Prevailing wage: for workers

Covered employees on public works projects must be paid a special minimum hourly rate called the "prevailing wage."

In Massachusetts, all workers are presumed to be employees. If you are an employed on a public works project, you must be paid the prevailing wage, regardless of whether you are employed by the general contractor, a filed sub-bidder, or any sub-contractor. The prevailing wage laws apply to both union and non-union employers/employees.

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When do I get the prevailing wage?

Your employer must pay you the prevailing wage for the following public work:

What prevailing wage rate am I entitled to?

The Department of Labor Standards (DLS) issues a specific prevailing wage rate schedule for all prevailing wage projects.  For public construction projects, a copy of the wage rate schedule must be posted in a visible location at any public construction work site.  For non-construction jobs that are subject to prevailing wage, you should ask your employer for a copy of the wage rate schedule or you can contact the DLS for a copy.  If you have a question about what rate you should be paid, contact DLS at (617) 626-6953.

Are benefits part of the prevailing wage rate?

Payments by employers to bona fide employee benefit plans for health and welfare, pension and supplemental unemployment, in accordance with applicable collective bargaining agreements or understandings between organized labor and employers, can be included in the wage rates.  On prevailing wage rate schedules, you can see which benefit plan contributions comprise the total prevailing wage rate.

Does this mean that my employer has to provide these benefit plans?

No.  For the purposes of prevailing wage requirements, only those amounts actually contributed by an employer to a health and welfare, pension and supplemental unemployment plan may be deducted from the total prevailing wage rate.  If an employer makes no contributions to allowable benefit plans, the employer must pay the worker the total rate as wages.

Can my employer deduct the value of sick and vacation time from the total wage rate?

No. The following deductions from the prevailing wage rates are not permissible in Massachusetts: vacation time, sick time, training funds, charitable contributions, workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, or uniforms.

Can my boss just decide which rate to pay us?

No. By law the, DLS determines which job classification wage rates apply to work performed in public construction for the purposes of payment of prevailing wage.  Contractors with questions about proper classifications must inquire with DLS.  DLS’s website contains information about many of the classifications. If you cannot find an answer or have further questions, you should call DLS at (617) 626-6953.

Can apprentices be used on a prevailing wage construction project?

Yes.  However, all apprentices working on a public works construction project must be registered with the DLS, Division of Apprentice Standards (DLS/DAS).  Each apprentice must keep his/her apprentice identification card on his/her person during all work hours on the project. An apprentice registered with DAS may be paid the lower apprentice wage rate at the applicable step as provided on the prevailing wage rate schedule. Any apprentice not registered with DLS/DAS, regardless of whether or not they are registered with any other federal, state, local, or private agency must be paid the journeyworker's rate for the trade.  For more information about apprenticeship requirements, please contact DAS at
(617) 626-5409.

Do the prevailing wage rates change if a project lasts more than a year?

Yes. For public construction projects lasting more than one year, contractors must obtain updated wage rate schedules from the awarding authority and must pay no less than those rates to covered workers.  For all prevailing wage rate projects, all wage increases listed on the wage rate schedule, if any, must be paid effective the specific dates listed.

Do I need OSHA training to be working on a public construction project?

Yes. You must complete the OSHA 10 training in order to work on a public construction project in Massachusetts.  You must carry documentation of your OSHA 10 training when you are on the worksite.

My boss said she suspended me because I made a complaint to the Attorney General’s Office about my pay for last week. Is this legal?

No. An employer is prohibited from retaliating, discharging, discriminating or punishing an employee in any way as a result of any action taken on the part of an employee to seek his or her rights under the wage and hour provisions of chapters 149 and 151, including assisting the Attorney General in any investigation or proceeding. An employer is also prohibited from taking any adverse action against an employee who has made a complaint to the Attorney General’s Office, or to any other person, about his or her rights under the state wage and hour laws. M.G.L. c. 149, sec. 148A, and M.G.L. c. 151, sec. 19(1)

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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