Compliance Watch:
What are my rights as an hourly employee in Colorado?

January 8th 2024

Ah, Colorado! Home to breathtaking landscapes, a myriad of outdoor adventures, and an ever-evolving workforce. If you’ve landed a job as an hourly employee in the Centennial State, you’re probably revved up and ready to clock in. But wait – before you dive into your work, isn’t it important to understand the ground rules? Especially the ones that protect you.

Every state in the U.S. has its unique blend of labor laws, and Colorado is no exception. It’s not just about how many bucks you earn every 60 minutes. From break times overtime regulations to allocated days off and even the protocols surrounding termination, the complexity of your rights as an hourly employee can often seem as winding as the Colorado Rockies themselves.

But worry not. This article is your compass, a guide designed exclusively for individuals like you—those looking to understand, in plain English, the rights that cover hourly employment in Colorado. By the end of this guide, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge you need to navigate your hourly job with ease and confidence, ensuring that your rights are never left behind.

This Article Covers

Defining an Hourly Employee in Colorado
Wage and Hour Regulations in Colorado
Rest Laws in Colorado
Deductions, Benefits, and Protections in Colorado
Termination of Employment in Colorado 

Defining an Hourly Employee in Colorado

What is Hourly Employment in Colorado?

Picture this: You’re on a serene Colorado hiking trail, the sun gently warming your face, and with every step, you gather a bit more appreciation for the landscape. Much like this journey, hourly employment in Colorado is about taking things step by step, or in this case, hour by hour.

In the simplest terms, hourly employment in Colorado is when you’re paid for each hour you work, much like how a hiker cherishes every view on their trail. Instead of a predictable fixed salary that you’d receive no matter how many hours you put in, as an hourly employee, you earn based on the actual time you spend actively on the job. Clock in for a brisk 5 hours? You’re paid for those 5. Work a longer 10-hour shift? Your paycheck rightly reflects those 10 hours.

Now, while this sounds straightforward, it’s essential to remember that Colorado has specific rules to ensure hourly workers are treated fairly. This includes clear guidelines on breaks, overtime pay, and even designated days off. So, as you navigate the working landscape of Colorado, remember to cherish each hour, know your worth, and, most importantly, deeply understand your rights. After all, every journey is smoother when you know the path ahead.

What are the Key Differences Between Hourly and Salaried Employees in Colorado?

Key Differences Hourly Employee Salaried Employee
Compensation Structure Paid on an hourly basis. Receive a fixed salary.
Overtime Eligibility Eligible for overtime pay after standard 40 hours per week Typically exempt from overtime pay.
Work Schedule Often have set shifts and hourly work schedules. More flexible work hours.
Pay Consistency Compensation typically  varies with hours/time worked. Consistent, fixed pay regardless of hours.
Minimum Wage Laws Subject to Colorado state minimum wage laws. May not be subject to minimum wage laws.
Benefits and Perks  May have access to benefits based on hours worked. Offered a comprehensive full-time benefits package.
Paid Time Off Typically accrue paid time off based on hours worked. May receive fixed PTO or paid time off as part of their compensation package.
Job Roles and Positions Common in roles with variable hours or temporary work. Common in managerial or professional roles with consistent responsibilities.
Salary Thresholds Typically do not meet salary thresholds for exempt status. Often meet them for exempt status under labor laws.

To learn more about Colorado labor laws, you can access our guides on understanding your rights as a salaried employee in Colorado and discover how to run payroll in Colorado.

Wage and Hour Regulations in Colorado

What are the Maximum Weekly Working Hours in Colorado?

In Colorado, the labor law generally caps the working week for most industries at 40 hours. Anything beyond that, and you’re stepping into overtime territory, which means a different pay rate usually comes into play. So, if you’re clocking in for your job in Colorado, keep that 40-hour mark in mind. And if you’re venturing past it, make sure you’re being compensated rightly for those extra moments you’re giving. After all, time is precious, especially when it’s yours.

What is the Minimum Wage for Hourly Employees in Colorado?

