If you’re a worker who participated in a public works contract, you’re entitled to earn the pay and benefits paid to the majority of workers, laborers, and mechanics in the largest city in the county. That’s called the prevailing wage, and here’s how it works.
What is the Prevailing Wage?
The prevailing wage rate is the “basic hourly rate paid on public works projects to a majority of workers engaged in a particular craft, classification or type of work within the locality and in the nearest labor market area (if a majority of such workers are paid at a single rate).”
What is a Public Works Contract?
A public works contract can include construction, alteration, demolition, installation or repair work done under a contract that’s been paid for – in whole or in part – by public funds. These types of jobs might include:
- Irrigation, utility, reclamation and improvement districts
- Street, sewer or other improvement
- Public transportation demonstration projects
- Tree removal work
That’s not a comprehensive list, but in most cases, people who perform these types of jobs under a public works contract are entitled to the prevailing wage.
Why Does California Use the Prevailing Wage?
In an effort to ensure public works projects are awarded to contractors who will pay their employees fairly, the state uses the prevailing wage. It’s a fail-safe to ensure that contractors don’t win contracts just by paying lower wages than their competitors do; all bidders on a project must use the same wage rates.
Does Overtime Apply to the Prevailing Wage?
When it comes to overtime pay on the prevailing wage, state law says, “Compensation for all hours worked in excess of eight hours per day and 40 hours during any one week should be not less than one-and-one-half times the basic rate of pay.”
Are There Exceptions to the Prevailing Wage in California?
There are some exceptions to contracts and workers who are subjected to the prevailing wage in California. The law says that prevailing wages must be paid to workers on a public works project if that project is over $1,000. Additionally, if an “awarding body” initiates and enforces a labor compliance program, prevailing wages aren’t required if the project involves construction work and is less than $25,000 or when it involves alteration, demolition, repair or maintenance work and is less than $15,000.
What if You’re Not Paid the Prevailing Wage?
Sometimes employers don’t compensate their employees properly when they should be paying the prevailing wage. In some cases, employers try to cut costs and get around the law by misclassifying workers to avoid paying them the prevailing wage, pay workers in cash to keep things “off the books,” or treating public works jobs as if they were private contracts that aren’t subject to prevailing wage laws.
If that has happened to you, we may be able to help you get the compensation you deserve.
Call us at 818-805-1645 or get in touch with a Glendale employment lawyer online to set up a completely free consultation. If your employer failed to pay you what you earned under California law, we’re here to fight on your behalf.