Colorado Labor Laws: A Complete Guide to Wages, Breaks, Overtime, and More (2024)

In this article, we’ll dive deep into Colorado’s labor laws, with details on all the important aspects of the state’s regulations on your employees.

Labor laws are the backbone of our workforce. They shape how employees and employers interact and ensure fairness in the workplace.

In this article, we’re exploring Colorado labor laws as a part of our comprehensive 50-state series.

Colorado labor laws encompass a broad spectrum of regulations governing various aspects of employment, from minimum wage and overtime to meal breaks and child labor restrictions.

Understanding these laws is not just a legal obligation but a critical factor in fostering a fair and equitable work environment. Today, we’ll provide a comprehensive guide to Colorado labor laws for employers and employees to use as a reference. 

Employers have a responsibility to adhere to labor laws, ensuring that their employees are treated fairly, paid justly, and provided with a safe work environment. Conversely, employees must understand their rights and protections under these laws, empowering them to assert their entitlements when necessary.

In our journey through Colorado labor laws, we’ll explore hiring practices, wages and benefits, prevailing wages, overtime regulations, meals and breaks, and more. 

Let’s dive in.

Meals and Breaks in Colorado

Colorado labor laws outline specific requirements for meal and rest breaks to ensure that workers have opportunities to rest and refuel during their workday. 

State Requirements for Meal Breaks

Employees in Colorado who work shifts of five or more consecutive hours must receive an uninterrupted, unpaid meal break of at least 30 minutes. This break should occur no later than five hours into the shift. This aligns with federal regulations outlined in the FLSA.

State Requirements for Rest Breaks

For every four hours of work, employees in Colorado are entitled to a paid rest break of at least 10 minutes. These rest breaks are considered working time and must be compensated. 

This differs from the federal law, which does not explicitly require rest breaks.

Leave and Paid Time Off (PTO) in Colorado

Family and Medical Leave in Colorado

Colorado provides job-protected family and medical leave through the Colorado Family Care Act (CFCA).

This law allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period for specific family and medical reasons, including the birth or adoption of a child, serious health conditions, or caring for a family member with a serious health condition.

Sick Leave in Colorado

Colorado has taken significant steps to ensure employees can access paid sick leave. Under the Healthy Families and Workplaces Act, employers must provide sick leave to their employees. This means that employees accrue 1 hour of sick leave per 30 hours worked (up to 48 hours per year), which they can use for their own illness or to care for a family member.

Vacation Time in Colorado

While Colorado law does not require employers to provide paid vacation, it does require employers to fulfill their promises regarding vacation pay, as per employment contracts or company policies.

Employer Obligations in Colorado

Colorado employers must provide the leave benefits mandated by the CFCA and the Healthy Families and Workplaces Act. They must ensure that eligible employees have access to family and medical leave and paid sick leave as specified by law.

Furthermore, employers must accurately track and record employees’ accrual and usage of sick leave, ensuring they receive their rightful benefits. Additionally, they must refrain from retaliation against employees who exercise their rights to take leave as granted by Colorado labor laws.

Overtime Regulations in Colorado

In Colorado, overtime regulations are designed to ensure that employees are fairly compensated for their extra hours of labor.

Overtime Laws in Colorado

Colorado follows the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) in regulating overtime pay.

Exempt Employees

Certain employees, such as salaried managers, professionals, and administrative workers, may be exempt from overtime requirements. To qualify for these exemptions, employees must meet specific criteria outlined by the FLSA.

Wages and Benefits in Colorado

Minimum Wage Laws and Exceptions

Colorado is dedicated to ensuring its workforce receives fair compensation.

As of January 1, 2023, Colorado’s minimum wage is $13.65 per hour. However, it’s important to note that Colorado has a tiered minimum wage system that varies based on location and job type.

Tipped Employees in Colorado

For tipped employees, such as waitstaff, the minimum wage is lower, with a minimum cash wage of $10.63 per hour in Colorado, provided that tips bring their earnings up to at least $13.65 per hour.

