What are my rights and do I qualify as a whistleblower?

When informing the authorities or others regarding your employer’s illicit or illegal activity, you have certain protections under Federal and Colorado state laws. At the Civil Rights Litigation Group, we understand that being a whistleblower is no easy task, and although you have rights that protect against retaliation, your employer may still try to retaliate against you.

woman on phone thinking about being a whistleblowerWhether your issue involves a layoff, changes in work schedules, “blacklisting,” cuts in hours, and more, you can call Denver CO civil rights and whistleblower attorney Raymond K. Bryant today. We offer free consultations, and, if we decide to take your case, we’ll employ a vast network of resources, diligent investigation, and vigorous representation to make sure that your rights are protected.

In the meantime, you can learn more about whether or not you qualify as a whistleblower below.

Federal whistleblower laws and you

If you feel that an employer is retaliating against you for whistleblowing, the federal agency known as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) may be on your side. Whistleblowing is an employee right, and OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program enforces the whistleblower provisions of more than twenty whistleblower statutes. These statutes protect employees who report violations of the law regarding the following:

  • Workplace safety and health
  • Airline
  • Commercial motor carrier
  • Consumer product
  • Environmental
  • Financial reform
  • Food safety
  • Health insurance reform
  • Motor vehicle safety
  • Nuclear
  • Pipeline
  • Public transportation
  • Railroad
  • Maritime
  • Securities

 

Regarding the OSHA, Section 11(c) of the OSH Act prohibits employers from discriminating against their employees for exercising their rights (detailed under the OSH Act). The rights detailed under this Act include, but are not limited to, worker protections when participating in an inspection or talking to an inspector, seeking access to employer exposure and injury records, reporting an injury, and raising a safety or health complaint with the employer.

It is also important to note that whistleblowers are protected under the federal False Claims Act, and whistleblowers can report securities fraud (SEC and CFTC) and illegal actions involving the IRS.

Federal employers, on the other hand, can refer to the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989. This Act only protects federal employees who report agency misconduct, such as illegal practices, gross mismanagement, abuse of authority, or practices that endanger public health.

Whistleblowing and retaliation

Naturally, some employers who willfully and intentionally engage in misconduct won’t be too happy when an employee reports the illegal activity. As such, some employers may wish to retaliate against whistleblowers through some of the following methods:

  • Blacklisting
  • Demotion
  • Firing
  • Denying overtime or promotion
  • Denial of benefits
  • Making threats, intimidation, or harassment
  • Reducing pay
  • Reassignment to a less desirable position

Additionally, it’s important to note that, when reporting to OSHA, workers who have been retaliated or discriminated against must file a complaint within 30 days of the alleged adverse action. Some types of complaints, such as those that apply to the Energy Reorganization Act or the Federal Railroad Safety Act, allow up to 180 days to file.

OSHA enforces many of the retaliation laws, but because Colorado is a federal-OSHA, retaliation protections apply to federal employees as well as private sector employees where the employer has more than 10 employees.

Do you qualify as a whistleblower?

So, now that you know some of the basic protections regarding whistleblowers in Colorado, the question remains, “Do you qualify as a whistleblower?”

Fortunately, the answer is quite broad, as, depending on the illegal activity being reported, a whistleblower can be a public or private employee, a contractor or a subcontractor, or even a non-employee who can document fraud against Colorado or local governments. Regardless of the illegal activity or fraud that you are reporting, there are some general guidelines that show who has a better opportunity for success when whistleblowing. These guidelines include:

  • The whistleblower has actual knowledge of the illegal act, not just hearsay or suspicion
  • The whistleblower can provide hard evidence of the illegal activity, such as emails or internal documents, among others
  • The evidence is specific and details the “who, what, when, and where”
  • The whistleblower’s information must be original; it cannot come from a publicly disclosed source

Contact the Civil Rights Litigation Group today

If you are unsure about whistleblowing, you feel that you need strong legal backing on your side, or you are experiencing retaliation for exercising your rights, then don’t hesitate a second longer and call Denver CO employee rights attorney Raymond K. Bryant at the Civil Rights Litigation Group. By calling us for a free, no-obligation consultation, we will carefully and compassionately (and confidentially) listen to your case and determine whether you have a whistleblower case. If so, we will vigorously and relentlessly pursue your claims to the fullest extent of the law.

Call the Civil Rights Litigation Group at 720-515-6165 today!

