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Denver wants subpoena power to track companies not paying minimum or prevailing wages

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(The Center Square) – With one of the highest minimum wages in the country, the city of Denver is looking to give subpoena power to its auditor so it can go after businesses for what it has deemed “wage theft.”

The city of Denver’s auditor is the only elected official without subpoena power. The city stated that sometimes employers refuse to provide information necessary for investigators to enforce the city’s minimum wage and prevailing wage laws. The city wants to give the auditor the ability to fine businesses that don’t comply a $1,000 daily fine. The bill is before the city council on April 29.

Currently, the city can fine businesses $1,000 for failing to provide documentation.

The city of Denver’s prevailing wage ordinance requires payment of the prevailing wage on any contracts with the city that are more than $2,000 that involve construction, improvement, repair, maintenance, demolition or janitorial work.

There have been many studies about the cost of prevailing wage laws. The Michigan House Fiscal Agency produced a report in 2015 that highlighted studies that showed the increased costs in the law. One 2011 study of construction costs in resurfacing highways in Colorado found there was no statistically significant increase in costs due to prevailing wage. Other studies cited found increased costs due to prevailing wage.

The city of Denver’s minimum wage is $18.29 an hour in 2024. The state of Colorado’s minimum wage is $14.42 per hour. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.

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