Adobe Stock / MichaelJBerlin
Adobe Stock / MichaelJBerlin

The Colorado General Assembly's House Judiciary Committee approved a proposed wage theft bill that would make violations such as intentional underpayment criminal offenses, Construction Dive reports. The bill would upgrade willful underpayment of $2,000 or more from a misdemeanor to a criminal offense.

According to the Colorado Fiscal Institute, more than 500,0000 workers in the state—many of them in the construction industry—lose $750 million a year because of wage theft. The institute's analysis shows that the most common methods employers use to short employees on their pay are:

  • Nonpayment, which includes late payments and not paying employees what they’ve earned.
  • Underpayment.
  • Misclassification of employees as independent contractors in order to avoid having to pay benefits.
  • Unauthorized payroll deductions for expenses like transportation, materials and tools.

The movement in Colorado reflects a larger nationwide movement to protect employees from wage theft and misclassification of workers. The Attorney General of Massachusetts cited 66 contractors for wage-theft violations and levied $2.7 million in penalties against violators. To address worker misclassification, California lawmakers are considering codifying a ruling that sets more universal parameters for which workers qualify as independent contractors.

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