Unpaid overtime – should I hire an employee rights attorney?

Every worker in Colorado, and throughout the United States, deserves to paid for the work that he/she conducted. When workers are required (or voluntarily) to work overtime, they also deserve the necessary overtime pay. Unfortunately, there have been many cases right here in Denver where employers didn’t pay their employees’ the correct wages as well as overtime wages, resulting in unpaid overtime.

Colorado Unpaid Overtime Violations | Denver CO Employee Rights Attorney

In Colorado, state and federal laws determine how much (and when) an employee must be paid. However, if your employer hasn’t paid the correct wages or overtime wages, you need to contact the leading Denver unpaid wages attorney as soon as possible. At the Civil Rights Litigation Group, we’re experienced employee rights and trial attorneys, and we boast the know-how and litigation strategies to fight against workplace injustices. Don’t ignore unpaid overtime, and call attorney Raymond K. Bryant at (720) 515-6165.

In the meantime, you can learn more about unpaid overtime below.

Unpaid overtime and wages

For every hour that an employee works, he/she is rightfully owed at least the minimum wage. In Colorado, that minimum wage is $9.30 per hour. Although the federal minimum wage is $7.25, any employee working in Colorado is owed the state minimum wage. In cases where the city or county minimum wage is higher than the state minimum wage, employees are owed the higher amount. If your employer has underpaid you, such as by paying the federal minimum wage, you may have an unpaid wage claim.

Unpaid wage claims do occur, but the most common type of employee wage violation is unpaid overtime. In short, employees in Colorado are entitled to overtime if they work more than 40 hours a week, more than 12 hours a day, or more than 12 consecutive hours. For overtime hours, employers must pay their employees time-and-a-half, which equates to an extra 50% of your hourly rate on top of your regular pay. This means that if you’re paid $10/hr, your overtime pay is $15/hr.

If your employer has failed to pay you adequate overtime hours, the unpaid overtime equals the difference between what you should have been paid and what you were paid.

Exemptions to overtime pay

Not all employees are entitled to overtime pay. Hourly, non-exempt employees have a legal right to overtime, but exempt employees might not be able to claim overtime. The most common examples include outside salespeople as well as white-collar employees who conduct managerial or high-level administrative work. Other exempt employees include:

  • Salespersons, parts-persons, and mechanics employed by automobile, truck, or farm implement (retail) dealers
  • Salespersons employed by trailer, aircraft, and boat (retail) dealers
  • Sales employees of retail or service industries paid on a commission basis
  • Employees of the ski industry performing duties directly related to ski area operations for skiing or snowboarding
  • Employees of the medical transportation industry who are scheduled to work 24-hour shifts

Penalties for unpaid overtime and wages

If your employer has failed to pay your overtime wages, your employer may be susceptible to certain penalties under federal or Colorado law. These penalties are typically added to the wage difference that the employer owes his/her employee. For instance, federal laws state that employees have the right to ask for liquidated damages regarding overtime wage violations. These liquidated damages are designed to cover financial losses, such as bounced checks and late charges.

Colorado law also provides when the employee’s final paycheck doesn’t arrive on time or include everything that the employee is owed. For instance, if your final paycheck doesn’t include the overtime wages, you may be entitled to 125% of the unpaid wages for the first $7,500 owed and 50% of the unpaid wages for any amount owed over $7,500.

How to file a wage claim or lawsuit

When you’re working overtime, you deserve every penny that you’re owed by your employer. As such, if your employer is shorting your paycheck by avoiding legally owed overtime wages, then you need to contact a Denver employee rights attorney as soon as possible. With the guidance and counsel of your attorney, you can file a complaint about unpaid overtime with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE); you can also file a lawsuit in court.

Contact the wage and hour law attorneys at the Civil Rights Litigation Group

It’s important to acquire expert legal help when filing a complaint with the CDLE or filing a lawsuit in court. At the Civil Rights Litigation Group in Denver, CO, we have helped numerous individuals with their wage and unpaid overtime claims, and we boast the resources and know-how to help you too.

If your employer hasn’t paid you the amount that you’re owed, then call Denver attorney Raymond Bryant at the Civil Rights Litigation Group today! Call 720-515-6165.

