The passage of a sweeping wage and overtime law in Colorado in 2020 prompted city councils across the state to engage in efforts to raise wages above even the new state minimum, already higher than the federal minimum wage. The difficult financial climate of 2020 has opened up a debate over whether or not new wage laws are doing more harm than good to workers who need it the most.
Minimum wage and overtime pay is guided by two basic sets of laws in Colorado. The Fair Labor Standards Act is the overarching federal law that mandates an hourly minimum wage of $7.25, with overtime defined as work exceeding 40 hours per week and overtime pay as at least one-and-a-half times the regular pay.
The Colorado Overtime and Minimum Pay Standards Order, or COMPS, Order #36, was passed in March 2020 and expanded federal wage and overtime requirements with a raise of the state minimum wage to $12 per hour. It expanded the federal definition of overtime to also include hours exceeding 12 hours per workday or work during 12 consecutive hours, excluding meal breaks.
The update COMPS Order #37 has updated the state minimum wage for 2021 to $12.32 per hour, expanding administrative and professional employee exemptions as well as the transportation worker exemption.
Different times, different solutions
Nine months after the city of Denver adopted an incremental wage increase over the state minimum wage in November 2019, the city council of Aurora followed suit with a sweeping proposal increasing minimum wage to $20 per hour by 2027. However, the harsh economic downturn of last year has influenced the decisions of policy makers in both cities, with sharply contrasting results.
The Aurora City Council rejected the proposal for wage increases in November 2020, exactly one year after the Denver’s landmark minimum wage hike passed. Mayor Mike Coffman provided the tiebreaker for a proposal that saw support and opposition for the wage increase equally split among community members. Even though many business owners opposed the change, many supported it as well.
In contrast to Aurora’s path, Denver’s minimum wage increase, passed before the global events shook the nation’s economy in 2020, remains in place with an $14.77 per hour raise for 2021.
Minimum wage increases are good news for workers struggling to make a living wage, but can come with the cost of more layoffs or a reduction of benefits to existing workers as businesses try to stay afloat during difficult economic times. It is important to keep up with wage law changes in Arapahoe County and Littleton and how they may affect you.