Colorado Labor Laws

Colorado Labor Laws

In the U.S., federal laws play a crucial role in regulating the amount of time employees spend within the workplace. These regulations are designed to safeguard workers’ rights, ensure they receive equitable compensation for their contributions, and continue to foster accountability and minimize instances of abuse or exploitation.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which was first established in 1938, is instrumental in setting standards for time management, offering guidelines for hourly wage rates, overtime pay, record-keeping of employees' work hours, and more. 

Another essential federal law governing time management is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This legislation grants eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for specific family and medical reasons, such as childbirth, adoption, or caring for a family member with a serious health condition. 

The FLSA and FMLA are indispensable statutes that govern time management and worker compensation, promoting fair labor practices across diverse sectors, including nonprofit, public, and private organizations. Violations of federal time management laws by employers can result in legal consequences, including fines, back pay, and damages. 

While federal law provides a national structure that each state must abide upon, each state is entitled to create its own labor laws. This article will examine the state of Colorado and the rules and regulations that exist within the Centennial State. 

Wages in Colorado

Wages in Colorado are regulated by the Colorado Wage Act (C.R.S. 8-4-101 et seq.), which requires Colorado employers to pay employees their earned wages in a timely manner. The Wage Act – commonly referred to as the Colorado Wage Law, the Colorado Wage Claim Act, or the Colorado Wage Protection Act – addresses deductions from wages, vacation, commissions, bonuses, final pay, pay periods, paydays, and pay statements.

Colorado’s Minimum Wage Laws

As of Jan. 1, 2024, the minimum wage in Colorado is $14.42 an hour, a $0.77 per hour increase over the 2023 rates. 

The minimum wage in the state has been on an upward trajectory for decades. From 1988 to 1996, the minimum wage was $3 per hour. From 1998 to 2006, the rate stood at $5.15. In 2007, the rate jumped to $6.85 and has increased incrementally to its current rate of $14.42. 

In Denver, minimum wage workers received a nearly 6% pay increase as the city’s minimum wage increased to $18.29 per hour on Jan. 1, 2024, up from $17.29 in 2023. 

In Edgewater, the minimum wage rate is $15.02 per hour, up from $13.65 per hour in 2023. 

In Boulder County (in unincorporated areas only), the minimum wage is $15.69 per hour. 

Tipped Minimum Wage in Colorado

The minimum wage for tipped employees in Colorado is $11.44 per hour, a $0.68 per hour increase over last year’s rates. 

In Denver, the tipped minimum wage is $15.27 per hour, up from $14.27 in 2023. 

In Edgewater, the tipped minimum wage is $12 per hour. 

In Boulder County, the tipped minimum wage is $12.67 per hour. 

Colorado Payment Laws

When determining workers' earnings, federal law stipulates a mandatory minimum – calculated based on government guidelines – encompassing federal, state, or city requirements. Colorado has two distinct sets of rules: a statewide minimum wage that is applicable universally and a localized minimum wage that applies exclusively to those working in Denver. 

Colorado's minimum wage is overseen by the Colorado Overtime and Minimum Pay Standards Order (COMPS). The amount escalates annually, mirroring the consumer price index for Colorado residents. Tipped workers may receive a lower minimum wage.

Exceptions to the minimum wage regulations in Colorado encompass specific worker categories, such as administrative employees, executives, professionals, outside salespeople, proprietors, taxi drivers, in-residence workers, volunteers, work-study students, elected officials, and highly technical employees in computer-related occupations earning high wages. Non-emancipated minors may be paid at a rate 15% lower than the statewide minimum.

Colorado's legislation aims to phase out subminimum wage payments by July 1, 2025, prohibiting employers from paying individuals with disabilities less than the minimum wage. An exception exists for employers with a pre-existing certificate from the U.S. Department of Labor, which must submit a transition plan to the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing that outlines the phased elimination of subminimum wage payments.

Regarding payment due dates in Colorado, employers and employees are encouraged to agree on pay periods. If no agreement exists, Colorado wage laws dictate that payment must be made within one month or 30 days, whichever is longer. Employers are also obligated to schedule regular paydays within 10 days of a pay period ending.