Are you owed overtime? How to know if you’ve been misclassified as exempt

Colorado, like many states, has comprehensive laws and regulations designed to protect employees from malicious employment practices, such as undercutting employee wages or foregoing overtime payments to employees. Although the vast majority of employees in Colorado receive at least minimum wage as well as “time and a half” overtime pay, there are certain types of employees who are exempt from overtime, minimum wage laws, or both. If you’re not receiving appropriate overtime wages or minimum wages, then you need to first make sure that you haven’t been misclassified as an exempt employee.

Are You Owed Overtime? Call Employee Rights Attorney Denver ColoradoIf you are not exempt, then you are owed appropriate overtime as well as minimum wage. As Denver CO employee rights attorneys, we at the Civil Rights Litigation Group aim to fully protect employees from violations of overtime and wage laws, and we’ll diligently and expertly represent your claims in Colorado civil courts. Remember that misclassified, non-exempt employees may be entitled to thousands of dollars in unpaid overtime and other wages.

For victims of wage or overtime violations, make sure to call our Denver law office today for a confidential, free consultation. In the meantime, you can learn more about employee exemptions in Colorado by reading below.

Are you an exempt or non-exempt employee?

The federal law regarding wage and overtime regulations for employees is the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Colorado also has several similar laws. To understand whether you’re an exempt or non-exempt employee, it’s important to look at the FLSA as well as Colorado’s laws.

The federal law, FLSA, applies to most employers in Colorado who have annual sales or revenue of over $500,000. At the same time, both large and small businesses in Colorado must comply with Colorado state laws and regulations, such as the Colorado Minimum Wage Order. Ordinarily, overtime is defined as working over 40 hours in a work week. Under Colorado laws, overtime is also defined as working more than 12 hours in a day or a shift. Additionally, the law states that overtime pay must be one and a half times the employee’s regular rate of pay.

Overtime and exemptions from the Colorado wage order

The overtime and minimum wage laws defined above only apply to non-exempt employees. Section 5 of Colorado’s Wage Order sets the legal exemptions for certain occupations and professions. These include administrative, executive/supervisor, professional, outside sales employees, and elected officials and their staff. Other exemptions include:

  • Companions
  • Casual babysitters
  • Domestic employees employed by households or family members to perform the following duties:
    • Duties in private residences
    • Property managers
    • Interstate drivers
    • Driver helpers
    • Loaders or mechanics of motor carriers
    • Taxi drivers
    • Bona fide volunteers
  • Students employed by sororities, fraternities, college clubs, or dormitories
  • Students employed by work experience study programs
  • Employees working in laundries of charitable institutions which pay no wages to workers and inmates
  • Patient workers who work in institutional laundries

Exemptions from overtime

Section 6 of the Wage Order explains various professions and occupations that are exempt from the Colorado overtime laws. Exemptions from all or part of the overtime requirement may include commission sales, the ski industry, and medical transportation. These exemptions are explained below:

Commission sales exemptions — Employees who receive commissions are exempt from overtime as long as 50% (or more) of their total earnings in a pay period are derived from commission sales. Their rate of pay must also be at least one and a half times greater than the minimum wage.

Ski industry exemptions — Employees who work in ski area operations for downhill skiing or snowboarding are exempt from the overtime requirements. This includes employees who provide food and beverage services at on-mountain locations.

Medical transportation exemptions — Employees of medical transportation operations who work 24-hour shifts are exempt from the 12-hour overtime regulation as long as they receive overtime for working more than 40 hours in a week.

Consequences for misclassified exempt employees

Assuming a worker is exempt from overtime, even though that employee is not exempt, can present significant consequences for the employer. According to federal laws, if an employer doesn’t pay a non-exempt employee legal overtime wages, then that employer may be liable for the underpayment, “liquidated damages” in an equal amount, and even the employee’s attorney fees. Also, it’s important to note that in cases of good faith, where the employer made an honest mistake, some courts will rule that ignorance of exemption requirements is not an excuse.

Also, the employer can get into more trouble, increasing his/her liability, by engaging in any form of retaliation against an employee who claimed overtime.

Call the Civil Rights Litigation Group to protect your overtime rights

As the leading civil rights and employee rights attorney in the Denver, CO, area, attorney Raymond K. Bryant understands the full scope of Colorado and federal employment laws. In addition to helping you know whether or not you were exempt, the Civil Rights Litigation Group will work with you, one-on-one, with the goal of holding responsible individuals accountable for their actions (if they are liable, that is).

To speak with attorney Bryant regarding your case, call our Denver law office today at 720-515-6165 for a free, no-obligation consultation.

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Denver, CO 80202

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