Colorado’s economy is booming, and our unemployment rate has plummeted to one of the lowest in the nation. But the benefits of that economic growth aren’t shared by everyone. Many Coloradans still have trouble meeting mounting financial pressures from mortgages, student loans, medical bills, and other expenses.

The Problems of Wage Theft, Anticompetitive Agreements, and Cutting Corners

Too many workers aren’t paid their lawful wages—some employers deduct fees off their workers’ paychecks, misclassify workers as independent contractors, or refuse to pay their workers at all. According to recent estimates, “wage theft” costs Colorado workers around $750 million per year. And that figure doesn’t even take into account anticompetitive and coercive tactics that some employers use to suppress wages—like forcing workers to enter into non-compete agreements or agreeing with their competitors to cap salaries and not hire each other’s workers.  

When some businesses cut corners, it harms the economy by putting responsible businesses at an unfair disadvantage.  It becomes very hard, for example, for a law-abiding construction company to win contracts when its competitors misclassify their low-wage construction employees as independent contractors and pocket the savings. Moreover, small businesses suffer from wage theft and wage stagnation when working families have less money to spend at the grocery store or local restaurant.   

Consumers are also put at risk when businesses cut corners and treat workers unfairly.  Consider the case of home health care workers. When providers cheat home health care professionals out of wages and overtime premiums, workers are more likely to leave, creating potential risks for the seniors when they lose continuity of care and end up with lower quality of care.

My Plan to Protect Colorado Workers

As your next Attorney General, I will stand up for Colorado’s workers.  I will protect our workers and hold irresponsible companies accountable when they mistreat their employees.

I will also reward responsible businesses that do right by their workers.  One way to do so is to develop voluntary certification programs for employers who follow the rules and pay a living wage. These programs would benefit “high-road employers” and the customers and contractors who want to do business them. These certifications could be provided to subcontractors who properly classify their employees, pay them overtime, and obtain workers’ compensation insurance—as opposed to hiring shady labor brokers who do none of these things.

Certifications would signal to developers and general contractors that they have reason to trust those companies to provide reliable and high-quality labor, thereby reducing their risk of ending up on the hook for unpaid wages.

In other states, Attorneys General are taking action and calling out predatory employers.  Whether it’s fighting against wage theft or encouraging companies to follow best practices in treating workers fairly, I will protect hard-working Coloradans and ensure they are treated fairly.  One critical element of my plan is to protect workers who are threatened by employers to keep silent in the face of illegal activity. These workers are often told they’ll lose their jobs or be turned over to immigration authorities if they confront abusive practices.  As our next Attorney General, I will take action to protect workers from such practices.

Another important enforcement effort is to ensure that workers can benefit from competition for their services.  When I served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the Justice Department, we investigated abusive “no poach” agreements where companies agree not to recruit or hire each other’s employees.  Ultimately, the Obama Administration set an important precedent in this area, establishing that workers are entitled to have employers compete for their skills.

As Attorney General, I will target these “no hire” agreements and investigate employers that violate state-level protections against abusive non-compete agreements. Currently, nearly one in five U.S. workers is harmed by such agreements, according to the U.S. Treasury Department.  Attorneys General in other states have already begun to target these abuses for enforcement action.

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We need to fight to make sure that Colorado remains a leader in economic growth and innovation and to ensure that everyone has a fair shot to benefit from our success. To do that, everyone must be treated fairly. Employers who steal wages or abuse their positions of power should be punished, and the high-road employers who make our economy tick should be rewarded for their choices.  

Colorado’s innovative spirit—and our commitment to look out for one another—makes us unique.  Please join my campaign so I can be an Attorney General who leads our state under just this approach.