Bartenders and More v. Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.
2023 COA 123. No. 22CA2006Colorado Wage Claim Act—Appeals of Administrative Actions—Deadline to Commence Action for Judicial Review
December 21, 2023
The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, Division of Labor Standards and Statistics (the Division) issued a citation and notice of assessment to, and imposed a $10,900 fine against, Bartenders and More and Kristina Eccles (collectively, Bartenders) for an alleged violation of the Colorado Wage Claim Act. Bartenders appealed the citation and fine, and a Division hearings officer conducted an evidentiary hearing. On April 12, 2022, the hearings officer issued a decision (decision) affirming the earlier assessment, in part, and reducing the fine to $9,900. Bartenders received the decision by mail on April 15, 2022. The Division also emailed the decision to Bartenders on April 12, 2022. The record contains no other information regarding the decision’s mailing date, such as a postmark on the envelope containing the decision, and the email does not state the date on which the decision was mailed. Both the mailed and emailed versions of the decision stated that the decision was final unless appealed within 35 calendar days of the decision date. On May 18, 2022, Bartenders filed a complaint for judicial review of the decision. The Division moved to dismiss, arguing that the complaint was untimely and that the district court therefore lacked jurisdiction over Bartenders’ appeal. The district court found that statements in the decision, including the certificate of service, apprised Bartenders that the decision was mailed on April 12, 2022. Alternatively, the district court found that Bartenders’ receipt of actual notice of the decision via email on April 12, 2022, was sufficient to start the time for Bartenders’ appeal on that date. The court granted the motion to dismiss.
On appeal, Bartenders argued that the district court erred by (1) finding that the decision informed Bartenders that it was mailed on April 12, 2022, and, thus, that Bartenders’ time to appeal began to run on that date; and (2) alternatively deciding that Bartenders’ receipt of actual notice of the decision via email on April 12, 2022, was sufficient to start the clock for the appeal period. CRS § 8-4-111.5(5) states that a Division hearing officer’s decision may be appealed only by commencing an action for judicial review in district court within 35 days after the date of mailing of the decision by the Division. Here, Bartenders’ receipt of actual notice of the decision on April 12, 2022, did not inform them when the time for their appeal began to run because the decision did not contain a mailing date, which was the only event that could start the time for Bartenders’ appeal. The court of appeals further held that, to comport with fundamental fairness and due process, a court lacks jurisdiction over an appeal of a Division decision filed more than 35 days after its mailing to the aggrieved party only if the Division informed that party when the Division mailed the decision. Because Bartenders’ receipt of actual notice of the decision did not apprise them of the decision’s mailing date, the actual notice the Division provided to Bartenders could not start the 35-five-day time period for Bartenders to file a complaint for judicial review. Therefore, the district court erred by dismissing the complaint.
The judgment was reversed and the case was remanded to the district court to adjudicate Bartenders’ appeal on the merits.