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Colorado Society for Human Resource Management Opposes Amendment of Wage Claim Act

    April 4, 2019

    Colorado Society for Human Resource Management Opposes Amendment of Wage Claim Act

    On April 4, 2019, the Board of Directors of the Colorado Society for Human Resource Management (COSHRM) voted to oppose House Bill 19-1267, which would amend the Colorado Wage Claim Act to increase criminal penalties and impose personal liability on individuals who act on behalf of the employer. The bill would change the definition of employer to include “any person acting directly or indirectly in the interest of an employer in relation to the employee.” This would subject such individuals to suits for unpaid wages, penalties, and attorneys’ fees to the same extent as the employer. In addition, the bill would increase the existing criminal penalty from a misdemeanor to a felony. The bill would also remove language that provided that a crime is not committed if the employer is unable to pay due to a bankruptcy or similar proceeding. The main purpose of the bill is to combat human trafficking.

    While COSHRM supports reasonable efforts to eliminate human trafficking, this bill goes far beyond that. It would apply to each and every employer and employee in Colorado. Further, innocent employees who administer payroll, such as office managers, bookkeepers, and human resources managers, but who have no control of the finances of the business would be exposed to personal liability. In effect, such employees would be involuntary guarantors of the financial viability of the business. Human trafficking legislation should be carefully crafted to address the issues without exposing innocent individuals to liability. 

    COSHRM agrees that those who intentionally fail to pay employees wages they have earned should be punished, but the existing criminal penalties are sufficient for that purpose. Further, the current language requiring the employer to have the ability to pay is important because it helps protect those who cannot control payments from criminal liability.

    Interested parties can make their opinions known by speaking or writing to their legislators. This and other subjects will be discussed at COSHRM’s Day at the Capitol event on April 8-9, 2019. More information can be found on the the Legislature’s website.

    Questions? Contact COSHRM's Legislative Director, Colin Walker.