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Prevailing Wage

Prevailing wage law in Massachusetts establishes minimum wages for work on public projects.

At the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman, LLC, our Boston prevailing wage lawyers know the law is frequently misunderstood or outright disregarded. As a result, workers aren’t paid wages to which they are entitled.

There are serious consequences imposed when a contractor is caught violating state prevailing wage statutes, which can include barring the company from future public works contracts and payment of treble damages to affected workers. That means employees could receive triple what they were originally owed.

However, employees who wish to pursue such actions can’t simply file a lawsuit. They must first obtain a private right of action through the Attorney General’s office.

Our experienced Boston legal team is knowledgeable about the necessary requirements and procedures. We have the resources, skill and dedication necessary to launch a successful case for just compensation after a prevailing wage law violation.

Understanding Prevailing Wage Law in Massachusetts

The law, codified in Mass. G.L. c. 149, §§ 26 - 27; c. 5, § 1; c. 71, § 7A and c. 121B, § 29B, sets the rates for a myriad of different positions including workers engaged in:

  • Public construction projects;
  • School bus transportation;
  • Operation of vehicles and equipment used by public entities for public workers purposes (i.e., solid waste and recycling);
  • Janitorial services for state buildings;
  • Office moving services;
  • Certain work for the housing authority;

Every year, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development’s Department of Labor Standards issues a new prevailing wage rate sheet. Wage rates are set for different projects in different counties by trade.

Each type of occupation is subject to a specific set of guidelines and minimum wage payments. The Department of Labor Standards lists hundreds of occupational classifications and various rates, ranging from pool technicians to pipelayers to security guards to street light maintenance.

The law applies regardless of union status, and includes:

  • MassDot Construction Projects
  • City Projects
  • Town Projects
  • State of Massachusetts Projects

Contractors are responsible for ensuring they pay no less than set rates to covered workers. In cases where bidding takes place for public contract, the awarding agency is responsible for obtaining a prevailing wage sheet before bids are solicited. That sheet has to be provided to contractors so there is no question the contractor is aware of it.

Once a project has been bid, that prevailing wage rate will last for the duration of any contracts resulting from that bid – except where the contract lasts longer than a year. In those cases, the government agency that awarded the contract has to obtain updated prevailing wage sheets and provide them to contractors.

Employers are further required under the law to certify weekly payroll records that prove they are paying their workers the standard prevailing wage. Failure to adhere to this requirement alone could result in fines of up to $10,000 – per occurrence.

Violations of Massachusetts Prevailing Wage Law

Enforcement of the law falls in the hands of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Fair Labor Practices Division. Companies that violate the prevailing wage law could be subject to criminal penalties or civil sanctions under M.G.L. c. 149, §27C. Willful violation of the law can result in up to a year of imprisonment for the first offense, plus a fine of up to $25,000. Habitual offenders face even harsher consequences.

And yet, violations continue. In some cases, there may be a genuine misunderstanding. However, employers will likely still be subject to penalties, and they will have to pay workers owed wages regardless.

However, more often than not, employers intentionally attempt to avoid paying prevailing wages because they tend to be higher than what workers are paid on non-public jobs.

The two primary ways in which employers intentionally avoid paying prevailing wage are:

  • Not paying it altogether and falsifying certified payroll records
  • Misclassifying workers as apprentices or lower tradesmen
  • In some prior cases of misclassification that involved carpenters as apprentices, the company promised to make up the difference directly to workers in cash. This is illegal.
Workers who suspect a violation of prevailing wage laws in Massachusetts should seek immediate counsel from an experienced Boston employment law attorney.

Contact the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman, LLC at (617) 367-2900 or by email for a free consultation.

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