Compliance Watch:
What are my overtime rights in Colorado?

May 13th 2024

Understanding your overtime rights is essential to receive fair compensation for work performed outside regular hours, and to effectively navigate Colorado’s employment regulations. Overtime rules protect employees from exploitation and promote equitable working conditions.

This article explores the specifics of overtime rights, providing guidance tailored to Colorado’s unique laws and practices. It will answer a variety of questions, helping you continue your career with vital employment information.

This Article Covers

Understanding Overtime in Colorado
Common Questions About Overtime in Colorado
Legal Working Hours in Colorado
Overtime Eligibility in Colorado
    Overtime Payment Calculations in Colorado
      Receiving Overtime Payment in Colorado
      Violations of Overtime Law in Colorado

      Understanding Overtime in Colorado

      Is overtime pay mandatory in Colorado?

      Yes, overtime pay is required for non-exempt employees in Colorado. According to the Colorado Overtime and Minimum Pay Standards Order (COMPS Order), eligibility for overtime pay is based on what an employee’s job duties are as well as what type of business they are in. More information on exemptions and exceptions from overtime can be found in this Colorado Overtime Laws article.

      When do I qualify for overtime pay in Colorado?

      Overtime law in Colorado is generally aligned with the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The provision of overtime pay under the FLSA depends on the number of hours an employee has worked. Any employee who works the following hours qualifies for overtime pay in Colorado: 

      • 40 hours per workweek,
      • 12 hours per workday, or
      • 12 consecutive hours of work regardless of when the employee started and ended in a workday (excluding duty-free meal break periods).

      The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) ensures that specific types of workers who meet the criteria for overtime compensation, receive pay for any hours worked beyond 40 in a single week (or above the daily limits set by Colorado’s overtime laws). Workers involved in manual labor, like construction workers, factory workers, and cashiers, are generally covered by these overtime regulations.

      How much is overtime pay in Colorado?

      In Colorado, overtime is calculated at ‘time and a half’. This means that employees will earn 1.5 times their regular rate of pay for all hours worked over eight hours in a workday, 40 hours in a workweek, and on the seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek. 

      For example, if the regular pay rate for an employee is $20 per hour, their overtime rate would be $30 per hour. Since the regular Colorado minimum wage is $14.42 per hour, this makes Colorado’s overtime minimum wage $21.63 per hour.

      Which laws govern overtime in Colorado?

      There are two main laws that govern overtime in Colorado: 

      1) the Colorado Overtime and Minimum Pay Standards Order (COMPS Order), which outlines the requirements for minimum wage, overtime pay, and working conditions for most industries in the state, and

      2) the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), a federal law which establishes minimum standards for wages and overtime entitlements, ensuring that employees receive a base level of protection. 

      When state and federal laws differ, the law which is more favorable to the employee will be applicable. Under the FLSA:

      • All non-exempt workers are eligible for overtime pay for any hours worked beyond 40 in a single workweek.
      • Overtime compensation is set at one and one-half times the regular pay rate of the employee.
      • Overtime pay is not required for hours worked on weekends, nights, or holidays unless they are part of the overtime hours.
      • There are no restrictions on the maximum hours an employee may be required to work per week.
      • The FLSA defines a workweek as a continuous 168-hour period, or seven consecutive 24-hour days, which can start on any day of the week as determined by the employer, allowing for different workweeks for different employees.

      COMPS Order No. 38 (7 CCR § 1103-1) establishes additional overtime regulations for Colorado employers and applies to nearly all industries. Under the COMPS Order, non-exempt employees must receive overtime pay at a rate of one and one-half times their regular rate for:

      • Over 40 hours of work in a workweek.
      • Over 12 hours of work in a single day.
      • Hours worked beyond 12 consecutive hours, regardless of the start time of the workday.

      Common Questions About Overtime in Colorado

      Do employers have to pay overtime in Colorado?

      Yes, employers in Colorado are required to pay overtime in Colorado, under certain conditions. The Colorado Overtime and Minimum Pay Standards Order (COMPS Order No. 38) states that overtime pay must be 1.5 times the regular rate of pay. Employers do not need to pay overtime to those exempted by law.

