Many states have prevailing wage laws for construction projects (32 to be exact), and Massachusetts is one of them. The purpose of these laws is to ensure workers on public projects are paid no less than the “prevailing” local wages. Put differently, prevailing wage laws ensure that the workers on public jobs are paid roughly the same as those performing similar work in the same geographical area. Let’s take a look at the rules for prevailing wages in Massachusetts.
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Prevailing Wages Massachusetts: Who’s in Charge?
In Massachusetts, the Department of Labor Standards (or “DLS”) is the body in charge for the determination of wage schedules and issuing prevailing wage sheets. As far as enforcement, the Attorney General’s Office is the one to contact if you feel your contractor isn’t paying you proper wages. Specifically, the Fair Labor Division of the Attorney General’s Office.
Private Companies Often Work on Public Projects
Keep in mind that private companies often work on “public projects” under contract with federal, state, county, or municipal governments. Much like a private project where a contractor is hired by a property owner, a contractor on a public project is hired by a public entity to perform work.
These contractors hire subcontractors and suppliers to carry out the project, and while these are may be private companies, the prevailing wage laws apply to them, too, since they’re working on a public project. Last but not least, prevailing wage laws in Massachusetts also apply to hauling. The law states that a “truck or any automotive or other vehicle or equipment that is to be engaged in public works” are required to be paid prevailing wages.
It Starts with the Public Entity
Before a public project can begin to solicit bids, the public entity must first solicit a prevailing wages sheet from the DLS. Each sheet applies only to the project for which it was issued. The rates are effective for 90 days. If a bid hasn’t been accepted within that time period, the authority must obtain a new, updated sheet.
After a prevailing wages sheet is obtained, the wage schedule is then set for the duration of the contract. If the project is a multi-year contract, the authority must update the wage schedule each year. The schedule must be posted in a conspicuous place at the worksite for the entirety of the contract.
You may be asking yourself, “How do I find out what the prevailing wage rate is?”
Well, as stated above, the awarding authority is required to provide one. However, if you’re curious for bidding purposes, you can request an “example sheet” from the Department of Labor Standards website. Keep in mind that it is only an example. The schedule issued to the project itself will prevail – and it might be a little different.
As a contractor, you must meet certain obligations — the most obvious of which is to pay your workers the prevailing wage rate!
Besides that, it’s the contractor’s responsibility to submit certified weekly payroll records to the awarding authority by first-class or certified mail (you can download the form here on the DLS website). Do not send this form to the Department of Labor Standards! Send it directly to the awarding authority who contracted for the project. Failure to send these weekly payroll statements can result in a fine of up to $10,000 per violation. Further, don’t forget to send a Statement of Compliance directly to the awarding authority, as well.
What If Prevailing Wages Aren’t Paid?
Those who are not paid according to the prevailing wage schedule may bring a lawsuit. Further, they may be entitled to injunctive relief, damages incurred, lost wages and other benefits. Plus, if successful, a claimant may be entitled to triple damages along with attorney’s fees and court costs.
What about overtime? Or benefits? In Massachusetts, workers that clock more than 40 hours in a week must be paid at least time and a half of the base rate for every hour over 40. Some benefits may be applicable (and therefore deducted from the wage rate) such as health, welfare, pension plans, and supplementary unemployment, as long as they are bona fide plans.