Colorado Overtime Laws

Colorado requires employers to pay employees overtime pay at a rate of one and a half times their typical rate unless an exemption applies. This rule applies if employees work:

  • More than 40 hours in a workweek;
  • More than 12 hours in a workday; or
  • 12 consecutive hours without regard to the workday.

Colorado Meals and Breaks

Colorado has implemented specific laws that outline rules for breaks. These regulations are designed to foster a positive work environment, boost efficiency, and protect workers’ rights. 


Breaks are mandated for employees working more than five consecutive hours. Employers are obligated to provide a minimum of 30 minutes for these breaks, during which employees must be relieved of all duties, allowing them to engage in personal activities. This duty-free meal period may be unpaid.

For optimal scheduling, employers are advised not to schedule meal breaks earlier than one hour before the start of an employee's shift or later than one hour prior to a shift's conclusion. This provides practical timing considerations for both employers and employees.

In situations where the nature of an employee's job makes it impractical to allow a duty-free meal period, employers must permit an "on-duty" meal break. In such cases, employers are required to compensate employees for this time, ensuring fair treatment and adherence to labor regulations.


In retail, service, food and beverage, commercial support services, and health and medical industries, employers are obligated to grant a 10-minute, paid break (if feasible) for every four hours worked.

For employers in other industries, while breaks are not mandated, should they be offered, those lasting less than 20 minutes must be compensated. This flexible approach ensures fairness and aligns with industry-specific needs.

Colorado Nursing Mother Breaks

Colorado mandates employers to offer breastfeeding employees reasonable break times for up to two years post-childbirth. These breaks can be unpaid or integrated into required paid meal and rest breaks.

Employers must actively seek to provide nursing mothers with designated, private spaces for expressing breast milk, situated in close proximity to their work areas.

To meet these minimum requirements for nursing spaces, employers must make reasonable efforts without imposing an undue hardship on their businesses. Determining undue hardship involves assessing factors, such as the business's size, financial resources, and the nature of its operations, taking into account special circumstances related to public safety.

Colorado Leave Requirements

The Colorado Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA) dictates employee leave in the state. On June 2, 2023, Gov. Jared Polis signed into law Senate Bill 23-017, which expanded the reasons employees can use paid sick leave. Under the revision, employees may now access paid leave for qualifying bereavement and natural disaster-related reasons.

Vacation Leave

Colorado does not require employers to provide vacation leave benefits. If an employer does offer this benefit, a timeline must be offered and agreed upon at the beginning of employment. This agreement must then be followed throughout the employee’s tenure. 

If and when an employee leaves a position, his or her employer must compensate him or her for any earned vacation leave upon the separation. Employers are prohibited from denying employees payment for accrued vacation leave upon termination. 

Sick Leave

Employers must provide employees the ability to accrue at least one hour of paid sick leave time for every 30 hours of work. This benefit maxes out at 48 hours a year. This time off may be used for personal or family medical treatment or preventive care, mental or physical illnesses, personal injury, health conditions, domestic abuse, sexual assault or harassment, school closures, or public health emergencies. 

Holiday Leave

Colorado currently honors 13 days as state holidays: New Year’s Day (Jan. 1), Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 15), President’s Day (Feb. 19), Memorial Day (May 27), Juneteenth (June 19), Governor’s Holiday (July 3), Independence Day (July 4), Labor Day (Sept. 4), Frances Xavier Cabrini Day (Oct. 2), Veterans Day (Nov. 10), Thanksgiving (Nov. 23), Governor’s Holiday (Nov. 24), and Christmas (Dec. 25).  

Private employers are not required to provide holiday leave. If they choose to, they must comply with their own established policies.

Jury Duty Leave

All regularly employed trial or grand jurors shall be paid regular wages – but not to exceed $50 per day unless by mutual agreement between the employee and employer – by their employers for the first three days of juror service or any part thereof. 

Voting Leave

Employees are granted two hours of paid leave to vote. This provision is only enforceable if an employee did not request leave one day before the vote or if the employee has three or more hours available to vote before or after his or her shift. 

