Prevailing wage: for awarding authorities

Public works by public agencies and their subdivisions require the payment of prevailing wages.

The Massachusetts prevailing wage laws require that covered employees on public works projects be paid a minimum hourly rate set by the Department of Labor Standards (DLS). The prevailing wage laws apply to both union and non-union employers and employees. The Attorney General's Office (AGO) enforces these laws.

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Covered projects

If you have a question about whether or not a project requires prevailing wages, you must contact DLS.

Awarding authority defined

The law provides that public works by “the commonwealth, or by a county, town, or district” require the payment of prevailing wages.  In general, this means all public agencies and their subdivisions, including state agencies, counties, authorities, cities, towns, school departments, highway or public works departments, water departments, housing authorities, and other municipal departments are covered by the prevailing wage laws.

Awarding authority liability

Under certain circumstances, workers who are not paid the proper prevailing wage rate for all hours worked have a right of action against the city or town to recover said wages in accordance with M.G.L. c. 149, sec. 28.  

How to comply

The awarding authority should:

  • Request official prevailing wage rate schedules from DLS before bids or quotes are solicited for public works projects.  Requesting a prevailing wage rate schedule is easy. Visit to register as a requestor and get more information about the automated system.
  • Make copies available (free of charge) to all bidders or persons providing price quotes.  Since DLS does not issue wage rate schedules directly to contractors, the awarding authority must provide them to all bidders.
  • Ensure that all bids reflect prevailing wage rates and, therefore, review all bids carefully.
  • Include the wage rate schedule in the contract, once a contractor has been selected.
  • Ensure that no contractor with whom you are engaging is debarred from engaging in public work.  Check the Attorney General’s Debarment List.
  • Monitor the contractors’ compliance with the prevailing wage laws. For construction projects, weekly certified payroll records (CPRs) must be collected from all contractors (and subcontractors) and kept on file.  You are encouraged to notify the Attorney General’s Fair Labor Division if contractors fail to comply with this provision or if you believe that a contractor is not paying prevailing wages.

Wage rate schedules

The wage rate schedule issued for the project by DLS will remain in effect for the entire project, except in the case of multi-year construction projects.  For construction projects lasting more than one year, awarding authorities must request an updated rate schedule from DLS, which will become effective on the anniversary date of the contract.

A copy of the wage rate schedule is required by law to be posted in a visible location at the public constriction work site.

A wage rate schedule issued for a project may not be used on any other project. Each wage rate schedule applies only to the public works project for which it was issued.

Certified payroll records (CPRs)

For construction projects, all contractors and sub-contractors are required to file certified payroll records directly with the awarding authority on a weekly basis. These records must contain accurate information detailing each employee's name, address, occupational classification, hours worked and wages paid. The records must be certified and signed by the contractor or agent under the pains and penalties of perjury. All contractors and sub-contractors must submit the records directly to the awarding authority every week and a final statement of compliance within fifteen days of the completion of the contractor and/or sub-contractor's work.


Contractors may be called upon to demonstrate how they could complete the project and comply with the prevailing wage law.

Non-compliance with the law subjects the contractor to potential civil and criminal liability as well as debarment and stop work orders.  In addition to enforcement by the Office of the Attorney General, workers have a right to sue their employer for violations of the prevailing wage laws.  Workers who win their cases have a right to triple damages, attorney fees and court costs.  Under certain circumstances, workers who are not paid the proper prevailing wage rate for all hours worked have a right of action against the city or town to recover said wages in accordance with M.G.L. c. 149, sec. 28.  

Administration and enforcement

Two state government agencies have different responsibilities related to the prevailing wage laws. The DLS is responsible for issuing wage schedules and job classifications, and making determinations on the applicability of the prevailing wage.  Appeals of prevailing wage rate schedules may be made to DLS.  The Office of the Attorney General’s Fair Labor Division is responsible for enforcing the prevailing wage laws and receives all bid protests.

Note that projects that are federally-funded, or partially federally-funded, may require Davis-Bacon wage rates issued by the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division.  For more information, contact:  (866) 4-USWAGE or Boston District Office: (617) 624-6700 or Taunton Area Office: (508) 821-9106.

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