The minimum wage for hourly employees in Colorado is $14.42 per hour. For those in tipped positions, the wage stands at $10.63 per hour, provided that their total earnings, including tips, meet or exceed the standard wage. This rate for tipped employees also represents a $1.09 hike from the previous year.

How Many Hours Qualify As Overtime and What is the Associated Pay in Colorado?

In Colorado, any hours worked beyond the standard 40-hour workweek qualify as overtime. And the sweet part? Overtime pay is set at 1.5 times your regular hourly rate. So, if you’re clocking in more than those 40 hours, expect to see a little extra shine on your paycheck for those additional hours. It’s Colorado’s way of ensuring you’re fairly compensated for putting in that extra time.

Rest Laws in Colorado

What Laws Govern Time Off and Leaves for Hourly Employees in Colorado?

Across the vast expanse of the US, it’s a common practice for companies to offer their employees the latitude to step away from work, tending to personal affairs, while ensuring their job remains intact. These leave provisions often emerge from mutual agreements between employers and employees. However, in Colorado, a tapestry of federal and state laws sets the foundation, offering clear guidelines applicable to all workers, whether they’re on a salary or hourly wage.

  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA): Emerging from federal mandates, the FMLA steadfastly safeguards eligible employees, granting them up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a 12-month span. This valuable provision can be utilized for diverse reasons such as personal or family illness, the joyful birth or adoption of a child, or other qualifying exigent circumstances.
  • Colorado’s Family Care Act: An enhancement to the federal FMLA, this state act acknowledges the diverse definitions of ‘family.’ Beyond just traditional family members, it permits employees to take leave for individuals playing a significant role in their lives.
  • Colorado Pregnant Workers Fairness Act: Promoting fairness and safety, this act mandates employers to provide accommodations for employees who are pregnant or have recently given birth. Accommodations can range from task modifications to frequent rest breaks.
  • Colorado Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA): Addressing the fundamental need for health-oriented leave, this act requires employers to grant paid sick leave. For every 30 hours worked, employees accrue an hour of sick leave, with an annual cap set at 48 hours.
  • Colorado Jury Leave Law: Civic duties come calling, and when they do, this law ensures protection. Employees summoned for jury duty can confidently take unpaid leave, safe in the knowledge that their job position remains secured without any looming threat of penalties.
  • Colorado Voting Leave Law: Democracy thrives with participation. To ensure every Coloradan has their voice heard, this law grants up to 2 hours of paid leave on Election Day, especially if their schedule doesn’t permit a 3-hour window to vote outside of work hours.
  • Colorado Domestic Abuse Leave Law: In circumstances of domestic abuse or sexual assault, protection extends beyond immediate safety. This law permits affected employees, or those with affected family members, to take up to 3 days of unpaid leave in a 12-month window. This can be utilized for various purposes, including legal consultations or medical care.

Deductions, Benefits, and Protections in Colorado

What are the Laws Regarding Pay Deductions for Hourly Employees in Colorado?

In Colorado, the protection of an hourly employee’s wages is taken seriously. The Colorado Wage Act states that employers can’t simply deduct money from an employee’s paycheck on a whim. What this means is that employers need a good reason to take out any money. Often, they must have the employee’s permission or a legal obligation to ensure “fair pay practices.”

So, if you’re working by the hour in Colorado and notice unexpected deductions from your wages, it might be a good idea to promptly chat with your employer. Remember, it’s your hard-earned money, and there are stringent laws in place to ensure it’s treated properly.

What are the Hourly Employees Entitlements Under Colorado State Law?