Severance Pay

Generally speaking, a severance package is a specific amount of pay doled out to an employee in return for his or her time working for a business upon his or her way out of the company. Not every employee who leaves a company is entitled to severance pay, and this benefit is one that likely should be discussed in advance of an employee’s exit and maintained in writing. 

Colorado Equal Pay for Equal Work

The Equal Pay for Equal Work Act prohibits employers from discriminating against an employee because of his or her sex (including gender identity) — alone or with another protected status — by paying less for substantially similar work in terms of skill, effort, and responsibility. However, if an employer can prove the pay difference is based on seniority, merit, location, training, experience, or necessary travel, the pay difference is allowed.

The law was amended on Jan. 1, 2024, to require that employers make reasonable efforts to announce, post, or otherwise make known each job opportunity to existing employees. 

Child Labor Laws in Colorado

Minors are prohibited from working beyond 40 hours a week or eight hours a day within any 24-hour period. 

Minors under 16 are limited to six consecutive working hours unless the following day is a non-school day. Additionally, minors under 16 are restricted from working between 9:30 p.m. and 5 a.m. unless the subsequent day is not a school day.

On school days, minors are constrained to a maximum of three working hours (including Fridays) or 18 hours during the school week. These regulations aim to ensure minors balance their work commitments and educational responsibilities.

Colorado Hiring Laws

Federal law prohibits an employer from discriminating on the basis of age, child or spousal support withholding, citizenship, color, family medical history, gender, gender identity, genetic information, immigration status, medical history, mental disabilities, mililtary or veteran status, national origin, physical disabilities, pregnancy, race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation.

Additionally, Colorado law prohibits discrimination based on lawful activity outside of work, AIDS/HIV, arrest or sealed conviction records, marriage to a co-employee, civil air patrol membership, credit report or credit information, or wage garnishment for consumer debt.

Colorado Termination Laws

Colorado operates under employment-at-will principles, signifying that in the absence of a written employment contract, employees can be terminated at any time and for any reason. However, this termination must adhere to nondiscriminatory practices, and employers cannot retaliate against employees for rightful actions.

Occupational Safety in Colorado

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers must retain records pertaining to job-related injuries and illnesses for five years. Some records, like those covering toxic substance exposure, must be retained for 30 years.

Miscellaneous Colorado Labor Laws

There are a few additional laws in Colorado we haven’t covered. These include:

Background Checks

Strict state and federal laws regulate what information may be included in a background check and what an employer can view. 

Criminal History 

When viewing a prospect’s criminal history, the following information is accessible.

  • Type of offense, including felonies, misdemeanors, and petty offenses. 
  • How and when the case was resolved.
  • The sentence the individual served. 
  • Outstanding warrants do not show up on background checks. 

Employment Verification

When viewing a prospect’s professional history, the following information may be obtained:

  • Past employers. 
  • Job titles.
  • Dates of employment. 
  • Schools attended (and dates of attendance).

Several occupations are required, by law, to conduct criminal history records checks. These include assisted living facility employees, attorneys, bail bondsmen, camp employees, childcare providers, emergency medical technicians, foster care employees, gaming equipment contractors, home care agency workers, lottery and racing commission employees, massage therapists, marijuana vendors, money transmitters,  pharmacists, real estate brokers, school personnel, and security guards. 

In background checks, Colorado law prevents employers from using an employee’s consumer credit information unless this information is “substantially related to the employee's current or potential job.”

Retaliation Laws 

Federal and Colorado law prohibits employers from retaliating against an applicant, employee, or former employee if and when an individual engages in an activity because the individual engaged in a protected activity under the law.

Social Media 

Employers can’t request or require employees to provide their social media login credentials. Additionally, employers aren’t allowed to change the privacy settings on employees’ social media accounts. Employers can’t request employees add anyone or any entity to their social media contacts. 

While OnTheClock has made every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information within this article, we cannot guarantee its accuracy. Before moving forward with any business decision, we encourage you to consult with a qualified professional. We waive liability for the misuse or inaccuracy of any of the information contained herein.

OnTheClock Employee Time Tracking

Written by

Herb Woerpel

Herb Woerpel is a copywriter with OnTheClock. He has 17-plus years of professional journalism experience working for community and national media outlets.

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