Youth Minimum Wage in Colorado

Employers can pay minors 85% of the Colorado minimum wage. In 2023, this would amount to $11.61 instead of the complete $13.65 minimum wage. However, there are exceptions to this rule:

Example: Johnny, a minor, worked 10 hours in 2023. His employer, Thomas, paid him $8.65/hour. Because Thomas chose to pay Johnny less than the state-mandated minimum wage for minors in Colorado, Thomas must now pay Johnny the standard minimum wage of $13.65. Thomas owes Johnny $50, or $5.00, for every hour worked.

Pay Frequency, Pay Stubs, and Final Paychecks

Colorado labor law mandates that employers must pay their employees at regular intervals, whether weekly, biweekly, or monthly. The space between paydays can not exceed one month or 30 calendar days, whichever is longer. 

Additionally, employers must provide employees with detailed pay stubs that include information about hours worked, pay rates, deductions, and total earnings.

When an employee is terminated, the employer must provide their final paycheck immediately. The exception to this rule is when the payroll department is not scheduled to work, in which case it should be provided within six hours on the next workday. If the payroll department is off-site, the final paycheck must be delivered within 24 hours of the employee’s next regular workday. 

When an employee resigns, the final paycheck should be issued on the next regularly scheduled payday, and it must include any unused vacation pay as per the individual contract.

Mandatory and Optional Benefits in Colorado

Colorado law doesn’t mandate private employers to provide specific benefits like health insurance or retirement plans to their employees. However, many employers in the state do offer these benefits to attract and retain talent.

Employers may choose to provide a range of benefits, such as health insurance, dental coverage, retirement plans like 401(k)s, paid time off (PTO) or vacation days, and other perks to enhance the overall compensation package and job satisfaction for their employees.

Prevailing Wages in Colorado

Regarding public works projects in Colorado, ensuring workers receive fair and competitive wages is a top priority. This is where the concept of prevailing wages comes into play, ensuring laborers are compensated adequately for their contributions.

Understanding Prevailing Wages in Colorado

Prevailing wages, also known as “Davis-Bacon” wages at the federal level, are predetermined hourly wage rates set by the U.S. Department of Labor.


These rates ensure workers on public works projects, such as construction, renovation, or infrastructure development, are paid wages that reflect the local labor market’s standards.


In Colorado, prevailing wages are determined based on the type of work, location, and classification of workers. These rates are meant to prevent unfair wage competition and maintain the quality of work on public projects by ensuring workers are compensated at levels consistent with the local labor market.

Accessing Current Prevailing Wage Rates

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) is the primary source for prevailing wage rates. They provide detailed wage schedules that encompass various trades and classifications, making it easier for employers to determine the appropriate wages to pay their workers.

Employers can visit the CDLE‘s website or contact their local labor office for the most up-to-date prevailing wage rates. The CDLE regularly updates these rates to reflect changes in the local labor market, ensuring that workers receive competitive compensation for their valuable contributions to public works projects.

Hiring Practices in Colorado

When it comes to hiring practices in Colorado, both employers and job seekers need to understand the state’s unique regulations.

Job Postings, Interviews, and Hiring Decisions

Colorado labor laws don’t prescribe specific requirements for job postings, interviews, or hiring decisions. However, employers must maintain transparency and fairness throughout the hiring process. Job postings should accurately represent the position, and interviews should focus on the candidate’s qualifications, skills, and experience relevant to the job.

Background Checks and Drug Testing in Colorado

Colorado follows the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and federal laws concerning background checks.

Employers must obtain written consent from candidates before conducting a background check. If adverse action is taken based on the results of a background check, employers must follow specific notification procedures outlined in the FCRA.

Colorado has legalized recreational marijuana, but employers still have the right to enforce drug-free workplace policies and conduct drug testing.

Anti-Discrimination Laws and Equal Employment Opportunities

Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA) prohibits discrimination in employment based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, and age. Employers are required to provide equal employment opportunities to all individuals.

In addition, Colorado law prohibits employers from asking job applicants about their criminal history on initial job applications to promote fair hiring practices.

Employer Reporting Requirements in Colorado

Employers in the Centennial State are subject to various reporting requirements that are crucial in maintaining transparency and accountability.

