Colorado Supreme Court unanimously ruled that claims for disputed wages must be filed within the statute of limitations (either two or three years) and that the clock starts ticking "on the date that each set of wages first became due and payable—not on the date of separation."
The opinion, written by the court's newest member, Justice Melissa Hart — Yes, we were pleasantly surprised! — largely echoes the salient points submitted by CCJL in a friend of the court brief, authored by Chris Ottele and Sonia Anderson of Husch Blackwell, and which was joined by the Denver Metro Chamber and Building Jobs 4 Colorado.
The plaintiffs in Hernandez v. Ray Domenico Farms, Inc.had
sought to exploit an unusual feature of the Colorado Wage Claim Act (the Wage Act). It allows employees to bring suit for unpaid wages under two separate
provisions, depending on whether the employee is currently employed or no longer employed. Plaintiffs in this case had reasoned that the provision
that applies to former employees revived claims that were time-barred under the provision that applies to current employees. If true, former employees
could bring suit for unpaid wages dating to the beginning of their employment, possibly 20 or 30 years ago.
On behalf of the Colorado Civil Justice League and other business interests, Husch Blackwell attorneys filed the only amicus brief in support of the employer. The Supreme Court’s opinion agreed with each of the positions set forth in Husch Blackwell’s amicus brief and disagreed with the briefs of the plaintiffs, their amici and, with respect to at least one issue, even the defendant employer.