Colorado Labor Laws: Minimum Wage, Overtime, Hours, and Leave


Colorado Minimum Wage Laws

Colorado’s current minimum wage rate is $12.56.

For more information on Colorado’s minimum wage, visit our Colorado Minimum Wage Laws page, which includes topics such as minimum wage, tip minimum wage, tip sharing and pooling, and subminimum wages.


Colorado Overtime

The state of Colorado requires employers to pay employees overtime, unless an exemption applies, at a rate of 1½ times their regular rate when they work:

  • more than 40 hours in a workweek,
  • more than 12 hours in a workday, or
  • 12 consecutive hours without regard to the workday.

CO Reg. 7 CCR 1103-1-4; CO Department of Labor and Employment – Overtime

Colorado requires employers to use the overtime rules and calculations that will result in the employers’ greatest wage payment. CO Department of Labor and Employment

Federal labor laws may also apply. For federally-defined exemptions and other regulations see FLSA: Overtime.


Colorado Prevailing Wages

Under certain circumstances, employers in Colorado may be required to pay residents wage rates established by the federal or state prevailing wage rates and rules. The prevailing wage rates may be different from the state’s standard minimum wage rates. Employees may be eligible for prevailing wages if they work on federal or state government or government-funded construction projects or perform certain federal or state government services. See the Colorado Prevailing Wages, Davis-Bacon, and Related Acts, McNamara-O’Hara Service Contract Act (SCA), and Walsh-Healey Public Contracts Act (PCA) for more information about prevailing wages.


Colorado Meals and Breaks

Meal Breaks

Colorado labor laws require employers to provide their employees with a meal period of no less than thirty (30) minutes when they work more than five (5) consecutive hours. Employers must relieve employees of all duties during the entire thirty-minute meal period and permit the employees to pursue personal activities for the entire period. This “duty-free” meal period may be unpaid. Also, when practical, employers should not require employees to take them meal breaks not earlier than one (1) hour before the start of their shift and not later than one (1) hour before the end of their shift.

When it is not practical because of the nature of an employee’s job to permit a “duty-free” meal period, the employer must permit the employee to consume an “on-duty” meal and must compensate the employee for the “on-duty” meal break.

CO Reg. 7 CCR 1103-1-5.1; CO Department of Labor and Employment – Breaks (Rest and Meal Periods)

Breaks

Colorado employers must provide employees, unless an exemption applies, with a ten (10) minute paid break for every four (4) hours worked or a major fraction thereof as follows:

Work HoursRest Periods Required
2 or fewer0
Over 2, and up to 61
Over 6, and up to 102
Over 10, and up to 143
Over 14, and up to 184
Over 18, and up to 225
Over 226

CO Reg. 7 CCR 1103-1-5.2; CO Department of Labor and Employment – Breaks (Rest and Meal Periods)

Breaks should be in the middle of the shift, if practical. CO Reg. 7 CCR 1103-1-5.2.2

The following deviations from the standard break rules include:

  • employers and employees may agree, voluntarily and without coercion, in writing covering up to one year to have the employee receive two (2) 5-minute breaks, as long as five (5) minutes is sufficient, in the work setting, to allow the employee to go back and forth to a bathroom or other location where a bona fide break would be taken; or
  • break periods need not be 10 minutes every four (4) hours for any employees
    • governed by a collective bargaining agreement at any employer, or
    • during the time they are providing Medicaid-funded services for a service provider or agency receiving at least 75% of its annual total gross revenue from Medicaid or other governmental funds for providing such services within Medicaid home- and community-based services waivers and the services provided require continuous supervision of the service recipient, or providing a break period would interfere with ensuring the service recipient’s health, safety, and welfare. Employees in category (i) or (ii) must receive:
      • break periods that average, over the workday, at least 10 minutes per four (4) hours worked, and
      • at least five (5) minutes of rest in every four (4) hours worked;
      • however, employers are not required to provide paid breaks when direct support professionals or direct care workers serving individuals with disabilities spend time in community outings with those individuals as part of day programs, supported living services, or one-to-one respite or personal care.
  • Break periods that average, over the workday, at least 10 minutes per four (4) hours worked; and
    • at least five (5) minutes of rest in every four (4) hours worked;
    • however, employers are not required to provide paid breaks when direct support professionals or direct care workers serving individuals with disabilities spend time in community outings with those individuals as part of day programs, supported living services, or one-to-one respite or personal care.

If an employer does not allow an employee to take a required break period, the employee’s shift is effectively extended 10 minutes of work without compensation and the employer would be required to pay that employee for that time at the parties’ agreed-upon or legally required rate. The extra time may impact the employer’s obligation to pay the employee overtime rates. CO Reg. 7 CCR 1103-1-5.2.4


Colorado Nursing Mother Breaks

The state of Colorado requires employers to provide employees who are breastfeeding with reasonable break times for up to two (2) years after the child’s birth. Employers must provide unpaid break time to express milk or permit nursing mothers to use required paid meal breaks, rest breaks, or both.

Employers must make reasonable efforts to provide nursing mothers with private locations where they may express breast milk. The locations must be in close proximity to the employees’ work areas. Toilet stalls do not meet the minimum standards.

Reasonable efforts to provide the minimum threshold for nursing mother locations may not impose an undue hardship on the employer’s business.  Whether reasonable efforts cause an undue hardship is based on factors such as:

  • the size of the business
  • its financial resources
  • the nature and structure of its operations, including consideration of the special circumstances of public safety

CO Statute 8-13.5-104; CO Department of Labor and Employment – Workplace Accommodations for Nursing Mothers


Colorado Equal Pay for Equal Work

The Colorado Equal Pay for Equal Work Act went into effect at the beginning of 2021. It prevents discrimination in compensation based on race, sex, sexual orientation, or other identifying characteristics. Under state law, employers may not pay an employee of one sex less than an employee of another sex for similar work without a legally justifiable reason. Employers cannot require that an employee disclose their wage history, use wage history in the hiring process, or prevent employees from discussing wage history. Employers are also required to maintain transparency around salary, including keeping records and publishing salaries in job postings. Discrimination complaints can be filed with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment against employers who fail to meet these standards. (See Colorado SB19-085 for more information.)


Vacation Leave

Information about Colorado vacation leave laws may now be found on our Colorado Leave Laws page.


Sick Leave

Information about Colorado sick leave laws may now be found on our Colorado Leave Laws page.


Holiday Leave

Information about Colorado holiday leave laws may now be found on our Colorado Leave Laws page.


Jury Duty Leave

Information about Colorado jury duty leave laws may now be found on our Colorado Leave Laws page.


Voting Leave

Information about Colorado voting leave laws may now be found on our Colorado Leave Laws page.


Severance Pay

Colorado labor laws do not require employers to provide employees with severance pay. If an employer chooses to provide severance benefits, it must comply with the terms of its established policy or employment contract. CO DOL Advisory Bulletin and Resource Guide.


Unemployment

Under certain circumstances, Colorado residents may be eligible for unemployment benefits while they search for another job. You are required to certify that you are unemployed on a weekly basis to receive these benefits. See Colorado State Unemployment Benefits.


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We hope you find our newsletters help you better navigate employment and labor law issues.