      Can an employee refuse to work overtime in Colorado?

      No, in most cases, employees in Colorado cannot refuse to work overtime. As there is no state law specifying the rules regarding mandatory overtime, federal regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) apply.

      The FLSA permits mandatory overtime, meaning employers can expect employees to work additional hours. The only exception to this rule is if it contradicts the terms of an employment contract or collective bargaining agreement. Otherwise, under this federal law, employers have the authority to discipline employees who decline to work overtime. Refusal to work overtime can even be grounds for termination, as per the “at-will” doctrine in Colorado.

      Can I take comp time instead of overtime pay in Colorado?

      Compensatory time, or “comp time” refers to time off work in lieu of receiving overtime pay. Typically, the rate of comp time is the same as overtime pay: time-and-a-half.  In the state of Colorado, comp time is not permitted for private employers. The COMPS order does, however, allow employees who work for public or government agencies to receive comp time.

      Government agencies may provide comp time to their employees under certain conditions:

      • An agreement must be arranged between the employer and the employee before the commencement of overtime work.
      • The agreement must be in writing, usually formed by a union representative.

      If these criteria are met, comp time may substitute overtime pay in instances of occasional overtime work. Note that if comp time is granted it must be equivalent to the overtime rate. This means that an hour-and-a-half of paid time-off is required for each overtime hour worked. 

      Can I get overtime pay in Colorado without employer approval?

      Yes, in Colorado, if you work overtime hours—meaning more than 40 hours in a workweek, more than 12 hours in a single day, or over 12 consecutive hours—you are entitled to receive overtime pay at 1.5 times your regular hourly rate, regardless of whether your employer specifically approved the extra hours in advance.

      While prior authorization isn’t required, employees must not deliberately conceal their overtime work from their employer. Employees should be aware that they could face disciplinary actions from their employer, for working overtime hours without approval.

      Does Colorado have double-time pay?

      No, Colorado does not have a general requirement for double-time pay. Only the “time-and-a-half” rule applies, meaning employees must be paid at a rate of 1.5 times their regular wage, for hours worked over 40 in a week, over 12 hours in a day, or over 12 consecutive hours.

      What is working ‘off-the-clock’ in Colorado?

      Working ‘off-the-clock’ is when an employee performs job duties without receiving compensation. Often, US employers are fully aware of this activity and use this practice to avoid paying overtime. Examples of off-the-clock work include:

      • Working during designated meal or rest breaks.
      • Handling preparations before the official start of a shift.
      • Completing tasks after a shift ends, such as cleaning or shutting down a work site.
      • Rework, such as redoing a project or correcting mistakes.

      ‘Off-the-clock’ work is illegal in Colorado. Any employer who demands uncompensated work from their employees is breaching federal labor laws, including the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA sets the standards for overtime and other employment practices, establishing the fundamental right for employees to be paid for all their work.

      What are common ways employers avoid paying overtime in Colorado?

      It’s important to understand the legal loopholes that can lead to employees working extra hours without receiving overtime pay. Employers often avoid paying overtime by:

      • Requiring Off-the-Clock Work: This could involve tasks like preparatory work, answering calls, or post-shift activities. Employers must document all work done and pay employees accordingly. Assigning tasks outside of regular hours without compensation is illegal.
      • Averaging Hours Worked: Common for bi-weekly or bi-monthly pay periods, this involves reducing an employee’s hours in one week to offset overtime worked in another. For instance, an employee working 48 hours one week might only be scheduled for 30 the next, leading to an averaged 40-hour workweek to avoid overtime pay.
      • Providing Comp Time: Employers may offer time off instead of overtime pay, such as giving workers Friday off after a double shift on Thursday, so their total weekly hours don’t exceed 40. 
      • Misclassifying Employees as Salaried: Workers earning over $1,057.69 weekly in Colorado can be considered salaried and are exempt from overtime. Employers may wrongly classify employees earning less as salaried to avoid overtime pay, which is illegal under federal law.

      Can you work seven days in a row in Colorado?

      Yes, it is legal to work seven consecutive days in Colorado. There are no state or federal laws limiting work hours or days in Colorado. As long as they are duly compensated, employees aged 16 and older can work seven days in a row. 

