For close to 100 years, California has had a prevailing wage law that sets the minimum wage that workers must be paid if they are working on a construction project that’s paid for, at least in part, with federal, state and/or local government funding. These projects can include schools and other buildings, roads, bridges and other public works projects of more than $1,000, with some exceptions.
For example, according to the state Department of Industrial Relations, “prevailing wages are not required to be paid for any public works project of $25,000 or less when the project is for construction work, or for any public works project of $15,000 or less when the project is for alteration, demolition, repair, or maintenance work.” Residential and commercial projects may require prevailing wages if they receive government funding.
Prevailing wages vary throughout the state
The prevailing wage is based on the type of work (the specific craft or job classification) and the area where the work is being done. For example, it would be higher in Los Angeles than in many other California counties.
New prevailing wage rates are set twice a year. They include basic hourly wage rates as well as overtime and holiday rates. Separate prevailing wage rates are set for journeyman/apprentice classifications of workers.
Prevailing wages help ensure the hiring of skilled workers
A prevailing wage rate helps skilled workers get fair wages. It also prevents those bidding on government contracts from being able to present low bids by paying workers less than they’re entitled to receive. Without a prevailing wage, some companies would rely on unskilled workers who could undermine the workmanship standards of the project.
This is just a brief overview of California’s prevailing wage law. It’s a complicated subject. If you believe that you are not getting the wages to which you’re entitled under this law, it’s wise to learn more about it. It may be helpful to seek legal guidance.