  • Minimum Wage: The Colorado Minimum Wage Order diligently sets the wage at $14.42 per hour as of 2024. Tipped employees have a slightly lower rate of $10.63, but tips should ideally compensate for the difference. The overarching goal is to ensure fair compensation for all employees, and that tipped workers receive equivalent pay through combined wages and tips.
  • Overtime: Colorado’s Overtime and Minimum Pay Standards Order (COMPS) mandates overtime pay for non-exempt employees. They must be compensated at 1.5 times their regular rate for work over 40 hours weekly, over 12 hours daily, or any 12 consecutive hours. This provision ensures employees are rewarded for extra work beyond regular hours.
  • Severance Pay: There’s no specific Colorado law mandating severance pay. Whether employees receive it is based on employer policies, practices, or written agreements, like employment contracts. In the absence of these, there’s no obligation for employers to provide severance. It’s advised to clarify this in employment terms to avoid future disputes.
  • Paid Sick Leave: Under the Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA), Colorado employers must provide paid sick leave. Employees accrue one hour for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 48 hours annually. This leave can address personal illnesses or family care needs. It’s an essential right for workers, promoting health and overall well-being in the workplace.
  • Vacation Time: Colorado doesn’t mandate vacation benefits. However, if employers offer them, they must follow their official policies or contracts. Once earned, vacation time is deemed wages and is protected. It cannot be arbitrarily taken away. Employees should be clear on company to policies to understand their vacation rights and how they accrue time off.
  • Paid Maternity/Paternity Leave: Colorado lacks state-specific paid maternity or paternity leave laws. However, eligible employees can use the federal FMLA, which grants up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for family-related medical events. This regulation ensures employees can attend significant life events without fearing job loss, though the leave is not compensated.
  • Domestic Violence Leave: The Colorado Victims of Domestic Violence Leave Act supports victims by granting up to three days of unpaid leave yearly. It helps victims address issues arising from domestic abuse, stalking, or related crimes, such as seeking legal aid, medical care, or other support. It recognizes the personal challenges faced by such individuals.
  • Unemployment Benefits: Overseen by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, unemployment insurance aids those unemployed not due to their fault. It offers partial wage replacement based on prior earnings and unemployment reasons. The system provides a safety net for workers, ensuring they have financial support during challenging transition periods.
  • Breaks and Meal Periods: Colorado law mandates certain breaks for employees. Employers must provide a paid 10-minute rest every 4 work hours. If jobs allow equivalent breaks, this can be waived. Moreover, shifts over 5 hours require an unpaid 30-minute meal break. These provisions ensure employees have rest and recuperation during work hours.
  • Payday Laws: In Colorado, employers must pay workers at least once monthly or every thirty days, whichever is more frequent. This regulation ensures timely compensation for work and promotes trust between employers and employees. Consistent payment not only helps employees manage finances better but also showcases employer responsibility and commitment.
  • Deductions from Wages: Employers in Colorado can only deduct from wages under certain conditions. This includes having the employee’s written consent or being legally mandated (like taxes). It’s crucial to maintain transparency about wage deductions, ensuring employees fully understand and wholeheartedly agree to any subtractions from their rightfully earned pa
  • Child Labor: Colorado has distinct laws for minor employment. They specify permissible work ages, hours, and job types. These comprehensive regulations are designed to protect minors, ensuring they aren’t exploited and that their work doesn’t interfere with education or harm their overall well-being. Employers hiring minors must adhere strictly to these pivotal provisions.
  • Discrimination and Harassment Protections: The Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA) prohibits employment discrimination based on several characteristics e.g. race, sex, age, and more. Additionally, it offers safeguards against workplace harassment. Such protections foster a fair, respectful work environment where everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed.
  • Reporting Pay and “Show-Up” Pay: Colorado lacks a reporting or “show-up” pay requirement. In states with such laws, workers expecting certain hours but given fewer may get compensation. In Colorado, company policies or official contracts may address this. Employers and employees should discuss and agree upon terms to avoid misunderstandings.
  • Whistleblower Protections: In Colorado, employees reporting state or federal law, rule, or regulation violations are protected from employer retaliation. This provision ensures that workers can safely and confidently voice concerns about illegal or unethical practices, promoting transparency, unwavering integrity, and firm accountability in workplaces across the state.

What are the Provided Hourly Employee Protections Under Colorado State Law?

In Colorado, hourly employees are afforded various rights and protections to ensure they’re being treated fairly in the workplace. Firstly, there’s a set minimum wage defined by the Colorado Minimum Wage Order, ensuring every worker gets a base level of compensation. 

