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Small business owners may face felony charges for wage theft

Posted on June 23, 2021

Colorado law classifies the intentional nonpayment of an employee’s wages worth at least $2,000 as a felony theft offense. As noted by Construction Dive, nonpayment may include paying employees late or deducting unauthorized expenses.

An employer may generally deduct costs for tools, materials and transportation from employees with their consent. In some cases, a small business owner may discover that an employee filed a report for underpayment. Countering a prosecutor’s theft charges may require evidence based on employment records.

Workers may claim an employer misclassified them

An individual working as an independent contractor may claim that he or she performs tasks that reflect the duties of an employee. Allegations of misclassifying workers may lead to claims of underpayment and raise suspicions that an employer engaged in wage theft.

The U.S. Department of Labor requires employers to provide employees with an hourly minimum wage and overtime compensation. Colorado employers who misclassify employees as independent contractors to avoid labor laws may face felony theft offense charges.

Colorado contractor pleads guilty to tax evasion and wage theft

As reported by the Vail Daily, two individuals working for a Colorado contractor filed an official complaint with the local district attorney’s office. The workers claimed that the contractor did not pay them for their labor.

An investigation uncovered that the contractor did not file state income tax returns as required. Law enforcement charged the contractor with six counts of felony tax evasion and two counts of felony wage theft. He pleaded guilty to one charge of tax evasion and one wage theft charge. By agreeing to pay restitution, the contractor avoided imprisonment.

Wage theft allegations may require a strong defense to avoid the severe penalties that could result from a conviction. Employment contracts, invoices or payroll records may help counter a worker’s claim of unpaid labor.