According to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE), employers in the health and medical industries must provide employees with compensated duty-free rest periods.
In a recent case, the Colorado Court of Appeals announced that certain employees now have a private right of action under Colorado’s Minimum Wage Act and Wage Claim Act to seek minimum-wage compensation in court if an employer fails to compensate the employee for rest breaks.
Direct Care Provider Denied Compensated Breaks
In Pilmenstein v. Devereaux Cleo Wallace, an employee working as a direct care provider (DCP) sued her employer for failing to provide duty-free rest periods. The defendant, doing business as Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health, argued that it was exempt from providing paid breaks to DCPs based on the language of two opinion letters from CDLE. The court disagreed and reaffirmed the district court’s earlier ruling.
Plaintiff Owed Minimum Wage for Time Worked
The court determined that employees in health and medical industries may seek such compensation, but it is limited to only the minimum wage for the time worked that should have been properly granted as a rest period. In that case, the plaintiffs stipulated that they would only seek the minimum wage for unpaid yet worked rest periods. It remains to be seen if other parties at some future date will argue that employees should instead be compensated at agreed-upon hourly rates rather than the minimum wage.
Example of Rest-Period Compensation
Here is an example of how rest-period compensation works: If a medical provider is forced to work over a 12-hour shift, that worker must forgo three 10-minute breaks (one 10-minute break for every four hours of work). They are then eligible for compensation at the minimum wage for that time that the worker did not get as a break. In our example, that’s 30 minutes total time. The minimum wage in Colorado in 2022 is $12.56, so the provider is entitled to $6.28 for that shift.
Liabilities Can Add Up for Employers
Although this amount may be small for one worker on a daily basis, employers can very quickly accumulate substantial monetary liabilities if breaks are not properly managed. Additionally, companies who lose in court may owe affected plaintiff employees attorney fees.
Legal Counsel to Resolve Business & Employment Matters
If you are an employer and need assistance understanding your responsibilities under the CDLE’s regulations, or if you are an employee and believe you are being denied proper compensation, please contact us.
At Patricia S. Bellac Law Firm in Boulder, we have helped businesses and employees with a range of legal needs for more than two decades:
- Employment Litigation
- Non-Compete Agreements
- Severance Agreements
- Wage & Hour
- Employment Separation
We can also help Boulder-area businesses and entrepreneurs with business formation, commercial transactions, intellectual property disputes, trade secrets, and non-compete agreement disputes.
If you need help navigating employment or business laws, we can help. Call (303) 622-3883 to schedule a consultation.