remedies that we can apply."

To make it easier for Denver workers to submit a complaint, and for Denver Labor to investigate and order companies to pay their employees, Fritz-Mauer said his office needed to “set up a system that makes sense.”

Denver workers can now file their complaints directly to Denver Labor, rather than with the Colorado Division of Labor Standards and Statistics under the statewide Colorado Wage Act, which typically requires time in court. Denver’s law also gives Denver Labor the authority to enforce “up the chain” by holding contractors benefiting from labor liable for violations.

That’s led to more workers getting back more money.

“We helped approximately 1,300 more workers in the 2023 reporting period than the year prior,” Fritz-Mauer said. Denver Labor also “collected around $950,000 more in restitution for workers,” he said.

Denver Labor wage recovery
Since Denver passed its new wage theft law, Denver Labor has almost doubled the wages recovered for workers.

Workers can file a complaint with Denver Labor within three years of wages being withheld.

Even without a complaint, Denver Labor can start an investigation if there’s “reasonable basis to believe that a violation occurred.” Examples include if the office notices a pattern of credible complaints in a particular industry or against a specific employer.

Last year, Denver Labor received a complaint from someone working for the call center 24-7 Intouch. The employee thought they weren’t being paid Denver's minimum wage.

“From that complaint, we were able to open an investigation into the employer as a whole, and we wound up collecting around $334,000 for about 161 people,” Fritz-Mauer said. "It really highlights our ability to conduct a thorough investigation. We were able to recover not only the wages that they should have been paid, but significant damages and interest on top of that.”

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Beyond recovering pay for workers, Denver Labor can also order fines against employers with a history of repeated violations, such as failing to pay the minimum wage or retaliating against employees who filed a claim.

All Denver workers, “whether they're documented or have an irregular immigration status, they have the right to be paid minimum wage and overtime, to take rest breaks, to get paid sick leave,” Fritz-Mauer said.

For those fearing their employer might retaliate if they seek help, whether by cutting their pay, changing their shift or firing them, Fritz-Mauer said the new law protects workers. Denver Labor can order penalties against employers for retaliation.

"The takeaway for Denver residents should be that their rights matter, and that they're not alone," he said.

If you think an employer isn't paying full wages, you can submit a complaint to Denver Labor on their website to start an investigation. You can also call 720-913-WAGE (9243) or email

Denver workers got paid millions in stolen wages in first year of new law

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