Prevailing wage laws are complicated and often difficult to interpret. Making matters worse, laws change regularly with new laws and regulations coming out yearly. So even if you routinely deal with prevailing wage compliance, you have to work to stay ahead of them. This makes keeping up and complying with the law a true challenge for government contractors.

We created the following list of frequently asked questions to help contractors keep up with the law with easy answers to their most common federal prevailing wage questions. This list covers all areas of Davis-Bacon and Related Act (DBRA) from common facts to some of the less known areas of the law.

What makes a project a “Davis-Bacon project”?

This term refers to projects that fall under Davis-Bacon and Related Act (DBRA). Any government contract for the construction, alteration or repair of a public building or public works that is funded by federal dollars can be considered a Davis-Bacon project. You may also hear these simply called “government contracts.”

Is Davis-Bacon the same as prevailing wage?

DBRA is one prevailing wage law, but it is not the only one. The term prevailing wage law refers to a type of law aimed at making sure workers are paid the “prevailing” or common rate for the area they live and the type of work they do. These types of laws were originally intended to limit the undercutting of local wages from out-of-town companies.

The McNamara-O’Hara Service Contract Act (SCA) is a prevailing wage law for non-construction jobs at the federal labor. This covers things like service workers such as janitors, IT technicians, or professional services. Additionally, there are local prevailing wage laws at the state, city or county level. All of these types of laws are prevailing wage laws.

What is the dollar threshold for projects under Davis-Bacon and Related Acts?

DBRA applies to federally funded or assisted contracts that total $2,000 and over for the construction, alteration, or repair (including painting and decorating) of public buildings or public works.

What does federally assisted mean?

If a contract is partially funded by federal dollars, it is federally assisted. This simply means that federal money is in some way involved in the project. In most cases, any amount of federal assistance requires the job to follow DBRA as well as any local prevailing wage regulations.

Does overtime still apply to DBRA projects?

For federal prevailing wage contracts over $100,000, laborers and mechanics are owed one and one-half times their regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 in a work week. In some situations, overtime may be required on contracts lower than this amount, and it’s generally spelled out in the contract or in the wage determination. This applies to federal prevailing wage jobs; state prevailing wage laws including overtime requirements may be different. Make sure you understand the laws of your contract and in your state by checking with your state’s department of labor for details.

Can any contractor or subcontractor bid on a DBRA project?

Yes, any construction company can bid on a DBRA but there are a few things you need to do first. Assuming you’re already an established company, you’ll need to

It’s equally important to understand the laws and enhanced regulations you’ll need to handle to take on government contracts. This includes certified payroll and reporting, along with understanding things like fringe management.

Learn more about becoming a government contractor here.

How often are workers required to be paid under Davis-Bacon and Related Acts?

Under DBRA, workers must be paid weekly for their work on qualifying prevailing wage projects. This includes eligible workers covered by prevailing wage law.

How often are payroll reports required to be submitted under Davis-Bacon and Related Acts?

You are required to submit weekly certified payroll records to the contracting agency for all projects that fall under DBRA. This is a federal requirement for eligible projects. There are different requirements for state funded prevailing wage jobs, so be sure to check with your state if you’re working on other types of prevailing wage jobs.

Am I really required to post a Davis-Bacon related poster on my job site?

Yes, you must display the Davis-Bacon poster (WH-1321) in a prominent and readily accessible location on the job site. It needs to be easily viewable by all workers. Additionally, you are required to post all applicable wage determinations for the job as well. Failing to display these items can lead to a violation.  View the poster here.

Where do I find prevailing wage rates?

Prevailing wage rates are published through wage determinations, which are usually supplied with the bid packet. You can verify them or find any published wage determination through the government’s website SAM.Gov.

How do I find fringe benefit rates?

Fringe benefits are included in wage determinations, which include the hourly prevailing wage and the hourly fringe benefit rate. You may be supplied the wage determination with the bid packet for a job, but you can also find them through the government’s website SAM.Gov.

Where to do get wage determinations for my Davis-Bacon project?

The awarding agency typically provides you with wage determinations in the bid packet. However, it is your responsibility to make sure you pay everyone correctly, so you should always verify this information. You can verify them or find any published wage determination through the government’s website SAM.Gov.


Can wage rates change after the construction has begun?

Typically, the wage rates established during the bid process and provided by the awarding agency are good for the entire project.

According to the DOL:

“As a general rule, the wage determination incorporated into a bid solicitation and related contract award establishes the minimum wage rates and fringe benefits which must be paid for the entire term of the contract.” (Source)

There are a couple exceptions to this, such as if a mistake was made in which wage determinations to include, or none were included for some or part of types of work roles needed for the project.

What is a wage schedule?

There are four different classifications for construction projects under Davis-Bacon and Related Acts:  Building, Heavy, Highway or Residential. Each of these has their own wage schedule for the purpose of issuing wage determinations. So there rates listed for a work classification under residential are under a different “wage schedule” than they are for a project listed under one of the other classifications.

Can multiple wage schedules apply to a single project?

Yes, it is possible for a large project to have work listed under multiple types of construction, and therefore different wage schedules. Most of the time this information is provided by the awarding agency in the bid solicitation, but the DOL issued a memo regarding how to select the correct wage schedule and published it here.

Where do I go if I have questions about DBRA and my project?

It depends on the nature of your question. If you have a question about the project, start by contacting the awarding agency. You can also look for answers the DOL WHD website, located here.
If all else fails, you should contact the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the DOL.

1-866-4-USWAGE (1-866-487-9243)
Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Time

You can send them an email here.

Be sure to allow plenty of time for a response since it is unlikely that you’ll get a quick answer for your question.

Is there anything I can do if a wage determination seems wrong?

Contractors, or people representing contractors, can appeal wage determinations for their project. An awarding agency can also take this step. You start the process by contacting the WHD and asking for a reconsideration or appeal. It can take up to 30 days for them to respond, which may simply be a response telling you a longer time frame is needed to consider the request.

If your request is denied, you can file an appeal with the Administrative Review Board. If the project is active during this process, you must use the published wage determinations as they stand. You cannot wait to pay workers, or adjust the rate yourself, while you await a decision. Doing so would result in a violation and compliance action.

Learn more about the following related topics:

Fringe benefit FAQ

What is a fringe trust?

Certified payroll FAQ

Laws every contractor needs to know

 

 

The material presented here is educational in nature and is not intended to be, nor should be relied upon, as legal or financial advice. Please consult with an attorney or financial professional for advice.

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