The prevailing wage rules require that a special, higher, minimum wage be paid to workers on projects and in jobs that are funded with or benefit from government resources. Many workers are aware that specialized jobs, from elevator installer to a welder on a marine dredge, have a higher rate of pay on government jobs, but many would be surprised to discover the wide variety of service jobs and other non-construction jobs that are actually covered by the prevailing wage rules.

While it sometimes is easy to identify public works projects, other times the governmental connection can be difficult to see. It could be tax breaks, financing assistance, property grants, etc. Many government agencies lease properties from private landlords, bringing the prevailing wages into play for the building service contracts at those locations.

Employers are required to know if their contracts are subject to the prevailing wage laws. If covered, the contractor/employer must pay at least the wages and benefits set forth in the schedules. 

Some things in employment law are simple – understanding the details of the various classifications and requirements of the prevailing wage laws is not one of them. At Pelton Graham, our prevailing wage attorneys have helped many workers in both the construction and services sectors understand and, if required, recover the wages and benefits to which they are entitled. 

Here are some key indicators that your job may be covered by the prevailing wage:

  • Worksites and employers covered by prevailing wage laws are required to post notices, like these, prominently in the workplace.
  • The project is clearly public works – for example, construction jobs involving a post office, highway, or local government building project will always be covered.
    • Violations in this area often arise when workers are misclassified, i.e., placed in a lower-paying category of the prevailing wage schedules than the work they are doing would warrant. 
    • It is therefore very important that you understand what classification you are being paid at and then learn for yourself whether that classification is the highest and best description of what you are actually doing.
    • Your employer is required to give you detailed information about the prevailing wage rates and benefits you are earning; be sure these are accurate and correctly state the job you are actually doing.
    • Article 8 of the Prevailing Wage rules issued by the New York Department of Labor is a good illustration of the way the prevailing wage rates are organized. You may read our New York Prevailing Wage page for more information. 
  • Many jobs other than construction, however, are also affected by the prevailing wage laws. These are less obvious to the uninitiated, and many prevailing wage violations occur in these positions. They apply primarily to workers doing building and site services work for a public agency or for a company with a government contract.
    • Covered workers include watchmen, guards, building cleaners, porters, janitors, gardeners, groundskeepers, firemen, elevator operators, window cleaners, garbage or refuse collectors, furniture and equipment movers, and fuel drivers.
    • Article 9 of the Prevailing Wage rules issued by the New York Department, at 398 pages, sets forth individual wage rates in thousands of categories for various jobs servicing public agencies.
    • Violations occur in this area with regard to misclassification also, but many workers, and employers, involved in servicing public agencies are simply unaware that the prevailing wage rules apply at all. 
    • From technicians installing smart boards at schools to fire and safety guards being underpaid on construction sites, the professionals at Pelton Graham have proven success in prevailing wage claims on behalf of service workers.  

The professionals at Pelton Graham are available for a no-cost, no-obligation discussion of your questions – by telephone, video call, or meeting at our office. We have broad and deep experience in all areas of labor and employment law, and we are here to help you understand your rights and options. 

If a caller can benefit from contacting the Department of Labor directly, we can also help them do that.

Contact us today to discuss all of your employment questions.


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