      Only employment contracts or collective bargaining agreements may impose limits on consecutive workdays. Additionally, certain industries have specific requirements for hours worked. Minors aged 14 or 15 are also limited as to how many hours they can work. On school days, the limit is 4 hours, on non-school days it’s 8 hours, and on non-school weeks, minors may work up to 40 hours.  Non-exempt employees working seven consecutive days should record their hours to ensure they receive overtime pay for any hours worked beyond 40 in a single workweek.

      How many ten-hour days can you work in a row in Colorado?

      While some states have established overtime laws regarding 10-hour work shifts, Colorado has no such regulation. Under federal law, overtime is paid only after an employee works more than 40 hours in a week, 12 hours in a single day, or more than 12 consecutive hours (regardless of the start time of the workday).

      What are full-time hours in Colorado?

      In Colorado, full-time work is generally understood to mean working between 30 and 40 hours per week, while part-time work involves less than 30 hours in a week. As state or federal laws do not explicitly define these terms, employers usually determine an employee’s status based on their own policies. While many employers consider 40 hours full-time, others may set it at 32 or 35 hours, especially in industries like retail and hospitality.

      Where an employee’s status affects their rights or entitlements, the following regulations apply: 

      • Employees need to work 1,000 hours in a year to qualify for Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) eligibility.
      • Minors have restrictions on their work hours to avoid missing school.
      • Transportation workers may have limits on travel hours per day or week.

      To clarify their employment status, employees should review their employer’s documentation since it’s possible to be considered full-time for some benefits or roles but not for others.

      How many hours straight can you legally work in Colorado?

      Colorado sets no limit on the number of hours you can work in a day. Note that, if you’re an hourly worker, you are entitled to overtime pay at 1.5 times your usual rate, for any work exceeding 12 hours in a single day. 

      Special regulations exist for minors up to age 16, under the Colorado Youth Employment Opportunity Act (CYEOA). Apart from babysitting, minors under 16 cannot work between 9:30 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., if the following day is a school day. They also can’t work more than 40 hours per week or 8 hours within 24 hours, except during business emergencies.

      Is overtime after eight hours or 40 hours in Colorado?

      In Colorado, overtime is after 40 hours of work, not 8 hours. Overtime and Minimum Pay Standards (COMPS Order) stipulates that overtime pay, calculated at 1.5 times an employee’s regular rate, is due for hours worked over 40 in a workweek, beyond 12 hours in a day, or any work exceeding 12 consecutive hours (regardless of the workday’s start time).

      Does working on the weekend qualify for overtime pay in Colorado?

      Overtime is calculated based on the scheduled workweek rather than specific calendar days, which are set by employers. Therefore, working on weekends (Saturday or Sunday) doesn’t automatically qualify for overtime. Since Sunday often falls at the end of a workweek, it’s commonly mistaken that Sunday work always warrants overtime. Overtime pay is only required for the following:

      • Over 40 hours of work in a workweek.
      • Over 12 hours of work in a single day.
      • Hours worked beyond 12 consecutive hours, regardless of the start time of the workday.

      How many hours-off between shifts is required in Colorado?

      Neither federal nor state laws in Colorado regulate the number of hours required between shifts. Therefore, employers are not legally obligated to give employees time-off between consecutive shifts.

      Only certain industries, like truck driving, may place limits on the number of hours employees can work in a day or between shifts. Additionally, unionized workers might have provisions for time off between shifts outlined in their collective bargaining agreements.

      What does ‘hours-worked’ include in Colorado?

      According to Colorado law, ‘hours worked’ is defined as “the time during which the employee is subject to the control of an employer”. Employees must be properly compensated for all time worked. In Colorado, certain types of breaks and commutes are included in hours worked:

      • Meal breaks: Employees are entitled to a 30-minute meal break if they work more than five hours in a day, and a second 30-minute meal break if they work more than 10 hours in a day. If the employee is allowed to leave the worksite and can be completely off duty during this time, then it is not classed as work. However, if the worker must remain onsite or be available for duty during this break, then it must be included in hours worked. 
      • Rest breaks: Employees can take a rest break of at least ten minutes for every four hours worked. This time is included in hours worked.
      • Commuting: Travel time to and from work is considered as hours worked if the employee must travel to a job site which is far from their office, or if it is mandatory to use employer-provided transportation. 

