Job discussion centers on harassment, wages

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People who think they are treated differently than others on the job might have a legitimate claim for discrimination, a state official said Wednesday.

John Sandoval, investigations manager for the Department of Regulatory Agencies, visited Craig for a roundtable discussion about harassment and other workplace issues. He discussed options for employees feeling harassed and employers facing charges of harassment.

"An employer has the opportunity to correct a problem," Sandoval said. "It's when they fail to take action that the state gets involved."

The first step for an employee feeling harassed is to notify the employer, Sandoval said.

Harassment can be in different forms, including racial, sexual or religious, and employees who think they are in hostile work environments should report cases to the state. If an employer were to retaliate after an employee filed harassment charges, the employer could face separate charges for retaliation.

Sandoval warned that each case is judged independently and that some things deemed offensive by an employee may not necessarily be harassment. Many such cases depend on the job and work environment in which they are found.

Companies often have employee manuals that spell out their harassment policies.

The roundtable discussion, which took place at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post, was sponsored by the Colorado Workforce Center and the Craig Chamber of Commerce. Some of the employers in attendance were from Trapper Mine, Black Mountain Glass and Craig Motel.

Questions regarding wages and overtime issues were directed to Division of Labor compliance officer Joe Herrera.

"The minimum wage in Colorado is $5.50 per hour, and deductions or garnishment of wages cannot push employees under that level," Herrera said. "If tipped employees making $2.13 an hour don't receive enough tips to reach minimum wage, the employer has to make that up."

Herrera also noted that Colorado employees are entitled to a 10-minute rest period every four hours, and an unpaid 30-minute meal period in each workday. Managers and supervisors are exempt from many of the state regulations, and independent contractors are not required to follow state guidelines.

Although 14-year-olds can work an eight-hour day in Colorado, they cannot be around hazardous conditions or equipment, Herrera said.

Anyone with questions about employment discrimination can call the Colorado Civil Rights Division at 1-800-262-4845.

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