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 The information had previously been classified as a “trade secret” under an outdated law.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.
“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.
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
The trial of Larry and Carri Williams in Skagit County has revealed details of alleged child abuse, and highlighted gaps in protection of adopted children in Washington.
Read it in the Seattle Times. Originally published August 19, 2013.
In the past 10 years, the Publix has had few occupants — a handful of businesses, artists and pigeons. Today paint blisters off the ceiling in the lobby, crumbling into grit that coats the oyster-cracker-shaped floor tiles and wooden front desk.
Now this Chinatown International District hotel is at the corner of history and change.
Read it in the Seattle Times. Originally published July 31, 2013.
BURLINGTON — Against a backdrop of blackberries ripening in the afternoon sun, about 100 striking migrant farmworkers at Sakuma Bros. Farms chanted and protested here Wednesday after wage negotiations with the company broke down and the latest work stoppage entered a third day.
The workers say Sakuma has threatened to evict them from company-owned housing if they don’t return to work.
Read it in the Seattle Times. Originally published July 24, 2013.
While most area churches are continuing to sponsor Scouting troops under a new policy that gay children must be allowed to join, three churches are ending their sponsorships while other churches, and some Scouting families, are conflicted by the change.
Read it in the Seattle Times. Originally published June 24, 2013.