New Jersey Prevailing Wages
Most government-funded construction projects in New Jersey are subject to the New Jersey Prevailing Wage Act, which requires that employers on publicly funded projects in New Jersey pay their construction worker employees “prevailing wages” for each hour worked.
The purpose of the New Jersey Prevailing Wage Act is to establish a prevailing wage level for workers engaged in public works in order to safeguard the worker’s efficiency and general well-being, and to protect them as well as their employers from the effects of serious and unfair competition resulting from wage levels that are detrimental to the efficiency and well-being of all concerned.
The hourly prevailing wage rate depends on the type of work performed. For example, there are different prevailing wage rates for electricians, pipefitters, laborers, painters, and every other construction trade found on a construction project. The prevailing rates are also based on the county where the work is performed.
These prevailing wage rates are typically much higher than the New Jersey minimum wage and are based on the combined rate for both wages and fringe benefits found in union-negotiated contracts for the applicable trade.
For example, the prevailing wage rate for bricklayer work in Atlantic County as of October 2023 is a total of $84.28 per hour, which consists of $48.00 per hour in wages and $36.28 per hour in fringe benefits. The prevailing wage rate for electricians in Atlantic County is $99.81 per hour, comprising $61.42 per hour in wages and $38.39 per hour in fringe benefits.
The prevailing wage rates required in New Jersey may also include daily overtime compensation if you work more than 8 hours in one day. Overtime (time-and-half or 1.5x the prevailing rate) and sometimes double prevailing rates may apply if you work nights, weekends, or certain holidays. For example, carpenters on public works projects in Atlantic County must be paid overtime compensation at the prevailing wage rate for work on Saturdays and must be paid double the hourly prevailing rate for work on Sundays.
If you believe you may be owed unpaid prevailing wages, contact Goodley McCarthy LLC for a free consultation.
How do I know if I’m owed prevailing wages? What types of projects typically require prevailing wages?
You are likely owed prevailing wages if you perform any type of construction work on a government-funded project. This includes federal, state and local or county governments.
Examples of government-funded projects that are subject to prevailing wage laws include:
- Public schools and universities
- Court houses
- Police and fire stations
- Highway, road, bridge, and tunnel improvement projects
- Public transit construction or improvement projects
- Sewer and water line replacement projects
- Government offices and other municipal buildings
- And more
Do I have to be in a union to receive prevailing wages?
No. Employers on publicly-funded construction projects must pay their construction workers prevailing wages, regardless of whether they are in a union.
If my employer does not provide any fringe benefits such as a pension or healthcare, does my employer still need to pay me the f
Yes, but prevailing wage laws do not require your employer to provide fringe benefits such as healthcare and pension benefits. If your employer provides no benefits, then your employer must pay the fringe benefit portion of the prevailing wage rate directly into your paycheck as wages. Or, if your employer only provides some benefits, but the benefit cost to the employer is less than the fringe benefit portion of the applicable prevailing wage rate. Your employer must pay the difference directly into your paycheck as wages.
I worked on a government-funded construction project, but I only performed clean-up work or flagging work. Am I owed prevailing
Yes, probably. General laborers who perform set-up or clean-up work on a public construction site are typically owed prevailing wages. Safety or road flaggers are also typically owed prevailing wages on public projects.
If the company I work for classifies me as an independent contractor, am I owed prevailing wages if I work on a public project?
Yes, probably. Independent contractor misclassification is a common problem in the construction industry. You should be paid prevailing wages, regardless of whether your employer classifies you as a W-2 employee or 1099 independent contractor.
What if I performed electrical work on a public project, but my employer classified and paid me as a laborer?
Trade misclassification and underpayment of prevailing wages is a common problem on publicly funded projects. Although “laborer” is a classification with its own prevailing wage rates, laborer rates are often on the lower end of the prevailing wage scale. Consequently, companies often misclassify and pay workers who perform higher-paid trade work (e.g. electricians, pipefitters) as laborers to avoid paying the higher prevailing wage rates. If you believe you have been misclassified and underpaid prevailing wages on a publicly funded project, you may be able to bring a lawsuit for the unpaid prevailing wages.