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Denver city council approves wage theft ordinance, STAR expansion, lawsuit settlement

The wage theft bill will eventually let workers go through the city auditor to recover lost wages.

DENVER — Denver City Council on Monday night passed a new wage theft ordinance, expanded the city's STAR program, and approved a settlement in a lawsuit filed over police behavior during 2020 protests.

The wage theft bill will eventually let workers go through the city auditor to recover lost wages. Right now, if a worker is unpaid or underpaid, they have to go through a legal process that caps how much they can recover – and can take months. 

The bill aims to create a system that will work in a matter of weeks. Under the new system, the auditor will be allowed to collect stolen wages and fine employers that don't comply. Employers will have 14 days to respond to claims once they're filed. 

Also at Monday night's meeting, the council voted to expand the city's STAR program, which sends mental health professionals and paramedics to certain 911 calls instead of police. 

The goal of the program is to help people in crisis with mental health or substance issues get support without landing in jail. Last year, STAR teams responded to more than 4,700 calls and helped more than 1,100 people. 

Council voted Monday night to add more than $800,000 to the program to pay for six new clinicians this year. That will bring them up to 16 teams available to respond across the city. 

Also Monday night, the council approved $325,000 to settle a lawsuit over how police used pepper balls during the 2020 protests over George Floyd's murder. 

Shaiitarrio Brown and his fiance Brittany King were making food deliveries downtown during one of the first protests. They said an officer shot a pepper ball at their car. 

Bystanders captured video of what happened next. Brown got out of the car and yelled at police that his pregnant fiance was inside. Then, officers fired more pepper balls. One hit Brown in the face. Another hit King in the hand. 

The couple's lawsuit said King was hospitalized twice for pregnancy complications tied to the chemicals in the pepper balls. The couple also said their daughter had developmental delays. 

The council voted Monday to pay each of them $162,500. 


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