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Colorado Lawmaker Fighting Against Wage Thefts

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DENVER (CBS4) – A state lawmaker is trying to crack down on bosses who don’t pay their employees what they’re owed.

About 5,000 workers filed complaints with the Colorado Department of Labor last year. However, even when there’s evidence of wage theft there’s not much the state can do to help right now.

“There’s a misconception this kind of thing doesn’t happen in Colorado, but it does,” said victim Chelsea Blocklin.

Blocklin told a house committee on Tuesday that, like most waitresses, she spends on tips and her employer stole them from her.

“Conservatively I’m guessing I’m owed $1,000 – $2,000,” she said.

There’s little she can currently do about it. While most Colorado workplaces pay workers what they are owed those that don’t often get away with it.

The Colorado Department of Labor offers mediation, but, when that fails, workers are left with hiring an attorney if they can afford one or filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor if they can afford to wait.

“There are only 1,000 investigators for 7 million workplaces,” said State Rep. Jonathan Singer.

Singer, a Democrat who represents the Longmont area, is carrying a bill that would give state labor officials the power to investigate when mediation falls through and decide who’s telling the truth.

“And make that decision in a fast track process that keeps lawyers out of this,” he said.

The Colorado Restaurant Association opposes the bill but some restaurant owners like Jose Avila support it.

“I’m not into politics at all but if you don’t have anything to hide it shouldn’t be a problem,” said Avila, who owns Machete, a Denver Mexican restaurant.

As for Chelsea Blocklin, she got a lawyer and hopes to someday get her money.

“As of right now my attorney told me this process could take up to two years,” said Blocklin.

“A lot of people say theft is theft is theft. I think wage theft is the worst kind of theft because you steal only someone’s money but you steal their work and you steal their dignity,” said Singer.

While Republicans on the committee opposed the bill on Tuesday, it has already passed out of the state Senate and now goes to the state House.

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