Recordkeeping Requirements in Colorado

Employers in Colorado are required to maintain accurate records of employment-related information. This includes payroll records, personnel files, tax records, and records related to workplace safety. The retention period for these records may vary, but employers must preserve them for the specified duration to comply with state regulations.

Unemployment Insurance Reporting in Colorado

Employers must report wage and employment information to the CDLE for the administration of unemployment insurance. This reporting helps determine unemployment benefits eligibility for former employees.

Workers' Compensation Reporting in Colorado

Colorado also requires employers to report workplace injuries and illnesses to their workers’ compensation insurance carrier. Prompt and accurate reporting is crucial to ensure injured employees receive the benefits they are entitled to under the state’s workers’ compensation program.

E-Verify and Employment Eligibility Verification

Colorado employers must participate in the federal E-Verify program to verify the employment eligibility of newly hired employees. This program ensures that employees are legally authorized to work in the United States.

Health and Safety Standards in Colorado

Workplace Safety Regulations

Colorado’s workplace safety regulations are primarily enforced by the CDLE. Employers are required to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards, ensuring the safety and health of their employees.

The CDLE offers guidance and compliance assistance to employers, helping them understand and implement safety regulations effectively. 

Resources for Reporting Unsafe Conditions

In Colorado, employers and employees have the right to report unsafe working conditions. Employees can submit complaints through the CDLE’s online reporting system, allowing them to voice their concerns and request investigations into potential hazards.

Additionally, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) operates in Colorado to enforce federal workplace safety standards. Employees can also report unsafe conditions to OSHA, leading to investigations and corrective actions when necessary.

Child Labor Laws in Colorado: Protecting Our Young Workers

When it comes to the employment of minors, Colorado, like other states, has established child labor laws to protect young workers

Work Permit Requirements in Colorado

Colorado does NOT require minors to obtain a work permit before they work.

Age Restrictions in Colorado

Colorado’s child labor laws also set specific age restrictions for various types of work. For example, minors as young as 12 can work in non-hazardous jobs.

Hour Limitations in Colorado

To prevent overworking young employees, Colorado limits the hours and times children can work. For example, during the school year, 14 and 15-year-olds can work a maximum of 18 hours per week and are restricted from working during school hours unless they have a permit.

Employee Termination and Resignation in Colorado

Navigating the intricacies of employee termination and resignation is a crucial aspect of human resource management for businesses in Colorado. 

Legal Requirements for Termination in Colorado

Colorado follows the doctrine of at-will employment, meaning that employers and employees have the right to terminate the employment relationship at any time and for any reason, with some exceptions

Note: Providing notice of resignation is considered a professional courtesy and can help maintain positive working relationships.

Notice Requirements and Severance Pay Obligations

Colorado does not have state-specific laws mandating notice periods or severance pay upon termination.

However, employers should know that employment contracts, collective bargaining agreements, or established company policies may outline specific notice requirements and severance pay obligations.


Colorado, while not a traditional right-to-work state, operates under the Labor Peace Act, allowing workers in most workplaces to choose whether to join a union or pay dues, even while enjoying the same benefits and compensation as union members. 

Unemployment Benefits in Colorado

Unemployment benefits serve as a financial safety net for individuals who find themselves out of work through no fault of their own. 

Unemployment Eligibility Requirements in Colorado

To qualify for unemployment benefits in Colorado, individuals must meet specific criteria. They must have earned at least $2,500 during their base period, which typically consists of the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters before the date they file their claim. Additionally, applicants must be able and available for work, actively seeking employment, and not responsible for their job loss.

Unemployment Application Process in Colorado

To apply for unemployment benefits in Colorado, individuals can visit the CDLE’s website or contact their local workforce center.

The application process involves providing personal and employment information, including details about their former employers and the reason for job separation. Once approved, recipients must regularly certify their eligibility and actively search for suitable employment.

Unemployment Resources for Employers in Colorado

Employers play a crucial role in the unemployment benefits process. They’re responsible for providing accurate information about their former employees’ separation from work.

To assist employers in understanding their role, the CDLE offers resources and guidelines on its website, including information about responding to claims and appeals, as well as how unemployment benefits affect their tax liability.

