In 2004, the Colorado General Assembly approved a measure that would levy fines on business owners who failed to keep up with the coverage requirements of state-mandated workers compensation insurance. The law’s passage was not controversial at the time, but the government agency responsible for assessing the fines predictably found itself incapable of letting business owners know of their noncompliance in a timely manner.
Years went by before some Colorado business owners even discovered that they were noncompliant. Unbeknownst to them, the fines they were assessed grew in staggering fashion over that period of time. Per an investigation by Complete Colorado, a handful of small business owners would soon discover that their fines had reached well into the six-digits. Among them:
Robert Duran, wholesale flower and vegetable business owner: $271,700
Silvia and Luis Atunez, owners, El Trompito Taqueria: $516,700
Soon Pak, owner, Star Motel: $841,200
None of these small business owners were so much as made aware they were operating in a noncompliant fashion for years on end. In many cases, the business owners are first generation Americans for whom English is a second language, further complicating their ability to manage Colorado’s opaque regulatory minefield. They now face financial ruin, thanks to a lack of timely communication from government bureaucrats.
Compass Colorado Executive Director Kelly Maher expressed fury with the circumstances facing these hard-working Coloradans:
“If the government decides to impose endless regulations, one would think that the same government would want to let folks know that the rules had changed.
“Beyond that practicality, one might also hope that the government would do better than to wait up to eight years before sticking small business owners with hundreds-of-thousands of dollars in fees.
“It is absolutely appalling that the inability of government bureaucrats to communicate with their constituents has led to a situation so tragic. It’ll be pretty difficult for any of these small business owners to provide their employees with workers compensation insurance if they are forced to shut their doors. I don’t know how many small business owners have half a million bucks lying around for surprises like this, but I can’t imagine many do.
“Colorado lawmakers must change this law so that small business owners in the state aren’t forced out of business due to bureaucratic ineptitude. Anything less would be unconscionable.”