Colorado minimum wage rising by 24 cents with the new year

A waitperson wears a face mask.
David Zalubowski/AP
A waitperson wears a face mask while tending to a patron sitting in the outdoor patio of a sushi restaurant, late Monday, Dec. 28, 2020, in downtown Denver.

Starting today, Colorado’s minimum wage is $12.56 an hour for regular workers and $9.54 for tipped employees.

Thanks to a voter-approved law a few years ago, the state's rate increased rapidly for a few years, hitting $12.00 in 2020. Now it gets a cost-of-living bump annually based on the Consumer Price Index. That increase is calculated from the middle of one year to the next. That means the relatively rapid rise in inflation felt in the fall of 2021 isn’t part of this increase, but will be reflected in the 2023’s rate.

In Denver, minimum wage workers will see an even bigger hike, to $15.87 an hour. It's the last of a series of big annual jumps for Denver's minimum wage, as approved by the city council in 2019. 

The city auditor’s office also announced Thursday that it will begin proactive enforcement of the city’s minimum wage by looking for employers that may be underpaying workers based on industry patterns, information from other government agencies, or complaints at other locations with the same ownership.

The office said many of its wage cases come from businesses right on Denver’s borders, where the owner may think the state-wide minimum wage rate applies, and multi-state chains where the home office isn’t aware that the city has set a higher floor on wages.

In 2019, Colorado lawmakers gave local governments the power to increase their minimum wage above the state’s rate, but so far, Denver is the only city to do that.

Jan. 1 also ushers in a higher minimum wage for direct care workers whose employers receive state funding, like nursing homes staff and home health aides. The policy ensures they make at least $15 an hour.

The state’s budget committee approved funding the raises in September, using federal COVID relief funds, although eventually, the increase will have to come from general state dollars.