A guide to the prevailing wage law for awarding authorities

The Massachusetts prevailing wage law establishes minimum wage rates for workers on public construction projects.

Prevailing wage

The Massachusetts prevailing wage law establishes minimum wage rates for public workers.

Some of these jobs may include public construction projects, school bus transportation, and waste and recycling disposal. Other jobs are janitorial services for state buildings, office moving services, and certain employees of housing authorities.

Please contact the Department of Labor Standards (DLS) for rate sheets. The Massachusetts Attorney General's Fair Labor Practices Division handles enforcing the law.

If you feel like your employer fails to follow any rules of the Prevailing Wage Law, you should contact the Attorney General's Fair Labor Division at (617) 727-3465.

Additional Resources

Types of activities that apply to the prevailing wage law

Following is a list of the different prevailing wage law requirements and links to a more detailed discussion of each of them.

Prevailing wage and public construction

If you are an awarding authority, these rules apply to you:

  • Before beginning any public construction project, you must get a prevailing wage rate sheet.
  • We have standardized forms that you must use to request prevailing wage rates.
  • If you do not have access to the internet, call the Department of Labor Standards at 617-626-6953 for instructions on mailing a request form.
  • Once you get the prevailing wage schedule for a particular project, it must include the rate sheet in its invitation for bids.
  • If the project will cost less than $10,000, you must make sure that anyone who is providing a price or estimate for the construction project has a copy of the prevailing wage rate sheet for that project.
  • After you select a contractor for that project, make the prevailing wage rate sheet a part of the contract.
  • Each prevailing wage rate sheet issued applies only to its assigned project.
  • 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 need a new request for prevailing wage rates.
  • Once a project has been bid, the prevailing wage rate will apply for the duration of that project, except in the case of multi-year projects.
  • For projects lasting more than one year, you must request annual updates to the wage schedules.
  • You must get new rates from the Department of Labor Standards each time an invitation for bids for a construction project becomes available.
  • You must get prevailing wage rates for every public construction project, regardless of the dollar amount of the contract or whether it must actually be bid.
  • During the construction project, it is your responsibility to check contractors' compliance with the prevailing wage law.
  • You must collect weekly payroll records from all contractors and kept on file.
  • You must maintain these weekly payroll records for three years following final payment on the construction project.
  • We need contractors and subcontractors to submit weekly payroll records to the awarding authority by first class or electronic mail.
  • A statement of compliance must go with each weekly payroll submittal.

If you have questions, call the Department of Labor Standards (DLS): 617-626-6953.

Additional Resources

Prevailing Wage common questions about public construction

1. How to know if I am not sure if the prevailing wage law applies to my contract?

You can contact the DLS prevailing wage program for help at (617) 626-6952. You may also send an e-mail to Steve.Falcone@state.ma.us.

2. Does the prevailing wage law have a dollar threshold like the state bidding laws?

No. There is no dollar threshold under the prevailing wage law.

3. Is preventative maintenance work covered by the prevailing wage law?

You may submit a request for "maintenance and repair," as these are generally bid as one contract, but the rate sheet will only cover any "additions or alterations" that occur during the course of the contract.

4. What is a periodic rate sheet and when can I use one?

We recognize that it might not be practical to submit prevailing wage rate requests in advance of each incidental project to which the prevailing wage law is applicable. We will issue a periodic prevailing wage rate sheet for minor work not associated with larger projects. These sheets should convenience and to easing compliance burdens, but does not absolve anyone from the obligation to submit separate timely rate requests for other planned projects. The periodic rate sheets will be effective only for the time specified on the sheet (either six or twelve months).

5. What contracts need annual updates?

This law applies to all public construction contracts bid on or after August 8, 2008. This law does not affect contracts bid before August 8, 2008.

6. What if the project last longer than a year?

The rates need an annual update and the contractor must get and pay those rates.

7. When must awarding authorities request these updates?

Requests for updates should happen no later than two weeks before the anniversary of the original request. The effective date for the new rates will be the anniversary date of the contract, regardless of date of issuance on the schedule.

8. What are contractors obligated to do?

General contractors must get these updated schedules and general and sub-contractors must pay the rates to workers. Post update schedules in a conspicuous place at the work site during the life of the contract. Failure to follow the prevailing wage law may result in civil or criminal penalties.

