Davis-Bacon Act and Related Acts (federal)
The Davis-Bacon Act and Related Acts provide that construction workers on certain federal and federally-assisted projects are entitled to the locally prevailing wage, which is comprised of a basic hourly rate and fringe benefits rate. Examples of covered projects include NASA research facilities, military housing, federal highways, and local affordable housing projects assisted with federal funds.
Frequently asked questions
What is the Davis-Bacon Act and which projects does it cover?
The federal Davis-Bacon Act (DBA) of 1931 was designed for the benefit of blue-collar construction workers. The law prevents cut-throat bidding in federal procurement from eroding local area wages and benefits. The law protects wages and benefits by requiring that contractors and subcontractors on federal projects pay construction workers at least the locally going rate, known as the prevailing wage.
The DBA applies to most public building and public work projects carried out by the federal or D.C. government. Examples of covered projects include federal government buildings, medical centers of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, NASA facilities, military housing, bridges, highways, etc.
Source: 40 U.S.C. § 3142; 29 C.F.R. part 5 et seq.
Which projects does the law cover?
The Davis-Bacon Act applies to most public building and public work projects carried out by the federal or D.C. government. Examples of covered projects include federal government buildings, medical centers of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, NASA facilities, military housing, bridges, highways, etc.
Source: 40 U.S.C. § 3142; 29 C.F.R. part 5
What are Davis-Bacon Related Acts?
Since 1939, Congress has passed numerous laws extending Davis-Bacon requirements to state and local construction projects that receive federal assistance in the form of grants, loans, loan guarantees and innovative financing mechanisms. These laws are known as Davis-Bacon Related Acts (DBRA). Currently, there are some 70 DBRAs in the U.S. Code.
Examples of DBRA-covered projects include school construction, wastewater treatment plants, public roads, bridges, etc.
Source: 29 C.F.R. § 5.1(a)
Which workers are entitled to the federal prevailing wage?
Construction workers are entitled to the prevailing wage (e.g., plumbers, carpenters, painters, operating engineers, insulators, sheet metal workers, ironworkers, electricians, laborers, etc.).
Can employers pay apprentices and helpers less than the prevailing wage?
Apprentices. Contractors are only allowed to pay less than the prevailing rate to apprentices in registered apprenticeship programs. Generally, such apprentices must be paid and utilized in accordance with their apprenticeship program. Apprentices who are not in a registered program, must receive the prevailing wage.
Helpers. Some employers on covered projects employ so-called “helpers” in order to reduce labor costs. Under the Davis-Bacon Act and Davis-Bacon Related Acts, helpers and helper rates are permitted in very limited circumstances. Generally, a helper classification may only be utilized if: (1) the helper’s duties are distinct from those of any other classification on the wage determination, and (2) the use of helpers is an established prevailing practice in the area. Absent these circumstances, a worker classified as a “helper” must receive the prevailing wage rate that corresponds with the work he or she is performing.
Source: 29 C.F.R. §§ 5.2 (n)(1) & (4), 5.5(a)(4)
What is the federal prevailing wage?
Prevailing wage rates refer to the hourly wage and fringe benefit rates that the U.S. Department of Labor (US DOL) establishes by county, for each classification of worker, based on survey data it collects from construction projects in the area. The US DOL issues prevailing wage rates for each county in the country.
Source: 29 C.F.R. part 1
How can I find out whether I am being paid the proper prevailing wage?
The law requires contractors and subcontractors on covered projects to post prevailing wage rates and a Davis-Bacon poster in a prominent and accessible place where they can be easily seen by the workers. If you are working on a covered project and the contractor has failed to post the prevailing wage rates, FFC-MAR can help you determine whether you are being paid the proper rate. For assistance, please contact us.
Source: 29 C.F.R. § 5.5(a)(1)
What should I do if my employer is not paying me the proper prevailing wage rate?
For violations of the Davis-Bacon Act or Davis-Bacon Related Acts, an aggrieved worker may file an administrative complaint for backpay with either the U.S. Department of Labor or the government contracting agency responsible for overseeing the project.
If you are working on a covered project in the District of Columbia, and your employer has paid you less than the federal prevailing wage, you may sue your employer under the D.C. Wage Theft Prevention Act. Under this law, aggrieved workers may sue for backpay, treble damages, attorney’s fees and costs. Moreover, if your employer is unable to pay, you may hold the general contractor on the project accountable.
Source: 29 C.F.R. § 5.6; D.C. Wage Theft Prevention Act of 2013, B20-0199 (codified in various sections of the D.C. Wage Payment and Collection Law, D.C. Code § 32-1301 et seq.)
Are independent contractors entitled to the federal prevailing wage?
Some employers misclassify their workers as independent contractors to avoid paying federal and state taxes, worker’s compensation, overtime, and other benefits that employees are entitled to. Under the Davis-Bacon Act and Davis-Bacon Related Acts, however, independent contractors are generally entitled to the federal prevailing wage so long as they are performing the duties of construction workers on covered projects.
Source: 40 U.S.C. § 3142(c)(1); 29 C.F.R. §§ 5.2(o) and 5.5(a)(1).
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