The information here should not be considered as legal advice.
Public Works means any project for the new construction, repair or reconstruction of buildings, facilities, transportation systems, water and sewage treatment facilities, etc. financed in whole or in part from public money and are contracted by a governmental agency or public body.
Understanding Types of Construction and How the Laws Are Applied
Construction falls into three basic categories:
- Private construction
- Federal taxpayer financed construction
- State and Local taxpayer financed construction
The laws discussed here are applicable to federal projects and to state and local taxpayer financed construction projects. (The laws do not apply to private construction.)
Prevailing Wages (which is different from the Minimum Wage Law) must be paid to workers on federal and state and locally financed construction projects in Washington.
Prevailing Wage Laws
The Federal Davis-Bacon Act and the Washington State Public Works Act require that all contractors and subcontractors to pay construction employees the wages, benefits, and overtime rates that are specified by the contract on any type of public works project.
The wages and benefits required to be paid can differ from project to project depending on:
- whether it is a federal project or a state or local taxpayer financed project
- the classification of work performed
- the location (county) of the project
The actual contract documents for each separate project will specify the exact wages and benefits to be paid for the location where the project is constructed.
How to Determine Which Prevailing Wage Laws Apply
If it is a project funded with ONLY federal dollars:
- The Davis-Bacon Act (federal prevailing wage law) will apply on projects having at least $2,000 in federal assistance.
- A U.S. Department of Labor wage determination specifies wage rates (county by county) to be included in the contract.
- All of the provisions of the Davis-Bacon Act must be followed.
If it is a project funded with ONLY state or local dollars:
- The Washington State Public Works Act will apply on projects that do not have any federal assistance.
- Washington State Labor & Industries determines prevailing wage rates (county by county) to be included in the contract.
- All of the provisions of the Washington State Public Works Act must be followed.
If it is a project funded with BOTH federal and state or local dollars:
- Both laws apply and all provisions of each law must be followed.
- Both U.S. Department of Labor and Washington Labor & Industries published wage rates should be reviewed and the higher wage rate should apply.
Although the details, rules, and administration of the federal and state laws are different, the practical result is that compliance must be met by one or both whenever public funds are used.