Pay increases for city workers start by law today — and Denver’s auditor is watching

The law will eventually lead to a $15 per hour minimum wage in 2021.

"Erected by the people." DIA workers rally for higher wages on the City and County Building steps before delivering petitions for a ballot measure, Oct. 23, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

"Erected by the people." DIA workers rally for higher wages on the City and County Building steps before delivering petitions for a ballot measure, Oct. 23, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo

City Auditor Timothy M. O’Brien and the new Minimum Wage Division will start enforcing Denver’s new law increasing pay for city employees and city contractors today.

All city employees must be paid at least $13 per hour starting now.

The increase is not a citywide minimum wage. It applies to city employees, city contractors and subcontractors. A press release on Monday said only work performed on or after Monday is eligible for the new wage and its enforcement.  spokesperson Tayler Overschmidt said the new law will affect about 1,900 city employees.

“People working for Denver deserve to earn enough to make a living,” O’Brien said in the release. “My team is prepared to take on enforcement of this important new law, alongside our existing work enforcing the prevailing wage.”

O’Brien said ensuring the law is being followed should be simple, since his office has direct access to city payrolls.

“However, it will be more complicated to enforce the minimum wage for contractors working on Denver projects,” O’Brien said.

The new law puts a mandatory annual increase in place. On July 1, 2020, the minimum wage will increase to $14 per hour before eventually increasing to $15 per hour on July 1, 2021. The state minimum wage is $11.10 per hour.

O’Brien’s office will investigate minimum wage complaints and impose fines for noncompliance with the new law or failure to cooperate with an investigation. His office will also educate employers to avoid potential issues.

Denver City Council voted in March to increase wages, doing so the same day they gave themselves and the mayor the maximum raise allowed (increasing their salaries to about $101,000, while the mayor will make about $188,000.)

The effort behind the minimum wage increases was led by Mayor Michael Hancock, City Councilwoman Robin Kniech and labor unions, who hammered out a deal over the course of several months. The bill proposing the increase was first introduced to the public in February. There was an initial effort from unions to place a minimum wage ballot initiative on the May municipal election, but union organizers said they would scrap those efforts if the council passed its minimum wage bill.

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