      What is the most hours a salaried employee can work in Colorado? 

      Colorado generally adheres to federal employment and overtime regulations. These laws don’t set a maximum daily or weekly work limit for salaried employees, who are expected to complete their assigned tasks. Non-exempt salaried workers are eligible for overtime pay for hours worked beyond 40 in a week. However, exempt employees earning at least $54,999.98 annually don’t qualify for overtime pay. It’s important to keep precise records of your working hours. If you discover you’re earning less than the minimum hourly wage, you might be able to file a wage claim.

      What is the maximum number of hours an hourly employee can work in Colorado?

      In Colorado, there is generally no limit on working hours, so hourly employees can work as many hours as desired in a day. However, non-exempt workers must receive overtime pay for working more than 40 hours in a workweek and for 12 consecutive hours. 

      For hourly employees in regulated industries, there may be specific limits on their working hours. It’s crucial for employees to be aware of their industry’s specific regulations and their employment contract conditions.

      Overtime Eligibility in Colorado

      Who is eligible for overtime pay in Colorado?

      Employees are classified as either exempt or non-exempt regarding overtime. Non-exempt workers, typically hourly employees performing manual labor or customer service roles, are entitled to overtime pay. Employees aged 16 and older qualify for overtime unless they are in the exempt category. However, in Colorado, 16- and 17-year-olds can only work up to 30 hours per week during the school year, preventing them from reaching the 40-hour threshold needed for overtime pay.

      Who is exempt from overtime pay in Colorado?

      Certain professions, including executive, professional, and administrative roles, may be exempt from overtime based on job responsibilities and salary. In Colorado, the following workers are exempt from overtime pay:

      • Sales Personnel: Salespersons, parts personnel, and mechanics employed by automobile, truck, or farm equipment retailers, as well as salespersons working for trailer, aircraft, and boat retailers.
      • Commission Sales Exemption: Employees in retail or service roles who receive over 75% of their revenue from retail or service sales are eligible for this exemption.
      • Ski Industry Exemption: Workers involved in downhill skiing or snowboarding operations, or providing food and beverage services at on-mountain sites, are exempt from the 40-hour weekly overtime rule. However, daily overtime at 1.5 times the regular rate applies for hours worked beyond 12 in a day. This rule doesn’t cover ski employees involved in lodging.
      • Medical Transportation Exemption: Medical transport employees working 24-hour shifts are exempt from the 12-hour daily overtime rule, provided they receive overtime for hours worked beyond 40 in a week.

      Can salaried employees get overtime pay in Colorado?

      State and federal laws require that most employees, including salaried workers, receive overtime pay for any hours worked over 12 per day or 40 per week. Exceptions exist for certain salaried employees based on their job category and salary level.

      Salaried employees eligible for overtime must calculate their regular rate by dividing their salary by the number of hours it covers. Overtime is then paid at 1.5 times this rate. If a salary covers less than 40 hours per week, additional regular pay applies up to 40 hours, after which overtime is calculated at 1.5 times the regular rate. 

      Most hourly workers are non-exempt and qualify for overtime. In Colorado, exempt employees have a higher salary threshold than the federal standard, set at $55,000 annually, meaning salaried workers may also qualify if they meet specific criteria.

      Overtime Payment Calculations in Colorado

      What is my regular rate of pay in Colorado?

      The regular rate of pay is the hourly wage an employee earns, which must at least meet the minimum wage in Colorado. While determining this rate is straightforward for hourly workers, it’s more complicated for salaried and commission-based employees.

      Salaried employees:

      • Multiply the monthly salary by 12 to determine the annual salary.
      • Then, divide the annual salary by 52 to calculate the weekly salary.
      • Lastly, divide the weekly salary by 40 to find the regular hourly rate.

      For piecework or commission employees, there are 3 methods:

      • The rate of the piece or commission.
      • The result of the amount earned in a workweek divided by the number of hours worked. 
      • If working as part of a group, begin by calculating the group rate. This is done by dividing the total number of pieces by the number of people in the group. Then multiply this rate by the number of hours an individual worked to calculate their individual regular rate of pay.

