Colorado bill would extend overtime pay to 200,000 more workers, backers say

<p>Photo: CPR/Hart Van Denburg</p>
<p>The gold dome on the Capitol in Denver.</p>

A House committee has approved a bill that could mean more employees earn overtime pay, but the measure faces strong opposition from business groups.

Currently, salaried workers must make at least $23,000 a year before their employer can require them to work overtime without extra pay. That salary level hasn’t changed in decades, which bothers Rep. Max Tyler, D-Lakewood.

"These are smoke and mirrors so we can continue paying people for a fraction of the time they work," Tyler said.

Tyler’s bill would set Colorado's minimum overtime-exempt salary at three times the state's minimum wage. That would be just over $50,000 a year.

Proponents estimate that if the measure passes, more than 200,000 Colorado workers would become eligible for overtime.

But Sonia Riggs, head the Colorado Restaurant Association, says the policy would have the opposite effect on some businesses.

"Since they cannot absorb that cost, their plan of action would be to eliminate all salaried positions and instead pay workers an hourly rate and limit their hours to less than 40 hours a week," Riggs said.

The bill passed its first committee on a party line vote Monday evening. The Democratic-sponsored measure is expected to die in the Republican-controlled state Senate, if it makes it that far.