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Non-construction public works and the prevailing wage

Any agreement or requisition issued or entered into by an awarding authority which requires the use of a vehicle or equipment for public works purposes must contain a stipulation that prevailing wages shall be paid to the operators of such vehicles or equipment. The awarding authority must obtain a prevailing wage sheet from DLS. DLS has standardized forms that awarding authorities must use to request a rate sheet. Awarding authorities must complete an online prevailing wage request form at http://www.mass.gov/lwd/labor-standards/prevailing-wage-program/. In the rare instance where an awarding authority does not have access to the internet, the awarding authority must call DLS at 617-626-6953 to receive instructions on mailing a hard copy request form. Once the awarding authority receives the prevailing wage rate sheet, it must include the rate sheet in the agreement or requisition.

Prevailing wage common questions for Non Construction

1. How long is the rate sheet in effect once issued?

Prevailing wage rate sheets for vehicle or equipment use, including trash/recycling disposal, remain in effect for the duration of the contract term. Any exercise of an option to renew or extend the contract term shall include updated prevailing wage rates.

2. Are weekly certified payroll records required to be maintained by the awarding authority?

No, but the awarding authority is still required to monitor compliance with the prevailing wage requirement, as it would for any other contractual requirement.

3. Do the prevailing wage requirements of § 27F apply to "secondary haulers" (haulers who haul trash from a transfer station to the ultimate place of disposal)?

4. What is a Periodic Rate Sheet and when can I use one?

DLS recognizes that it might not be practical for awarding authorities to submit prevailing wage rate requests in advance of each incidental project to which the prevailing wage law is applicable. For example, a municipality should be able to quickly attend to a broken window or down boiler without running afoul of the prevailing wage law. For this reason, DLS will issue a periodic prevailing wage rate sheet for minor work not associated with larger projects.

These sheets are issued as a convenience and as a means of easing compliance burdens, but do not absolve awarding authorities from the obligation to submit separate timely rate requests for other planned projects. The periodic rate sheets will be effective only for the time period specified on the sheet (either six or twelve months).

To receive a periodic rate sheet for minor isolated work, please submit a prevailing wage rate request online at http://www.mass.gov/lwd/labor-standards/prevailing-wage-program/. Title your request "Periodic Wage Rate Work" and indicate either six or twelve months on the Project Description field on the request form. In the rare instance where an awarding authority does not have access to the internet, the awarding authority must call DLS at 617-626-6953 to receive instructions on mailing a hard copy request form.
 

5. What contracts need annual updates?

This law applies to all public construction contracts (contracts subject to M.G.L. c. 149, §27) bid on or after August 8, 2008. This law does not affect contracts bid prior to August 8, 2008.

6. What if the awarding authority estimates that the project will last less than one year, but the work extends into a second contract year?

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

7. When must awarding authorities request these updates?

Awarding authorities should request these updates no later than two weeks before the anniversary of the date the contract was executed. For example, if a town enters into a three-year contract for road repairs on November 1, 2008, the town must request an updated wage schedule before November 1, 2009, and November 1, 2010. This request should be made by at least October 15 of each year to allow for processing time. The effective date for the new rates will be the anniversary date of the contract, regardless of date of issuance on the schedule. In this case, the rates would go into effect on November 1, 2009 and November 1, 2010, even if the schedules were issued by DLS on October 25 of each year.

8. What are contractors obligated to do?

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. Update schedules must also be posted in a conspicuous place at the work site 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.

Prevailing wage and school bus transportation

Prior to awarding a contract for the transportation of pupils, the awarding authority for a city, town or school district having a population of sixteen thousand or more must request a prevailing wage rate sheet from DLS. DLS has standardized forms that awarding authorities must use to request prevailing wage schedules for school bus contracts. Awarding authorities must complete an online prevailing wage request form at www.mass.gov/dols/pw. In the rare instance where an awarding authority does not have access to the internet, the awarding authority must call DLS at 617-626-6953 to receive instructions on mailing a hard copy request form.

Prevailing wage questions for school bus transporation

1. What if my city or town has a population of fewer than sixteen thousand

If DLS determines, using the most recent U.S. census data, that a town or city has a population of less than 16,000, it will not set a prevailing wage rate, and will provide notice to the awarding authority.

2. What if my town or city is part of a regional school district?

If the combined populations of the town(s)/cities which comprise the school district is equal or greater to 16,000, the DLS will aggregate the population of multiple cities or towns to determine the applicable prevailing wage rate.

3. How long is the rate sheet in effect once issued?

Prevailing wage rate sheets for transportation of pupils for a city, town, or school district having a population of sixteen thousand or over, remain in effect for the duration of the contract term. Any exercise of an option to renew or extend the contract term shall include updated prevailing wage rates.