      How do you calculate overtime in Colorado?

      Overtime in Colorado is paid at 1.5 times the normal rate of pay. A non-exempt employee is eligible for overtime if they have worked for more than 12 consecutive hours or 40 hours in a week.

      To calculate the overtime pay for an employee, the following steps are required:

      • Calculate the regular rate of pay for an individual employee. 
      • Then, multiply this amount by 1.5 to calculate the hourly overtime rate of an employee.
      • Finally, multiply the overtime rate by the number of overtime hours worked. The total of this is the amount of overtime pay an employee is owed.

      How is overtime taxed in Colorado?

      The amount of tax an individual pays is determined by their tax bracket, which is based on taxable income and filing status. Overtime is taxed similarly to regular wages. However, if your additional overtime earnings increase your total income, you may fall into a higher tax bracket. As a result, your gross income will be taxed at a higher rate. This increase only affects the specific pay period in which you earned extra income.

      Receiving Overtime Payment in Colorado

      How is overtime paid in Colorado?

      In Colorado, the method of overtime payment may vary by employer. Generally, it is paid in the same way as regular wages – through a direct transfer to the employee’s bank account. Employees should also receive an itemized wage statement, commonly known as a paystub, which can be provided either digitally or on paper.

      When do I receive my overtime paycheck in Colorado?

      According to the Colorado Wage Claim Act, employees are typically paid on a regular payday covering a specific pay period. If overtime is earned, it should be included in the paycheck for that period. The law requires that:

      • Paychecks should be issued regularly, at least once a month or every 30 days.
      • Payment must occur within 10 days of the end of the pay period.

      Violations of Overtime Law in Colorado

      What if my employer refuses to pay me overtime in Colorado?

      In Colorado, workers have robust legal protections to recover unpaid wages or denied benefits from current or former employers. Depending on the relationship, a worker may pursue a lawsuit under contract law, federal law, or the Colorado Wage Act.

      The Colorado Wage Claim Act, also known as the “Wage Act,” requires that employers pay employees their earned wages promptly. If an employer fails to pay as required, the employee can file a written demand. If wages remain unpaid after 14 days, the employee may sue their employer.

      What is the penalty for failing to pay overtime in Colorado?

      In Colorado, employers can be fined by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) for failing to pay their employees overtime. These fines can reach up to $1,000 per employee per day for each violation.

      If an employee files a lawsuit, other penalties an employer may face include:

      • Payment of back wages for all overtime hours worked.
      • Compensation for emotional distress, inconvenience, and lost wages.
      • Attorney’s fees.

      The DOLE also has the authority to issue a stop-work order if an employer violates overtime laws, which requires them to cease operations until the issue is resolved.

      How can I file a wage claim for overtime in Colorado?

      There are specific regulations regarding the timing of wages in Colorado. Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Colorado Wage Claim Act, employees should be paid at least once a month or every 30 days on a consistent schedule, with paychecks issued within 10 days of the pay period’s end. 

      If employees believe they have not been fairly paid, they can file a wage claim with the Colorado Division of Labor. This process is free and open to current or former private-sector employees, regardless of immigration status. Once a complete wage complaint is submitted, the Division sends a letter to the employer detailing the complaint and the amounts claimed. The employer has the opportunity to respond and provide documentation. The Division will issue a determination within 90 days, unless an extension is needed for the investigation.

      Can employers retaliate against employees for making a wage claim in Colorado?

      As wage claims are considered a “protected activity” under the Colorado Wage Act (CWA), retaliation is not permitted under any circumstance. As long as the employee reasonably believed what they were stating (i.e., that they weren’t being paid fairly), their wage claim is protected by law. 

      Wage claims are not protected if they are:

      • Knowingly false or made with reckless disregard for their truth.
      • Made with the intention to secure benefits the employee is not entitled to.

      Learn more about Colorado Labor Laws through our detailed guide.

      Important Cautionary Note

      This content is provided for informational purposes only. While we make every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information presented, we cannot guarantee that it is free of errors or omissions. Users are advised to independently verify any critical information and should not solely rely on the content provided.