Sprint breaking Colorado labor law?: Workers fired for catching shoplifter still haven't been paid

In our Tuesday story about Mike McGee and Paul Shoemaker, two Sprint employees who were fired for catching a shoplifter, Shoemaker said he didn't plan to file a lawsuit against the company over the dismissal, even though he saw it as unfair.

"I'm not out there trying to make money off of this," he said. "I know there are a lot of people who sue companies because their coffee is too hot, but that's not me."

Nonetheless, he and McGee would like to receive their final paychecks -- and even though Colorado law requires employers to provide checks within 24 hours of dismissal, the pair still haven't seen them almost a week later. And McGee says he's been told he won't get his for another month.

On Tuesday, McGee writes via Facebook message, he was informed "from Sprint's HR that they were not going to follow Colorado wage laws and that we would not be paid within 24 hours, which is required if accounting is off-site. From what they are telling me now, I will not be paid in full until the last business day of May."

McGee's right about the Colorado wage laws. His interpretation is confirmed by Bruce Thoennes, spokesman for the state's Department of Labor & Employment, who responded to an inquiry about McGee's situation with the following detailed note. The italics and underlines are his:

I did get an opportunity to talk with a compliance officer about when a final paycheck must be provided to a terminated employee. The short answer is it must be provided immediately at the time of the termination. You can access the statutes here: (

I have also attached the Colorado Wage Act; please refer to § 8-4-109, C.R.S.

When an interruption in the employer-employee relationship by volition of the employer occurs, the wages or compensation for labor or service earned, vested, determinable, and unpaid at the time of such discharge are due and payable immediately, EXCEPT:

1. When the employer's accounting unit, responsible for the drawing of payroll checks, is not regularly scheduled to be operational, then the wages due the separated employee shall be made available to the employee no later than six hours after the start of such employer's accounting unit's next regular workday.

2. If the accounting unit is located off the work site, the employer shall deliver the check for wages due the separated employee no later than twenty-four hours after the start of such employer's accounting unit's next regular workday to one of the following locations selected by the employer: a) the work site, b) the employer's local office, c) the employee's last-known mailing address.

If the Sprint store does not have a payroll office onsite, the company would be permitted to issue the final paycheck the next day. It is the policy of the Division of Labor that mailing of wages due to a separated employee is acceptable when the postmark is dated within the specified time periods as described above. For example, an employer with an off-site accounting unit may mail wages due to the separated employee via regular mail as long as the mailing is postmarked no later than twenty-four hours after the start of the accounting unit's next regular workday.

Deduction for the amount of money or the value of property that the employee failed to properly pay or return to the employer in the case where a terminated employee was entrusted during his or her employment with the collection, disbursement, or handling of such money or property. In this instance the employer shall have 10 calendar days after the termination of employment to audit and adjust the accounts and property value of any items entrusted to the employee before the employee's wages or compensation shall be paid in accordance with CRS 8-4-109.

What's Sprint got to say about all this? Not much. Yesterday, Sprint spokesman Dave Mellin declined to comment about the McGee-Shoemaker case in general "due to privacy concerns. It's a human-resource-related issue." As for the paycheck question, he was provided all the information from Thoennes reproduced above and said he would check to see if he could respond about that topic. Thus far, he hasn't. If he does, this post will be updated.

In the meantime, the Facebook page started by Shoemaker to share the story of their firing has gone from 265 friends to well over a thousand in two days.

They've clearly got plenty of support -- but as of this writing, they don't have the money they earned before getting fired for what they considered to be a good deed.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts