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Animas Chocolate & Coffee Co. cited for failure to pay wages

Former employee was deducted payment for failing to submit written two-week notice
Animas Chocolate & Coffee Co. has been penalized $405.60 for failing to pay a former employee full wages within two weeks of a written request. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Animas Chocolate & Coffee Co. has been forced to pay penalties to a former employee for violating Colorado’s wage and hours laws.

The decision by Colorado Department of Labor and Employment came after Animas Chocolate & Coffee Co. owner Carley Snider was found not paying wages to former employee Jordan Brown, and the business was notified of the citation on May 31.

A notice of determination and citation from the Department of Labor found that Snider owed penalties in the amount of $405.60 for failing to pay Brown $93.67 of her wages. However, as of when the citation was given, Snider had paid Brown the money owed.

Attempts to contact Snider and ACC for comment were unsuccessful this week, and an email sent to the business on June 19 received no response.

The citation said Brown worked for Animas Chocolate & Coffee Co. from May 11, 2022, to July 5, 2022, for an agreed-upon rate of $15 per hour. The citation said ACC failed to pay the agreed upon rate for her final 38.39 hours worked and instead paid her minimum wage claiming a differential of $2.44 per hour for those hours.

Brown said that was because she did not give notice before resigning from her front-of-house position with the chocolate company.

“They just treated me so horribly that I quit over email without coming back,” Brown said.

Upon being hired at ACC in May 2022, Brown was issued an onboarding packet that she had to sign before starting employment.

The contract says: “Should an employee abandon their position without written 2-week notice, any hours employees has worked that are still outstanding will be paid at the Colorado State base minimum wage rate.”

So while Brown’s wage was $15 per hour, she was paid the 2022 minimum wage rate of $12.56 per hour for the hours worked before giving her resignation instead of her full wages.

But the Department of Labor determined it was a violation of state law not to pay Brown her full wages.

The agency determined Snider had sufficient operational control over the business and its working conditions to be deemed individually liable for the violations noting in the citation that Snider had control over the hiring process and making work schedules.

The Department of Labor sent a notice of complaint to ACC on April 12 that included a blank copy of the division’s individual liability questionnaire to be completed by April 26.

The division received ACC’s response on April 19 in which Snider admitted owing wages to Brown through the questionnaire. As such, the division found that no additional wages were owed to Brown. However, because Snider failed to pay the wages within 14 days of written demand sent on Aug. 31, 2022, the CDLE found that ACC and Snider owed Brown the penalty of $405.60.

Brown said the business does not pay out tips to its employees. The onboarding packet says the business “does not utilize a tipped wage salary program and that all tips are the property of ACC and used to subsidize wages for the entire staff.”

Another former employee, Janelle Ochs, said she found it strange the business put out tip jars if the collections were purely pooling tips to supplement labor.

The Department of Labor citation said the tip policy was a violation of the Colorado Revised Statute 8-4-103(6), which says that “gratuities are the sole property of the employee” and that “it is unlawful for an employer to … assert a claim to, or right of ownership in, or control over gratuities.”

The law also says that employers may require employees to share gratuities on a preestablished basis with other employees if the employer notifies each patron in writing. This would include a notice on a menu, table tent or receipt.

No wages were assessed to Brown in the citation for unpaid tips.


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