Prevailing Wage / Union Level pay for Non-Union Workers

New York Attorneys Assisting Workers on State and Government Projects / Public Works Projects


Minimum wage and Overtime laws are not the only statutes protecting workers to assure that they receive fair compensation for the work they perform.  Section 17 of Article 1 of the New York State Constitution mandates the payment of prevailing wages to workers employed on public work. This constitutional mandate is implemented through Labor Law Article 8, NY Labor Law §§ 220, et seq.  The primary purpose and intent of the prevailing wage law (New York Labor Law § 220) is to protect workers by ensuring that they have an effective remedy to secure the prevailing wage rate.

The New York State Constitution holds that, no laborer, worker or mechanic, in the employ of a contractor or sub-contractor engaged in the performance of any public work, shall be paid less than the rate of wages prevailing in the same trade or occupation in the locality within the state where such public work is to be situated, erected or used.

Regardless of whether you work directly for a general contractor or a sub-contractor, as long as you are working on a “public works project” the prevailing wage requirements apply.  Despite the minimum wage laws or any agreement you may have with your employer to the contrary, the hourly rate of pay that you are entitled to receive is set forth by statute (which is much greater than the minimum wage).

Labor Law § 220 was enacted to ensure that employees working on Public Works Projects are paid wages equivalent to the prevailing rate of similarly employed workers in the locality where the contract is to be performed.  The Commissioner of Labor is authorized to set the prevailing wage rate, as well as the prevailing ‘supplements’ paid in the locality.  Although these are complex issues, our Prevailing Wage Attorneys at the Akin Law Group are well versed in all aspects of prevailing wage laws.  In the event you were paid less than the Prevailing Wage, our Prevailing Wage Attorneys will help you recovery all the monies that you deserve and are owed, together with interest.  It is a misconception to think that you have to be a part of a union to be paid union wages.

Many construction workers (especially those receiving a pay significantly higher than the minimum wage) are unaware of their right to the prevailing wage (which can easily be $80-$100 per hour with the supplement depending on the classification). As such, even workers who believe they are being well compensated may still be getting paid significantly less than that which they are legally entitled to receive. The lost wages can add up to tens of thousands of dollars or more, which these workers will never see unless they contact a law firm, such as the Akin Law Group, that can fight for their rights.

What is Prevailing Wage?

Prevailing Wage is defined as the hourly wage, usual benefits and overtime pay, paid in the largest city in each county, to the Workers, Laborers, and Mechanics working on Public Works Projects.  Workers, Laborers and Mechanics employed on a public work project must receive not less than the prevailing rate of wage and benefits for the classification of work performed by each worker regardless of weather they work directly (for the contractor) or indirectly (for a sub-contractor) on such a Public Works Project.

On a Federal Level, Prevailing Wages are established, by the Department of Labor & Industries, for each trade and occupation employed in the performance of public work. They are established separately for each county, and are reflective of local wage conditions.  In New York State the Commissioner of Labor makes an annual determination of the prevailing rates.  In New York City, the Comptroller makes an annual determination of the prevailing rates that are applicable throughout the City of New York.  The United States Department of Labor, the New York State Department of Labor and the New York City Comptroller annually publishes a detailed schedules of prevailing wages on a trade-by-trade basis. These regulations also include holiday pay and cash equivalencies for various fringe benefits that are required under the prevailing wage laws.

If I work for a sub-contractor, can I still get Prevailing Wages?

When you are working for a public works project, you (as an employee of the subcontractor) are a de facto beneficiaries to said public contract and may bring a claim against the general contractor for underpayment. You are not required to make any additional showing nor plead any additional facts to establish your status as third-party beneficiaries under the public contracts for the purpose of making breach of contract claims against the general contractor for underpayment of wages.

Furthermore, any negation clause in the contract between a general contractor and a sub-contractor designed to circumvent New York’s strong public policy, at least to the extent that it is interpreted to eliminate the common law right of a laborer to sue for payment of a prevailing wage, is unenforceable.  New York has a strong public policy in favor of enforcing Labor Law § 220, the purpose of which is to ensure that each laborer is paid “not less than the prevailing rate for a day’s work in the same trade or occupation in the locality within the state where such public work … is performed.” Labor Law § 220(3)

Am I entitled to Interest if I was denied the Prevailing Wage?

Any employee that worked on a public works project who was not paid at the proper Prevailing Wage rate is entitled to recovery the full amount of underpayment together with interest.  As per New York Labor Law § 220 (8) and § 220 b (2) (c), the law requires that interest be paid from the date of underpayment to the date of payment at the rate of 16% per annum (mandated by section 14-a of the Banking Law).

What is the Davis-Bacon Act?

The Davis-Bacon and Related Acts, are federal laws that apply to workers engaged in federally funded or assisted construction projects involving public buildings or works. The act also requires contractors and subcontractors to provide their employees locally prevailing wages and fringe benefits.

The Davis-Bacon Act directs the Department of Labor to determine such locally prevailing wage rates. The Davis-Bacon Act applies to contractors and subcontractors performing work on federal or District of Columbia contracts. The Davis-Bacon Act prevailing wage provisions apply to the “Related Acts,” under which federal agencies assist construction projects through grants, loans, loan guarantees, and insurance.

What is the the McNamara-O’Hara Service Contract Act

This is a federal law requiring contractors and subcontractors performing service contracts for the federal government to pay prevailing wages and fringe benefits to its employees.

What is the cost of consultation for a Prevailing Wage Attorney?  

Prevailing wage laws at the City, State and Federal levels are rather complex sets of laws. The New York Prevailing Wage attorneys at the Akin Law Group are well versed with the intricacies of these complex laws and are ready to assist you. If you or a family member are employed in construction on a Public Works Project (for the Federal Government, the State Government or the City of New York (like schools, libraries, government buildings etc.) and are not receiving union wages and benefits, contact one of our attorneys immediately at 212-825-1400 for a free and confidential consultation.   Let us help you and your family receive all the monies to which you are entitled.

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