Prevailing wage and housing authorities

Massachusetts general law, c. 121B, § 29, provides a statutory scheme by which the wage rates of certain employees of state housing authorities are determined. Pursuant to section 29B, a housing authority is required to provide to DLS a list of classifications of work performed by all architects, technical engineers, draftsmen, technicians, laborers, and mechanics employed by the authority. After a housing authority provides such information, DLS determines prevailing wage rate for each classification and provides the housing authority with a wage schedule. The law provides that such wages and fees "shall not be less than those determined by said commissioner who shall set the rate at no less than 80% of the prevailing wage in accordance with sections 26 and 27 of chapter 149."

Prevailing wage questions for housing authorities

1. How often does DLS issue wage rates for housing authorities?

DLS issues wage rates for housing authorities in March of each year, with an effective date of April 1 of the same year.

2. After the DLS issues wage rates for certain housing authority in March of each year, may the housing authority request updated rates and/or a new job classification?

Yes, however, any increases in the collective bargaining agreements which are the basis for the wage rates will be included in the new rates that are issued as a result of subsequent requests.

Prevailing wage regarding moving office furniture and fixtures

Prevailing wage rates shall apply to any contract for the moving of office furniture and fixtures entered into or given by the commonwealth or by a county, city, town, or district. "Moving" of the office furniture must be reconciled with the statutory definition of construction under the prevailing wage laws. Construction is described as any "addition or alteration of public works" in G.L. 149, §27D. The "moving" of the office furniture must be within an addition or alteration to the building or space. Included in the "moving" definition is the installation of furniture or fixtures that are affixed to the building and the disassembly, moving, and reconfiguration of existing furniture or fixtures.

The Commonwealth, county, city, town or district shall request DLS to issue prevailing rates of wages. DLS has standardized forms that awarding authorities must use to request prevailing wage rates. Awarding authorities must complete an online prevailing wage request form at www.mass.gov/dols/pw. In the rare instance where an awarding authority does not have access to the internet, the awarding authority must call DLS at 617-626-6953 to receive instructions on mailing a hard copy request form.

DLS will furnish a schedule containing the classifications of jobs and the rate of wages to be paid each job. The wage rates shall include an hourly wage and payments to health and welfare plans. If no such plans are in effect between employers and employees, the amount of such payments shall be paid directly to said employee. Once the awarding authority receives the prevailing wage rate sheet, it must include the rate sheet in the agreements or requisition.

Additional Resources

Prevailing Wage questions about moving office contracts

1. Who pays the employees the prevailing wage?

The awarding authority ensures the contractors and subcontractors of their project are paying employees the prevailing wage.

2. Is the sale and installation of new office furniture considered "moving"?

We cannot cover the buying of office furniture and the installation would not be under the prevailing wage law unless the installation affixed the furniture to the building.The delivery, assembly and placement of new office furniture is not covered by the prevailing wage law.Prevailing wage would apply only to building alterations done in connections with the installation of the office furniture, such as electrical work that may need to the building to make electrical or data network connections.

Prevailing wage and state cleaning contracts

All contracts must specify that employees who clean or maintain a public or rented building will receive payment in matching the prevailing wage. This rule does not apply to contracts for the cleaning and maintenance of buildings owned or space rented by town or cities. The awarding authorities of commonwealth contracts must request prevailing wage rates from the commissioner of the Department of Labor Standards. We have standardized forms that awarding authorities must use to request prevailing wage rates.

Awarding authorities can complete an online prevailing wage request form below:

Visit the Prevailing Wage Program website.

If you do not have access to the internet, you can call the Department of Labor Standards at the following number to receive instructions on mailing a hard copy request form.

Call us: 617-626-6953

The rates we set include an hourly wage plus payments into health, welfare and pension plans. If no such plans are in effect between employer and employee, the employee must receive equal wages. Once the awarding authority receives the prevailing wage rate sheet, it must include the rate sheet in the agreement or requisition.

Additional Resources

Prevailing wage and security guard services

The prevailing wage rate for security guard services is applicable. The rate includes the basic hourly pay and payments to health, welfare, and pension plans.

  1. How do I get a prevailing wage schedule for MCCA security guard services?

You can get the schedule through our website. Please follow these instructions to request prevailing wage rates:

  • Log in the Prevaling Wage Program website.

  • Click on the link for Official Request for Prevailing Wages, if you are the awarding authority.

  • Click on the link for Example Request for Prevailing Wages, if you are not an awarding authority and want to see the current rates.

  • Enter your registration number.

  • When the main screen opens, complete the request form and under the section titled, Project Details, be sure to click on the option titled, Janitorial (Cleaning).

  • In the project description box, please write: “Security guard services – Massachusetts Convention Center Authority.”

  • Click the Submit button. 

  • We will list rates for security guard services on the official or example wage schedule after the cleaner/janitor/porter rates.

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