Penalties for Noncompliance in Colorado

Wage Violations

Wage violations in Colorado can be complicated. Check out this breakdown from the CDLE for the full scope: 

In or after 2023, the penalties depend on whether the violation is “willful”:

Unemployment Insurance Tax Violations

Employers who neglect their unemployment insurance tax obligations may be subject to a civil fine of up to $5,000 and possible prosecution.

Worker's Compensation Violations

Failure to provide workers’ compensation coverage can result in $500 per day that the employer is uninsured.

Child Labor Violations

Employers who violate child labor laws may be fined up to $14,050 per worker.

How Enforcement Works

The CDLE is the primary agency responsible for enforcing labor laws in the state. Enforcement typically occurs through two methods.

Reporting Violations

Colorado law also protects whistleblowers who report labor law violations. Employees who report such violations are protected from retaliation by their employers.

The state provides online reporting mechanisms for individuals to report labor law violations to the CDLE. This allows concerned individuals to bring potential violations to the attention of authorities swiftly.

Other Essential Information About Colorado Labor Laws

Equal Pay for Equal Work Act

Colorado is committed to pay equity.

The state has implemented the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, which prohibits pay discrimination based on gender. Employers must provide equal pay to employees who perform substantially similar work, regardless of their gender.

Labor Unions and Collective Bargaining

Colorado is not a traditional right-to-work state, but labor unions still play a role in Colorado’s workforce. Employees have the right to organize and engage in collective bargaining if they choose to do so.

Resources and Further Reading on Colorado Labor Laws

Navigating the labyrinth of labor laws in Colorado can be a challenging task, but fortunately, there’s a treasure trove of resources and information available to help you on your journey.

Official State Government Resources

The primary authority on labor laws in Colorado.

Contact Number: (303) 318-8000

This division of the CDLE specializes in labor standards, including minimum wage, overtime, and wage claim procedures.

A division of the CDLE that provides guidance on workers’ compensation.

Contact Number: (303) 318-8700

Legal Aid Organizations

Colorado Legal Services offers free legal assistance to low-income individuals and seniors. They can provide guidance on labor law issues and even represent clients in legal proceedings.

RMIAN offers legal services to immigrants in Colorado, including those facing employment-related issues. Their resources can be particularly helpful for understanding labor rights in diverse communities.

The Bottom Line on Colorado Labor Laws

Throughout this article, we’ve uncovered the principles of at-will employment, dived into minimum wage and overtime regulations, and explored the nuances of leave and paid time off. We’ve shed light on child labor laws, employee termination procedures, and the potential penalties for noncompliance. 

Compliance with Colorado labor laws is not merely a matter of following the rules; it’s about creating fair, just, and equitable workplaces for all. Whether you’re an employer aiming to foster a lawful and supportive environment or an employee seeking to understand your rights, adherence to these regulations ensures that the Centennial State’s workforce thrives.

While we’ve covered a substantial amount of ground, the world of labor laws can be intricate, with unique situations and circumstances. Therefore, if you have specific questions or concerns about labor laws in Colorado, don’t hesitate to seek legal advice. Labor law professionals can provide tailored guidance to address your particular needs and challenges.

Remember that knowledge is your most potent tool. Understanding and complying with labor laws not only safeguards your rights but also fosters a more just and equitable work environment in this breathtaking state. So, whether you’re an employer, employee, or simply someone interested in the world of labor, keep exploring, learning, and building a brighter future in the Centennial State! 


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If you operate a construction or field services company, we humbly suggest trying Workyard for your compliance needs.

Workyard is built around the industry’s most accurate GPS tracking and geofencing technology, which ensures payroll accuracy across your workforce, no matter which job site you send them to or when you need them to work there. Workyard’s timesheet tracking system also comes with built-in federal and state overtime rules, as well as adjustable break rules you can customize at the employee level.

Workyard’s intuitive scheduling dashboard makes it easy to direct your workforce to the jobs you need done, based on their skill sets, their locations, their availability, and (of course) their weekly time worked – so you can avoid unnecessary overtime payments and reduce reimbursible travel expenses.

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