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Colorado Labor Laws

A globe wearing a yellow hard hat sits next to a white hard hat, various tools, and work gloves, all placed on a table. Behind them, the American flag is displayed, symbolizing labor and industry in the United States.

As an HR professional or even as an employee, understanding and complying with state-specific labor laws is critical for maintaining a fair and lawful workplace. Colorado labor laws encompass various aspects of employment, from wage regulations to workplace safety. This comprehensive guide will provide an in-depth look at Colorado labor laws, ensuring that HR professionals are well-equipped to navigate the state’s legal landscape.

Minimum Wage Laws

Current Minimum Wage

As of January 1, 2024, Colorado’s minimum wage is $14.58 per hour. For tipped employees, the minimum wage is $11.58 per hour, provided that tips bring their total earnings to at least $14.58 per hour.

Annual Adjustments

The minimum wage in Colorado is subject to annual adjustments based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI). This ensures that wages keep pace with inflation and the cost of living.

Overtime Regulations

Standard Overtime

Under Colorado labor laws, non-exempt employees must be paid overtime at a rate of one and a half times their regular rate of pay for any hours worked over 40 in a workweek or 12 in a workday.

Exempt Employees

Certain employees are exempt from overtime requirements, including those in executive, administrative, and professional roles, as well as outside salespersons. It’s essential to accurately classify employees to ensure compliance.

Meal and Rest Breaks

Rest Breaks

Employees are entitled to a paid 10-minute rest break for every four hours worked. These breaks should ideally be taken in the middle of each four-hour period.

Meal Breaks

Employees who work shifts exceeding five hours are entitled to an unpaid, uninterrupted 30-minute meal break. If the employee’s duties prevent them from taking an uninterrupted break, they must be paid for the meal period.

Paid Leave and Time Off

In Colorado, Paid Time Off (PTO) policies vary by employer, but there are specific state-mandated paid leave requirements under the Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA). Here’s a breakdown of the state-mandated PTO:

Paid Sick Leave under HFWA

Accrual of Paid Sick Leave

  • Rate of Accrual: Employees earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked.
  • Maximum Accrual: Employees can accrue up to 48 hours of paid sick leave per year.

Usage of Paid Sick Leave

Employees can use accrued paid sick leave for various reasons, including:

  • The employee’s or a family member’s mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition.
  • Obtaining preventive medical care.
  • Addressing needs due to domestic abuse, sexual assault, or harassment.
  • Public health emergency-related needs.

Public Health Emergency Leave

In addition to regular paid sick leave, the HFWA provides additional paid leave during a public health emergency:

  • Entitlement: Up to 80 hours of additional paid leave.
  • Reasons: Similar to the reasons for regular paid sick leave but specific to the circumstances of the public health emergency.

Employer-Specific PTO Policies

Beyond the state-mandated paid sick leave, many employers offer additional PTO policies, which can include:

  • Vacation Leave: This varies widely by employer but typically ranges from 10 to 20 days per year, depending on tenure and position.
  • Personal Days: Some employers offer additional personal days that can be used at the employee’s discretion.
  • Paid Holidays: Many employers provide paid holidays for federal or state-recognized holidays.

Example of a Comprehensive PTO Policy

A typical employer PTO policy in Colorado might look like this:

  • Vacation Leave: 10 days per year for new employees, increasing to 15 days after five years of service.
  • Paid Sick Leave: 48 hours per year, as required by HFWA.
  • Personal Days: 2 to 3 days per year.
  • Paid Holidays: 8 to 10 days per year, covering major holidays like New Year’s Day, Independence Day, and Christmas.

Anti-Discrimination Laws

Protected Classes

Colorado law prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, creed, national origin, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, and marital status. Employers must ensure that their practices comply with these anti-discrimination provisions.

Equal Pay for Equal Work Act

Effective January 1, 2021, the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act requires employers to pay employees equally for substantially similar work, regardless of gender. The Act also mandates transparency in job postings and promotions, requiring employers to disclose salary ranges and benefits.

