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CO Officials to Consider Overtime, Other Worker Protections

Under current Colorado labor law, construction and agricultural workers are not guaranteed meal and rest breaks. (Pixabay)
Under current Colorado labor law, construction and agricultural workers are not guaranteed meal and rest breaks. (Pixabay)
August 26, 2019

DENVER – Colorado workers putting in overtime hours but not getting paid overtime rates could get some relief.

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment will hold a public hearing on Wednesday to hear arguments for redefining which workers should be exempt from overtime protections.

David Seligman, executive director of the law firm and advocacy group Towards Justice, says many employees are not currently protected if they receive an annual salary or if their position carries a title such as supervisor or manager.

"And what that means is that hundreds of thousands of Colorado workers can be forced to work however many hours the employer wants – 70 hours a week, 80 hours a week – and not receive a dime of overtime," he explains.

Seligman's group and others want Colorado's Labor Department to establish rules that limit overtime exemptions to employees who are paid at least two and a half times the current minimum wage.

The proposal isn't popular in all corners. Some business owners worry that extending protections to more employees could force them to raise salaries.

Seligman notes that overtime and other protections can be made directly by Colorado's Labor Department without legislation under the agency's statutory mandate to protect workers.

He says businesses in states with similar protections frequently hire more workers or streamline projects to get the job done in a 40-hour week, and don't have to raise salaries.

"That's not what this is about,” he states. “All we're saying is that if you don't pay them two and a half times the minimum wage, that means that you have to pay them overtime premiums in weeks when they work more than 40 hours."

Labor officials also will hear concerns about employees, including construction and agricultural workers, not currently guaranteed meal and rest breaks.

The meeting Wednesday is set for 1 p.m. at the department's downtown Denver offices. Details are on the Towards Justice website, towardsjustice.org.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO