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Gov. John Hickenlooper gives a ceremonial pen to Rep. Jessie Danielson, D-Wheat Ridge, who drove legislation to make wage-theft violations a matter of public record. The bill's Senate sponsor, John Cooke, R-Greeley, is at left. (Photo courtesy of the Democratic House Press Office)
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In Colorado, if your boss rips you off, it’s no longer a secret

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Bad bosses, listen up: If you rip off employees — pinch their tips, pay less than minimum wage, deny overtime or jilt them on expenses — that’s no longer a “trade secret” but now a matter of public record in Colorado.

This week Gov. John Hickenlooper put another notch in the legislative pistol of Rep. Jessie Danielson, D-Wheat Ridge, when he signed her House Bill 1021, a new law to reclassify wage-theft violations as open records.

That way potential job applicants and those who do business with companies can get an idea of how they treat their employees.

“I fought to pass this bill because I believe an honest day’s work deserves an honest day’s pay,” Danielson said. “This law will empower honest, hard-working Coloradans and level the playing field for businesses that do right by their employees.”

The governor has signed eight bills Danielson has co-sponsored this session and has one that has passed both chamber that he’s waiting to sponsor. Danielson has five other bills she’s trying to get get to his desk before the end of the session, May 10.The wage-theft bill’s sponsor in the Senate brought a lot of law-enforcement credibility, fair-mindedness and GOP votes to the bill, John Cooke, R-Greeley, the former Weld County sheriff and a rising star in the statehouse.

The bill had a fairly easy ride this year, passing the Senate 24-1 on March 28 and the House 51-14 on Feb. 23.

A similar Danielson bill was killed on a party-line vote in a Senate committee last year, when it was sponsored by Danielson and former Democratic Sen. Jessie Ulibarri of Westminster.

Jeffrey Roberts, the executive director of Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition (and, disclosure, my good friend), explained the difference a year made for the bill on his blog:

Danielson negotiated new statutory language acceptable to state officials, labor advocates and business groups. Before citation and assessment information can be released under CORA, employers will have 20 days to object if they believe the documents actually do contain trade secrets that must be kept confidential. The director of the Division of Labor then determines whether the records, or any portion of them, should be withheld from the public.

The labor division closed 3,401 wage-and-hour claims in 2016 and issued 274 citations. During the first two months of this year, it closed 663 claims and issued 134 citations.

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