On top of the regular pay, the Colorado Overtime and Minimum Pay Standards (COMPS) Order mandates overtime payment for non-exempt employees working beyond the standard hours. 

Moreover, although Colorado doesn’t mandate severance pay, any agreed-upon severance in contracts or policies must be honored. The Centennial State also champions the well-being of its hourly employees through the Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA), which guarantees paid sick leave, allowing employees to accrue time off based on hours worked. While vacation time isn’t required by law, any earned vacation is viewed as wages and must be paid out if not used. 

Hourly employees also benefit from the Colorado Victims of Domestic Violence Leave Act, permitting victims to take unpaid leave for various reasons linked to domestic abuse. Additionally, the state’s anti-discrimination laws, enshrined in the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA), protect workers from discrimination and harassment. 

Furthermore, those brave enough to report wrongdoing are shielded from retaliation thanks to Colorado’s whistleblower protections. Collectively, these laws create a comprehensive framework that prioritizes the welfare, rights, and interests of hourly employees in the state.

Termination of Employment in Colorado

What are the Termination Laws for Hourly Employees in Colorado?

In Colorado, the termination of hourly employees largely revolves around the principle of “employment-at-will doctrine,” which means that either the employer or the employee can end the employment relationship at any time, for any reason, or for no reason at all, as long as the reason isn’t illegal. However, there are essential exceptions and considerations to this doctrine:

  • Illegal Reasons for Termination: While employers can dismiss employees for various reasons, they cannot terminate employment based on discriminatory reasons. CADA prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, creed, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, and other protected characteristics.
  • Retaliation: Employers cannot terminate employees in retaliation for certain “protected activities.” For instance, if an employee reports a violation or files a complaint about workplace harassment or discrimination, they are protected from retaliation, including termination.
  • Implied Contracts: Even if there’s no formal employment contract, certain statements in an employee handbook or oral assurances from management might inadvertently create an implied contract. This can limit an employer’s ability to terminate an employee without a valid cause.
  • Public Policy Exceptions: Employees in Colorado cannot be terminated for reasons that would violate public policy. For instance, firing an employee for performing a civic duty like jury duty would be a clear exception to the at-will employment doctrine established in the state.
  • Final Pay: Upon termination in Colorado, the law mandates that if an employer ends the employment, wages due to the employee must be paid immediately. Conversely, if an employee quits, the remaining wages are then due on the upcoming regular payday, as scheduled.
  • Advance Notice for Mass Layoffs: In situations involving large-scale layoffs or company closures, employers might be subject to the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN Act), which requires a 60-day advance notice for affected employees.

Should Severance Pay Be Provided to Hourly Employees in Colorado?

In Colorado, there is no specific state law mandating that employers provide severance pay to hourly employees or any employees upon termination. However, employers might choose to offer severance pay for various reasons, such as goodwill, to maintain a positive reputation, or to lessen potential legal disputes, and to ensure a smoother transition for the hourly employees.

If an employer has a written policy or a history of providing severance pay, they might be obligated to continue the practice due to the implied contract or promissory estoppel doctrines. Additionally, if an employer and employee enter into an employment contract that specifies severance provisions, the employer would be legally bound to honor that agreement.

Therefore, while it is not required by Colorado law, the decision to provide severance pay depends on an employer’s policies, contractual agreements, and individual circumstances.

Final Thoughts

To wrap up, if you’re an hourly employee in Colorado, it’s essential to be well-versed in your rights so you can confidently handle various situations in the ever-changing landscape of today’s employment sector. Being familiar with current Colorado state laws not only helps you stand up for your rights but also fosters a more positive work experience. Given that employment laws in Colorado are regularly updated, consistently educating yourself about the latest amendments will place you in a stronger position to make the best decisions in your professional career.

Important Cautionary Note

When making this guide, we have tried to make it accurate, but we do not give any guarantee that the information provided is correct or up-to-date. We therefore strongly advise you to seek advice from qualified professionals before acting on any information provided in this guide. We do not accept any liability for any damages or risks incurred for the use of this guide.