Colorado Minimum Wage Laws
Colorado’s current minimum wage rate is $12.56.
The minimum wage in Colorado, under state law, is required to increase annually, accounting for inflation. The inflation adjustment is based on changes in the consumer price index. For those who receive tips, such as servers, the minimum wage is $9.54. If an employee receives a minimum of $30 in tips per month, they are eligible to be paid the tipped minimum wage.
Employees who are deemed to have a disability that will result in less efficient work may receive up to 15% less than the standard minimum wage, as long as the employer has a license and is certified by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.
For more information on Colorado’s minimum wage, visit our Colorado Minimum Wage Laws page, which includes topics such as minimum wage, tip minimum wage, tip sharing and pooling, and subminimum wages.
The state of Colorado requires employers to pay employees overtime, unless an exemption applies, at a rate of 1½ times their regular rate when they work:
- more than 40 hours in a workweek,
- more than 12 hours in a workday, or
- 12 consecutive hours without regard to the workday.
Colorado requires employers to use the overtime rules and calculations that will result in the employers’ greatest wage payment. CO Department of Labor and Employment
Federal labor laws may also apply. For federally-defined exemptions and other regulations see FLSA: Overtime.
Colorado Prevailing Wages
Under certain circumstances, employers in Colorado may be required to pay residents wage rates established by the federal or state prevailing wage rates and rules. The prevailing wage rates may be different from the state’s standard minimum wage rates. Employees may be eligible for prevailing wages if they work on federal or state government or government-funded construction projects or perform certain federal or state government services. See the Colorado Prevailing Wages, Davis-Bacon, and Related Acts, McNamara-O’Hara Service Contract Act (SCA), and Walsh-Healey Public Contracts Act (PCA) for more information about prevailing wages.
Colorado Meals and Breaks
Colorado labor laws require employers to provide their employees with a meal period of no less than thirty (30) minutes when they work more than five (5) consecutive hours. Employers must relieve employees of all duties during the entire thirty-minute meal period and permit the employees to pursue personal activities for the entire period. This “duty-free” meal period may be unpaid. Also, when practical, employers should not require employees to take them meal breaks not earlier than one (1) hour before the start of their shift and not later than one (1) hour before the end of their shift.
When it is not practical because of the nature of an employee’s job to permit a “duty-free” meal period, the employer must permit the employee to consume an “on-duty” meal and must compensate the employee for the “on-duty” meal break.
Colorado employers must provide employees, unless an exemption applies, with a ten (10) minute paid break for every four (4) hours worked or a major fraction thereof as follows:
|Work Hours||Rest Periods Required|
|2 or fewer||0|
|Over 2, and up to 6||1|
|Over 6, and up to 10||2|
|Over 10, and up to 14||3|
|Over 14, and up to 18||4|
|Over 18, and up to 22||5|
Breaks should be in the middle of the shift, if practical. CO Reg. 7 CCR 1103-1-5.2.2
The following deviations from the standard break rules include:
- employers and employees may agree, voluntarily and without coercion, in writing covering up to one year to have the employee receive two (2) 5-minute breaks, as long as five (5) minutes is sufficient, in the work setting, to allow the employee to go back and forth to a bathroom or other location where a bona fide break would be taken; or
- break periods need not be 10 minutes every four (4) hours for any employees
- governed by a collective bargaining agreement at any employer, or
- during the time they are providing Medicaid-funded services for a service provider or agency receiving at least 75% of its annual total gross revenue from Medicaid or other governmental funds for providing such services within Medicaid home- and community-based services waivers and the services provided require continuous supervision of the service recipient, or providing a break period would interfere with ensuring the service recipient’s health, safety, and welfare. Employees in category (i) or (ii) must receive:
- break periods that average, over the workday, at least 10 minutes per four (4) hours worked, and
- at least five (5) minutes of rest in every four (4) hours worked;
- however, employers are not required to provide paid breaks when direct support professionals or direct care workers serving individuals with disabilities spend time in community outings with those individuals as part of day programs, supported living services, or one-to-one respite or personal care.
- Break periods that average, over the workday, at least 10 minutes per four (4) hours worked; and
- at least five (5) minutes of rest in every four (4) hours worked;
If an employer does not allow an employee to take a required break period, the employee’s shift is effectively extended 10 minutes of work without compensation and the employer would be required to pay that employee for that time at the parties’ agreed-upon or legally required rate. The extra time may impact the employer’s obligation to pay the employee overtime rates. CO Reg. 7 CCR 1103-1-5.2.4
Colorado Nursing Mother Breaks
The state of Colorado requires employers to provide employees who are breastfeeding with reasonable break times for up to two (2) years after the child’s birth. Employers must provide unpaid break time to express milk or permit nursing mothers to use required paid meal breaks, rest breaks, or both.
