Massachusetts Prevailing Wage Law
The Prevailing Wage (The “RATE”) in Massachusetts
Every day, all across Massachusetts, workers are cheated out of their earned wages under the prevailing wage laws in Massachusetts. This is especially true in the construction industry where wage theft is especially prevalent.
What is the prevailing wage? Often referred to as “the rate” on job sites, it is a state mandated minimum wage rate for workers on public construction projects. The “rate” is another name for the “prevailing wage,” but they are the same thing.
The actual hourly rate is set by the Department of Labor Standards (“DLS”). See G.L. c. 149, § 26. A worker must be paid the applicable prevailing wage rate for each and every hour spent working on a public project. The prevailing wage rate is based primarily on collective bargaining agreements and allows for some permissible deductions such as health insurance and pension contributions. These rates are likely higher than a regular rate of pay. For example, as of September 1, 2020, the carpenter’s rate in Metro Boston was $79.88 per hour. While in Springfield, the laborer’s rate was $54.38 per hour, as of December 2, 2019. Depending on the work you do, you might be entitled to receive the rate.
When does the rate apply? Generally, it is up to DLS to determine whether projects are subject to the prevailing wage law. These projects are usually handled by private contractors and involve work on state, counties, or local cities and towns property. Prevailing wage construction jobs typically involve work on libraries, public or charter schools, police or fire stations, town halls, public universities, and other public buildings. They also exist when a worker drives a truck or operates equipment for a public work (such as a street-sweeping contract). As required by law, a public project’s awarding authority must request a “rate sheet” from DLS for a prospective project. G.L. c. 149, § 26. Upon receiving the request, DLS then issues a “rate sheet,” which outlines the different job classifications and required rates of pay for that project. G.L. c. 149, § 27. This information is not meant to be kept secret from you. In fact, the rate sheet must be posted in a conspicuous location on the job site. Id. They are also available to download on the internet.
You may have a claim if:
- You are not receiving the hourly rate listed on the project’s rate sheet.
- Your job classification is incorrect. For example, you are performing carpentry work, but are being paid the laborer’s rate.
- Improper deductions, such as tools, cell phones, gas, etc., are being made from the prevailing wage rate.
It is important to understand that the prevailing wage law applies to all public construction projects – even those you worked in the past. However, the lookback is not endless; the statute of limitations is three years for unpaid wages. Every day that passes, you may lose time and money off your claim. It makes sense to take action sooner rather than later. Get in touch with us by calling (617) 338-9400 or by filling out a free case review. We evaluate cases confidentially and at no cost.
Additional prevailing wage law resources
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The Intersection of the Prevailing Wage Laws and False Claims Acts Federal and state prevailing wage laws set hourly rates for workers on “public works,” which are government-financed construction, renovation, and other projects. Federal and state false claims acts (also…
A law called the Bacon Davis Act sets prevailing wages for federal contractor jobs, and the Massachusetts Prevailing Wage Law sets wages for certain jobs involving the state or local governments. Basically, the prevailing wage law in Massachusetts creates special minimum…
We are here to help
The most important thing to understand is that if you are working on a public construction job in Massachusetts, your hourly rate is determined by the tasks you perform, NOT:
- Your job title;
- Your job description;
- What you were hired to do;
- What you are normally paid;
- Union membership; or,
- Whether you have a professional license.
Fact is, employers have a strong incentive to pay less that the correct rate, and they often do. If you believe that, for example, you are being paid the laborer rate when you’re really doing other work, such as carpentry, taping or painting get in touch with us at (617) 338-9400 or fill out our free case evaluation form.