What is the prevailing wage law?

On behalf of Sullivan Law Group APC posted in wage & hour laws on Friday, May 4, 2018.

Like everyone in San Diego, you are likely familiar with the concept of a minimum wage. Such a standard (currently $7.25 nationally) ensures that laborers are paid a base amount. Yet minimum wage is meant to apply primarily to entry-level positions. However, in industries that work contractually (say, construction) what is to stop employers from lowering their employees’ wages to that amount in an effort to spend less on labor to win contract bids? The answer to that question is simple: the prevailing wage law. 

In California, the prevailing wage law is meant specifically to keep managers over public works projects from doing just that. It recognizes the added skill required to do the work you do, the dangers posed by the conditions in which you do it, and the potential for a contracting manager to determine your wage. According to the California Department of Industrial Relations, as long as the public works project you are involved in is valued at more than $1,000, your employer must follow the terms of the prevailing wage law (the only exception would be if the body that awarded the contract elects to enforce a CDIR-approved labor compliance program). 

In California, prevailing wage standards are issued twice a year (in February and August). The CDIR determines them by analyzing the wages paid for a particular craft, classification or type of worker in a given area. A per diem wage rate is then released which, while differing slightly from county-to-county, is more or less uniform over that area. 

Special considerations can be given for roles that general would not be subject to a prevailing wage. The state’s prevailing wage law also requires that you are paid a minimum of time-and-a-half if you are asked to work overtime.