Wage theft recovery for Denver workers hit an all-time high in 2023

The previous record was set last year.
2 min. read
Wage theft recovery has reached an all time high in 2023.
Photo courtesy of Denver Labor

The city has recovered more than $2 million in wage theft for more than 3,500 employees in 2023, an all-time high according to Denver Labor.

That's close to double the approximate $1.1 million recovered in 2022, which was already a record-breaking year for the department. The city closed more than 100 additional cases compared to last year.

The Auditor's Office credited the increase in recovered payments in part due to strengthened wage theft protections passed by City Council in January. That bill allowed complaints to go directly to the auditor as opposed to the courts. It also expanded protections for independent contractors so employers could no longer wrongfully classify workers to avoid fair pay or benefits.

The new law also helped contracted and subcontracted employees take complaints up the chain of command, if a direct employer went insolvent -- a common tactic used to avoid paying workers.

Auditor Tim O'Brien also cited an increased caseload of investigations in recent years. One large case from 2023 included a valet company that cooperated with the Auditor's office to pay back more than $70,000 to 60 employees. Another company failed to pay remote employees the city's minimum wage for work performed in Denver. That case recovered more than $334,000 for 161 workers.

"Every case is important to our team, big or small, because every worker matters to our community," he said in a statement Wednesday. "My Denver Labor team is a national example of how to do this work the right way -- by engaging both workers and businesses in pursuit of shared positive outcomes."

Wage theft recovery figures could continue growing in  2024. The city's reporting period ended in October, and the office currently has 157 open cases that will roll over to next year. At this time in 2022, the city had 43 pending cases.

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