Lawmakers in Colorado are in the process of evaluating House Bill 1267, which would reclassify wage theft from a misdemeanor to a felony if the amount at issue exceeds $2,000.00. Under existing Colorado law, an employer may be guilty of wage theft if it willfully refuses to pay a wage claim or falsely denies the amount or validity of a wage claim, with the intent to annoy, harass, oppress, hinder, or defraud the employee. House Bill 1267 redefines wage theft as theft—meaning that wage theft would be subject to the same penalties set forth in Colorado’s theft statute. The bill also removes the existing exemption from criminal penalties applicable to an employer that is unable to pay wages due to Chapter 7 bankruptcy or other court action resulting in the employer having limited control over its assets.

House Bill 1267 defines an employee as any person performing labor or services for the benefit of an employer; and relevant factors in determining status as an employee include the degree of control the employer may or does exercise over the person and the degree to which the person performs work that is the primary work of the employer. The bill defines an employer as having the same definition under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

House Bill 1267 is responsive to recommendations from the Colorado Human Trafficking Council. The bill has passed its third reading of the Colorado House and has been introduced to the Colorado Senate.