DENVER – If Jared Polis is elected governor and gets his way on policy, some business owners will be jailed. Although this might sound hyperbolic, it was a statement made by Polis himself during the primary.

Footage of Polis at a candidate forum sponsored by the SEIU, a local Denver-based labor union for service employees highlights Polis’ policy philosophy on the enforcement of employment law. This would signal a dramatic shift from the civil penalties currently used to enforce employment violations.

During the forum, filmed June 2, 2018 candidate Polis is seen on stage with his Democrat challengers Mike Johnston, Donna Lynne, and Cary Kennedy. When asked what each would do to strengthen employment law in Colorado, Polis made the following statement:

You know, I had the opportunity last session in Congress to be the top Democrat on the Labor Subcommittee and really, what I found as I looked into it – and it’s the same here in the state of Colorado – Is that we have good labor laws on the books, but they lack teeth and they lack enforcement. So we propose adding real criminal penalties to violations of our labor laws. [emphasis added] That’s when executives and businesses will notice it. When they don’t see it as a cost of doing business, but they see it as “Wait a minute,I could go to prison for doing wrong by the workers, and wage theft, or for firing somebody for retribution”. So we can do that here in Colorado.[emphasis added] We can really push the envelope in making sure we are serious. As serious about enforcing our labor laws as we are about so many of our other laws. So that’s what my plan to do as Governor is. I look forward to working with the legislature to get working on these bills and making sure we take implementation and enforcement seriously at all levels, and support workers when they choose to organize.


Polis, who has spent a career championing far-left policies that make some in even his own party apprehensive, received applause for his answer from the assembled crowd.

The change Polis is proposing would move violations of employment law from civil to criminal penalties, allowing convictions to be punishable by jail time at a time when Colorado’s correction budget is under strain. In addition, the threat of imprisonment could have a dramatic chilling effect on Colorado’s business climate. This fear could be compounded for small and medium-sized businesses who don’t have dedicated HR and compliance divisions.

“I wish that we could say the headline ‘If Jared Polis is elected Governor, small business owners could be imprisoned’ is just some over-the-top scare tactic from a ragey Twitter troll,” said Kelly Maher executive director of Compass Colorado. “Alas, it’s not, because he said it himself. I feel like I shouldn’t have to say this: but the jailing of business owners is not the policy of a moderate capitalist.”