The Davis-Bacon Act, established during the Great Depression, serves as a foundational piece of legislation ensuring that workers on federally funded construction projects receive fair wages. It mandates that contractors and subcontractors pay their laborers and mechanics employed under the contract no less than the locally prevailing wages and benefits for corresponding work on similar projects in the area. When discrepancies arise, and these wages are not adequately met, the Act provides a mechanism for workers to file a claim. Understanding who is eligible and how these claims can be processed is crucial for upholding the rights of construction workers and maintaining the integrity of the construction industry’s compensation standards.

What Is the Davis-Bacon Act?

Enacted in 1931, the Davis-Bacon Act is a pivotal federal law that mandates the payment of local prevailing wages to laborers and mechanics on public works projects, thereby safeguarding fair competition among contractors on federal initiatives. It ensures that the bidding process does not erode wages, setting a level playing field where fair compensation is standardized by the Department of Labor according to local norms for similar projects. The Act stipulates prevailing wage and benefit rates for different classes of labor across various construction types, including residential and commercial, and applies to federal contracts over $2,000. Its provisions are not only a bulwark against the underpayment of workers but also a mechanism to foster equitable competition in the construction sector.

Recent Revisions of the Davis-Bacon Act

As of October 23, 2023, the Department of Labor has issued new updates to the Davis-Bacon Act, the most significant revisions in over 40 years. These revisions aim to improve the Department’s ability to enforce the Act’s labor standards. Significantly, the new rules change the requirement for setting prevailing wages, basing them on the wages of at least 30% of workers in a trade within a locality, as opposed to the previous standard of 50%. This change aims to prevent the average wage calculation from being skewed by lower-paying employers, thereby ensuring a more accurate reflection of the actual prevailing wage. 

The new rules will also make it easier to keep prevailing wages up to date, staying in line with wage growth. Finally, the rules will strengthen the Labor Department’s ability to enforce the Act, adding a new anti-retaliation provision in contract clauses to protect workers who raise concerns about being fired or punished.

Eligibility Criteria for Filing a Claim

Eligibility to file a claim under the Davis-Bacon Act is primarily determined by the role of the worker and the nature of the project. Any laborer or mechanic working on a public works project that exceeds $2,000 and is federally funded or assisted is covered by the Act. These workers must have been engaged in construction, alteration, or repair work, including painting and decorating, to be eligible to file a claim for unpaid prevailing wages. Additionally, the claim must be made within a certain time frame after the alleged underpayment, reinforcing the importance of timely action when discrepancies in compensation are suspected.

The Claims Process

To initiate a claim under the Davis-Bacon Act, workers suspecting wage underpayment must compile evidence such as pay stubs, time records, and job classifications. This proof is submitted to the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD), which enforces wage standards, along with detailed information about the work performed and the wages believed to be owed. The WHD then investigates, examining records and conducting interviews to ascertain if there has been a failure to pay the correct wages. Should underpayment be confirmed, the WHD directs the employer to rectify the situation by issuing back pay to the affected workers. Employers who do not comply risk legal repercussions, including potential financial penalties and restrictions on participating in future federal contracts.

Successful Claims and Back Wages

When a worker’s claim under the Davis-Bacon Act is successful, the resolution involves the enforcement of back wage payments, calculated based on the prevailing wage rate and the actual hours worked. This ensures that the workers are compensated for the discrepancy between the pay they received and what they should have earned, including any applicable fringe benefits. The corrective action not only provides immediate financial redress to underpaid workers but also deters future wage violations. Such outcomes reinforce the intent of the Davis-Bacon Act, which is to promote fair competition and equitable treatment of laborers and mechanics on federally funded construction projects.

Legal Assistance for Filing a Claim

Seeking legal assistance when filing a claim under the Davis-Bacon Act can be pivotal in ensuring that a claim is thoroughly prepared and effectively presented. Experienced employment attorneys can provide guidance on the collection of evidence, proper documentation, and adherence to procedural nuances required by the Department of Labor. They can also advocate on behalf of the worker, negotiating with employers and representing the claimant in any disputes or appeals that arise, significantly enhancing the likelihood of a successful outcome. 

Do You Think You Might Have a Claim Under the Davis-Bacon Act?

If you have questions about your eligibility for a claim under the Davis-Bacon Act or need assistance in claiming unpaid prevailing wages, the Lore Law Firm is ready to provide the support and legal experience required. We encourage you to connect with us by completing our free and confidential online client intake form; together, we can work to secure fair and lawful compensation for your work.