A Guide to the MA Prevailing Wage Law for Contractors

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A Guide to the MA Prevailing Wage Law for Contractors

G.L. c. 149 §§ 26-27

What is the Prevailing Wage Law?

The Massachusetts Prevailing Wage Law for public works projects G.L. c. 149, §§ 26 - 27 ("The Prevailing Wage Law") establishes minimum wage rates for workers on public construction projects. The Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, Department of Labor Standards (DLS) is the agency responsible for issuing prevailing wage rate sheets and administering the Prevailing Wage Law. The Massachusetts Attorney General's Fair Labor Division is responsible for enforcing the law. If contractors fail to comply with any provision of the Prevailing Wage Law or if you believe a contractor is not paying prevailing wages, you should contact the Attorney General's Fair Labor Division at (617) 727-3465.  

Before soliciting bids for any public construction project an awarding authority must obtain a prevailing wage rate sheet from DLS. Each prevailing wage rate sheet applies only to the public construction project for which it is issued. The prevailing wage rates for each construction project are in effect for 90 days from the date of issue. Projects not bid within 90 days of the issued rates will require the awarding authority to request new prevailing wage rates. Once a project has been bid, the prevailing wage rate will apply for the duration of any contracts which result from that bid, except in the case of multi-year projects. For projects lasting more than one year, the awarding authority must request annual updates to the wage schedules (see FAQs below for more information on annual updates).

During the project, it is the contractor's responsibility to submit weekly payroll records to the awarding authority. Weekly payroll report forms are available on DLS' website. All information set forth on the form must be provided. Failure to submit weekly payroll records may result in fines of up to $10,000 per occurrence.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q. How Can I Determine the Prevailing Wage Rates for Bidding on a Project?

A. Under the law, the awarding authority is required to include the rate sheet in the bid documents. In addition, for bidding purposes, you may request an "Example Rate Sheet" by accessing the DLS website. If you have questions or problems obtaining an Example Rate Sheet, you may call (617) 626-6953. Notwithstanding information contained on an Example Rate sheet, the wage rates which a contractor must pay to its workers if awarded the contract are those contained on the official rate sheet obtained by the awarding authority.

Q. Which Benefits are Included in the Prevailing Wage Rate?

A. Payments by employers to health and welfare plans, pension plans and supplemental unemployment benefit plans under collective bargaining agreements or understandings between organized labor and employers are included in the wage rates. G.L. c. 149, §§ 26 and 27. Only those amounts contributed by an employer to a bonafide health and welfare, pension or supplemental unemployment plan may be deducted from the wage rate.

Q. Why Does the Rate Sheet Contain Both Percentages and Dollar Figures for the Apprentice Rates?

A . Effective March 18, 2010, DLS began to publish on the prevailing wage rate sheets, the actual apprentice wage rates including the enumerated benefits described above. To the extent that the employer actually contributes, on behalf of the employee, to a health and welfare, pension or supplementary unemployment plan, the employer may deduct the amount contributed from the apprentice wage rate published on the rate sheet, just as they may for journeyman. Although for a period of time the percentages may still appear on the rate sheets, for projects that include wage schedules issued from this date forward, contractors should no longer calculate the apprentice rate based upon the percentage, but instead shall pay no less than the wage rate listed on the rate sheet.

Q. What if I Have a Question about a Classification on the Rate Sheet?

A. The DLS website contains a Topical Index that contains details regarding classifications, among other information. In addition, the website contains DLS Opinion Letters from 2000 onward which contain detailed information about many of the classifications. If you cannot find an answer or have further questions, you must call the DLS at (617) 626-6952.

Q. Is Preventative Maintenance Work Covered by the Prevailing Wage Law?

A. Maintenance or repair which involve any "additions or alterations" to a public work is covered under the prevailing wage law.

Q. What is An Annual Update?

A. On August 8, 2008, the prevailing wage law was amended to require annual updates to prevailing wage rate sheets for all public construction projects lasting longer than one year. This law applies to all public construction contracts bid on or after August 8, 2008. This law does not affect contracts bid prior to August 8, 2008.

Q. What if the Awarding Authority Estimates that the Project Will Last Less than One Year, But the Work Extends Into a Second Contract Year?

A. The awarding authority must request an annual update, and the contractor must obtain and pay those rates.

Q. What Are My Obligations As a Contractor for Annual Updates?

A. General Contractors must obtain these updated schedules from awarding authorities, and general and sub-contractors must pay no less than these rates to covered workers. Updated schedules must also be posted in a conspicuous place at the worksite during the life of the contract. Failure to comply with the prevailing wage law may result in civil or criminal penalties and/or sanctions under M.G.L. c. 149, §27C.