Understanding the Davis-Bacon Act

Hard hats on a construction site

Guidance for Construction Workers

If you're a construction worker in New York, New Jersey, or Pennsylvania, you’ve likely heard about the Davis-Bacon Act. But what exactly does it mean for you? This blog post aims to break down the essentials of the Davis-Bacon Act, its implications, and what you can do if you believe your employer has violated it.

What Is the Davis-Bacon Act?

The Davis-Bacon Act is a federal law that mandates the payment of prevailing wages to [RM1] construction workers employed on federally funded (or assisted) construction projects. For the Davis-Bacon Act to apply, the contract for the construction, alteration, or repair of the public project must exceed $2,000.

The primary goal of the Davis-Bacon Act is to protect local wage standards by ensuring that workers on federal projects are paid wages comparable to prevailing wages in the area for similar types of work the workers perform (for example, electrician, carpenter, operating engineer). In New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, these prevailing wage rates are often the rates paid to union workers in the particular trade or work classification.

What If You Are an Apprentice?

If you are an apprentice, you may be paid less than the prevailing wage rates. This is permissible only if you are enrolled in an apprenticeship program registered with either the Department of Labor or a state-recognized apprenticeship agency.

Recognizing Violations of the Davis-Bacon Act

Violations of the Davis-Bacon Act can take various forms, including underpayment of prevailing wages, improper classification of workers to pay lower rates, or failure to pay overtime for extra hours worked (for example, over 40 hours in a workweek). Identifying these violations is crucial for ensuring that your rights and the standards set by the Act are upheld.

Employees and workers on federally funded projects subject to the Davis-Bacon Act should regularly review their pay stubs and verify that their wages reflect the prevailing rates for their job classifications and the type of work they actually perform. Additionally, keeping track of hours worked and ensuring that overtime pay is correctly calculated and provided is encouraged.

What to Do If Your Employer Does Not Comply

If you suspect that your employer is violating the Davis-Bacon Act, there are steps you can take to address the issue. First, gather all relevant documentation, including your pay stubs, timesheets, and any communication with your employer regarding wages. This evidence will be vital in supporting your claim.

Next, you have several avenues for reporting the violation:

  1. Consult with an attorney: If you're unsure how to proceed, consulting with an attorney experienced in labor law and Davis-Bacon Act cases can provide clarity and guidance on filing a complaint or pursuing legal action. We highly suggest contacting an attorney.
  2. Report to the Department of Labor (DOL[RM1] ): You can file a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division of the DOL, which is responsible for enforcing the Davis-Bacon Act, without an attorney. The DOL may investigate your claim and take appropriate action if a violation is found.

What to Expect If You Decide to Pursue Legal Action

Pursuing legal action against an employer for a Davis-Bacon Act violation begins with filing a complaint (you are encouraged to work with qualified legal representation during this process) in court or with the DOL. If filed in court, an attorney will assist you with drafting a court complaint and litigating your case through trial. If filed with the DOL, the process may involve an investigation by the Department of Labor, during which evidence may be reviewed, and testimonies may be collected. If the investigation finds merit in your claim, the case may proceed to a hearing where both parties can present their arguments. The vast majority of cases resolve or are settled before a trial or hearing.

Successful legal action potentially may result in back pay for any lost wages and other compensatory remedies.

Protection Against Retaliation

It is important to know that the DOL recently issued a Final Rule prohibiting retaliation against employees for engaging in protected activities, such as filing a complaint with your employer or government agency or court regarding Davis-Bacon Act rights, participating in an investigation, or informing other workers of their Davis-Bacon Act rights. If you experience any form of retaliation for asserting your rights under the Davis-Bacon Act, you may have the right to seek redress through legal channels to ensure your protection and fair treatment.

Navigating Davis-Bacon Act violation cases requires a detailed understanding of state and federal prevailing wage and employment laws. For guidance, turn to Goodley McCarthy LLC, where our lawyers are ready to advocate for you.

Contact us online to schedule a consultation today. 

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