Government contractors and subcontractors must pay their employees the prevailing wage as determined by New York law. Employers who have contracts with the New York City government or another municipality must pay the prevailing wage or face serious consequences. When companies submit a bid on a government contract or public works project, the company must determine the prevailing wages for each type of employee. The prevailing wage laws required by New York law is frequently higher than the wage an employee typically receives for similar work.
Prevailing wage job issues can quickly become time-consuming and complicated. If your employer is not paying you the prevailing wage, you might be entitled to compensation. At Lipsky Lowe LLP, our skilled employment law attorneys understand how important it is for New York employees to receive the wage to which they’re entitled. All of our experienced attorneys are knowledgeable in the area of wage and hour employment claims. Contact our employment lawyers today to learn how we can help you fight for your right to a prevailing wage.
Which Government Contracts Are Subject to the Prevailing Wage Rate?
New York state’s Labor Law establishes state-wide prevailing wage regulations. New York’s Bureau of Public Works regularly issues prevailing wage schedules based on the county in which employees perform the work. The prevailing wage schedules contain different pay rates for different work classifications. Under New York’s prevailing wage law, all government contractors and subcontractors must pay prevailing wages to all employees. Employers must also pay prevailing rates for supplements or fringe benefits to all workers under public work contracts.
Projects in which a company enters into a contract with a public body to perform public work that is subject to the prevailing wage requirement. Public work includes any of the following types of jobs:
- Repair work
- Maintenance work
The public work must be paid for by a public body, such as the local, state, or federal government, a governmental agency, or a government board or commission. The work must be done subject to a contract.
How to Determine the Prevailing Wage
Prevailing wages are essentially the basic hourly rates paid to employees engaged in a particular class, type of work, or classification within the locality. All employees who engage in public work due to a contract with a governmental entity are entitled to receive the prevailing wage. Qualified employees are entitled to a prevailing wage regardless of whether the employees belong to a union.
Common New York Violations
Many employers do not understand their requirements under prevailing wage laws. Other employers willfully disregard the laws and underpay their employees in violation of the law. The most common violations by employers that are government contractors and subtractors are as follows:
- Forcing employees to bank hours instead of paying employees for overtime work
- Misclassifying the type of employee to pay a wage less than the prevailing wage
- Paying employees off the books with cash
- Failing to pay for an employee’s overtime work
- Failing to treat a project funded with public funds as a prevailing wage job
- Failing to contribute or pay to an employee’s fringe benefits as required by the contract
- Failing to pay employees for time worked on designated holidays
- Requiring employees to work more than 8 hours a day or five days a week
- Failure to provide required rest periods for employees
- Wrongfully labeling an employee an apprentice to pay him or her less money
- Failing to pay employees for their time spent traveling on behalf of the contractor
Enforcement of Prevailing Wage Laws
New York state’s Commissioner of Labor enforces prevailing wage regulations. All government-funded projects that take place in New York State and its political subdivisions are subject to regulation by the Commissioner of Labor. When public works projects take place in New York City, the New York City Comptroller enforces prevailing wage requirements.
Employers who violate prevailing wage requirements face severe penalties. The New York state commissioner assesses interest for underpayment up to the date that an employer makes restitution. New York’s Superintendent of Banks prescribes the rate of interest.
Penalties for Violations
Employers who violate prevailing wage laws also face civil penalties. These penalties can be up to 25 percent of the combined total of the correct wages, supplements, and interests due. When contractors underpay the prevailing wage amount, the employer must pay additional interest. When subcontractors fail to pay the prevailing wage amount and the subcontractor itself evaded compliance, the prime contractor might be responsible for the subcontractor’s non-compliance.
Contractors that willingly violate New York’s prevailing wage law can face felony charges. These charges might be punishable by fines, imprisonment up to 15 years, or both. Employees may be able to prove a willful violation of the prevailing wage law by demonstrating one or more of the following situations:
- The contractor has a history of prior prevailing wage violations for public work contracts
- The contractor had actual knowledge of his or her violation of prevailing wage laws
- The contractor had significant experience and should have known of the violation
- The nature and gravity of the violation could demonstrate a willful violation
- The Department of Labor notified the contractor of the violation, and it didn’t change
Our New York City Prevailing Wage Attorney Can Help
If your employer is failing to pay you the prevailing wage for your government-funded job, you might be entitled to compensation. At Lipsky Lowe LLP, we believe that employers who fail to pay their employees per the law should face negative consequences. We know how to navigate New York’s employment laws to help our clients seek compensation for their underpayment plus interest. Our skilled employment attorneys are ready to discuss your situation with you, answer your questions, and help you protect your legal rights. Contact us now for a consultation regarding your case.