On April 13, 2017 Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed House Bill 17-1021, which opened up wage theft violations and enforcement actions to the public. The information had previously been classified as a “trade secret” under an outdated law. The idea for the bill came from a story I did two years earlier for Rocky Mountain PBS News showing how the opaque law shielded unlawful employers from public view.
“A Sentenced Life” is a Rocky Mountain PBS News documentary by Anna Boiko-Weyrauch and Joe Mahoney that follows four Coloradans of color as they navigate four stages of the criminal justice system. Narrated by Steve Chavis.
BY ANNA BOIKO-WEYRAUCH
Rocky Mountain PBS News
At a time when inequities in criminal justice are the focus of intense national debate, blacks and Latinos are overrepresented at every step in Colorado’s criminal process compared to their numbers in the general population.
Black and Latino Coloradans are disproportionately incarcerated, shot by police, arrested and detained as youth, arrested for marijuana, sent back to prison from parole, and disadvantaged by a criminal record, a Rocky Mountain PBS News examination of state data, records and reports shows.
“You gotta breathe, stay with me, you’re going to be fine,” he kept telling her.
After a minute, the woman made a face when Gordon rubbed her sternum—a technique for assessing responsiveness—and squeezed his hand a little. He knew then that the antidote was working, he said.
Read the full story for the health equity news blog of The Colorado Trust here.
For Inside Energy. Aired on KUNC October 6th, 2016 and on The Texas Standard October 13th, 2016.
Researchers nationwide are starting to take a closer look at how air emissions from oil and gas development affect public health. One worrying kind of pollution is ozone, which can harm people and the environment. Children with asthma are especially vulnerable.
Read more here.
In these two stories I analyzed data on random audits conducted by the Division of Unemployment Insurance of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment and used statistical methods to estimate the rate of misclassification and unpaid premiums to the state as a whole. The results were validated by two statisticians who are officers of the Colorado-Wyoming chapter of the American Statistical Association.
I found Colorado state lost an estimated $114 million to $124 million since 2011 and the rate of misclassified workers has more than doubled, from at least 6 percent of the work force to at least 13 percent, according to the analysis. The average amount of unpaid premiums has also nearly doubled from at least $69 to $124 per employee annually.
If you work, what happens if you don’t get paid? That’s the situation for countless workers across Colorado and the United States.
During my time at Rocky Mountain PBS I-News, I researched and wrote about enforcement of state and federal wage and hour laws in Colorado. It’s an important issue and happens probably more often, and in more industries, than you think.
This series led to proposed legislation in 2016 to improve transparency of Colorado wage law violations and a state investigation into three construction contractors. It also helped recover lost wages for two gas station workers. The stories became required reading in a University of Denver class.
Here are the stories in print, with accompanying audio versions:
- Wage Investigations a Steady Issue for Bradley Petroleum Gas Stations, One of Colorado’s Oldest Employers (Audio)
- Lawsuits Allege Chipotle Mexican Grill Underpaid Employees, Made Them Work ‘Off the Clock’ (Audio)
- Colorado Law Shields Employer Violations (Audio)
- Spa Schemes Illustrate Impotency of State Law in Recovering Stolen Wages (Audio)
- State Wage Theft Cases Number in Thousands Each Year, Inquiry Finds
- Colorado Community Colleges Lean on Low-Paid Adjuncts