Workplace Safety

Colorado Occupational Safety and Health Act

Employers in Colorado must comply with the Colorado Occupational Safety and Health Act, which aims to ensure safe and healthful working conditions. This includes providing necessary training, maintaining safety records, and adhering to specific safety standards relevant to their industry.

Whistleblower Protections

Employees who report workplace safety violations are protected from retaliation under Colorado law. Employers must not take adverse actions against employees who raise concerns about unsafe working conditions.

Employee Classification

Independent Contractors vs. Employees

Correctly classifying workers as either employees or independent contractors is crucial. Misclassification can lead to significant legal and financial penalties. Colorado uses the “economic realities” test to determine worker classification, considering factors such as the degree of control over the work and the worker’s opportunity for profit or loss.

Wage Payment and Deductions

Timely Payment

Employers must pay employees at least monthly or biweekly. Final paychecks must be provided immediately upon termination, or within a specified period depending on the circumstances of separation.


Employers can only make deductions from wages if they are required by law, authorized by the employee in writing, or if they benefit the employee (e.g., health insurance premiums).

Recordkeeping Requirements

Employment Records

Employers must maintain accurate records of employee hours worked, wages paid, and other employment-related information. These records must be kept for at least three years and be available for inspection by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Colorado Labor Laws

1. Are there any specific laws in Colorado regarding paid holidays?

Colorado law does not require private employers to provide paid holidays. However, many employers choose to offer paid holidays as part of their benefits package. Public sector employees typically have paid holidays based on state guidelines.

2. How does Colorado handle family and medical leave?

Colorado adheres to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons. Starting in 2024, Colorado also implemented the Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FAMLI) program, which provides paid leave benefits for qualifying employees.

3. What are the rules regarding breastfeeding breaks in Colorado?

Colorado law requires employers to provide reasonable unpaid break time or allow the use of paid break and meal time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for up to two years after the child’s birth. Employers must also make reasonable efforts to provide a private location, other than a bathroom, for this purpose.

4. Are there any laws about the payment of commissions in Colorado?

Yes, in Colorado, commission payments are considered wages. Employers must pay earned commissions according to the agreed-upon terms between the employer and the employee. Commissions should be paid within the same timelines as regular wages.

5. How does Colorado address non-compete agreements?

Colorado has strict limitations on non-compete agreements. Such agreements are generally void unless they fall under specific exceptions, such as the protection of trade secrets, recovery of education and training expenses, executive and management personnel, and certain professionals under certain conditions.

6. What protections exist for employees who report illegal activities or unsafe working conditions?

Colorado law protects whistleblowers from retaliation. Employees who report illegal activities or unsafe working conditions to a supervisor, regulatory agency, or law enforcement are protected from adverse actions such as termination, demotion, or discrimination.

7. Are there specific laws about drug testing in the workplace in Colorado?

While Colorado does not have a specific law mandating or prohibiting drug testing, employers who choose to conduct drug tests must ensure that their policies comply with federal laws and respect employee rights. The use of marijuana, although legal in Colorado, can still be restricted by employers.

8. What are the requirements for providing unemployment insurance in Colorado?

Employers in Colorado are required to pay unemployment insurance taxes. Employees who lose their jobs through no fault of their own may be eligible for unemployment benefits, provided they meet specific requirements related to work history and earnings.

9. Are there any specific rules for hiring minors in Colorado?

Yes, Colorado has specific child labor laws. Minors under the age of 14 are generally prohibited from working, with some exceptions. Those aged 14 and 15 can work in certain non-hazardous jobs, but their hours are restricted. Minors aged 16 and 17 can work in a broader range of jobs but are still restricted from certain hazardous occupations.

10. Do Colorado labor laws apply to remote workers?

Yes, Colorado labor laws apply to remote workers who are employed by a Colorado-based company or who perform work within Colorado. Employers must comply with state regulations regarding wages, overtime, and other labor standards, regardless of whether the employee works remotely.


By understanding and adhering to Colorado labor laws, HR professionals can create a compliant and equitable work environment. This FAQ section addresses common questions that supplement the detailed explanations provided in the main article, ensuring a thorough grasp of the state’s labor regulations. For specific legal advice or complex issues, consulting with a labor law attorney is recommended.