Employers must make reasonable efforts to provide nursing mothers with private locations where they may express breast milk. The locations must be in close proximity to the employees’ work areas. Toilet stalls do not meet the minimum standards.
Reasonable efforts to provide the minimum threshold for nursing mother locations may not impose an undue hardship on the employer’s business. Whether reasonable efforts cause an undue hardship is based on factors such as:
- the size of the business
- its financial resources
- the nature and structure of its operations, including consideration of the special circumstances of public safety
Colorado Equal Pay for Equal Work
The Colorado Equal Pay for Equal Work Act went into effect at the beginning of 2021. It prevents discrimination in compensation based on race, sex, sexual orientation, or other identifying characteristics. Under state law, employers may not pay an employee of one sex less than an employee of another sex for similar work without a legally justifiable reason. Employers cannot require that an employee disclose their wage history, use wage history in the hiring process, or prevent employees from discussing wage history. Employers are also required to maintain transparency around salary, including keeping records and publishing salaries in job postings. Discrimination complaints can be filed with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment against employers who fail to meet these standards. (See Colorado SB19-085 for more information.)
Colorado does not provide its employees with vacation leave benefits. However, an employer may provide such benefits to its employees. If this is the case, it must set out these terms at the beginning of employment and adhere to these terms set out in the contract or policy.
Employers in Colorado must also pay employees for earned vacation leave upon separation from employment or end of the contract. Employers may also not lawfully enforce any policy denying employees payment for their accrued vacation leave upon the contract.
Information about Colorado vacation leave laws may now be found on our Colorado Leave Laws page.
According to Colorado State law, all employees must provide their employees with accrued paid sick leave, which allows for up to 48 hours per year.
Employers are also required to provide public health emergency leave, up to 80 hours for every public health emergency.
A Colorado employer may also be required to provide employees with unpaid sick leave according to the regulations set out in the Family and Medical Leave Act or other federal laws.
Information about Colorado sick leave laws may now be found on our Colorado Leave Laws page.
Colorado does not require private employers to provide their employees with paid or unpaid holiday leave.
A private employer in Colorado may require an employee to work holidays. However, they do not have to pay an employee any premium pay, such as 1.5 times the regular rate, for working on holidays. This is the case unless that time qualifies for employee overtime as set out by federal regulations.
However, if a private employer provides unpaid or paid holiday leave, it must comply with the terms set out in the employment contract or holiday policy. In addition, various Colorado state holidays are officially recognized and observed.
Information about Colorado holiday leave laws may now be found on our Colorado Leave Laws page.
Jury Duty Leave
Colorado requires employers to pay regular employees up to $50 per day for the first three days of grand jury service or jury duty. A regular employee is one whose hours can be determined by a schedule. Employers may also not threaten, harass, penalize, discharge, or interfere with an employee for attending jury duty.
Information about Colorado jury duty leave laws may now be found on our Colorado Leave Laws page.
Colorado also mandates that employers provide their employees with up to two hours of paid voting leave.
This is the case unless an employee has:
- Failed to request that leave at least a day before the date of the election, or
- Three or more hours after the opening of polls or before the closing of polls where the voter does not have to be on the job
Furthermore, an employer is also allowed to specify the hours during which an employee can take leave to vote. If the employee requests, this voting period must fall at the beginning or end of the workday.
Information about Colorado voting leave laws may now be found on our Colorado Leave Laws page.
Colorado labor laws do not require employers to provide employees with severance pay. If an employer chooses to provide severance benefits, it must comply with the terms of its established policy or employment contract. CO DOL Advisory Bulletin and Resource Guide.
Under certain circumstances, Colorado residents may be eligible for unemployment benefits while they search for another job. You are required to certify that you are unemployed on a weekly basis to receive these benefits.
Workers in Colorado may also qualify for unemployment benefits if they are working reduced hours or have lost their job due to no fault of their own. If you lost your job due to your own fault, you would not qualify. Moreover, you have to be or have to have been a traditional employee whose employer takes taxes out of your paycheck.
You must also have earned at least $2,500 in wages in the last four quarters. You must also be unemployed or currently working less than 32 hours per week and earning less than the weekly amount that unemployment benefits generally pay. You also must be able to work and available for work, and actively seek employment.