Under New York law, laborers working on public or government projects must be paid the current prevailing wage. The state of New York sets the prevailing wage to protect workers working for companies that contract with a government agency. Unfortunately, some companies fail to ensure that their employees are paid a prevailing wage to cut costs.
Reach Out to a New York City Business Attorney
Prevailing wage issues can be complex and challenging to understand. If you believe that you haven’t been paid the prevailing wage for work you’ve completed, you need an experienced employment attorney on your side. At Woods Lonergan, our attorneys understand wage and hour laws and represent employers and employees in wage and hour disputes. Contact Woods Lonergan today to schedule your initial consultation.
New York’s Prevailing Wage Law
New York’s prevailing wage law requires contractors and subcontractors working on a public works contract to pay employees the prevailing hourly wage rate. All employees engaged in public work for a company that has a contract with a government entity must be paid that rate, which isn’t always the same as the minimum wage. An employee’s membership in a union will not affect his or her qualification to receive this rate.
Employers must also pay employees the correct amount of overtime and benefits according to the standards of the location where they are doing work. For example, if New York City accepts a bid on construction work in Manhattan, the contractor and subcontractor must pay their employees according to New York wage and hour laws.
How Is the Prevailing Wage Determined?
The prevailing wages are broken down into different categories. Employees must be paid a basic hourly rate based on their particular class, type of work, or classification. The fiscal officer of each county in New York is responsible for setting the hourly wage rates and benefits amounts for qualifying employees. Typically, these rates are substantially higher than minimum wage requirements. Rates may be greater than non-union rates because of the included employee benefits.
Which Workers are Protected By Prevailing Wage Laws?
When a contract company submits a public works project bid, the company must determine the prevailing wage for each employee classification required for the project. The prevailing wage is higher than what employees may typically receive for similar types of work. Examples of worker classifications that are commonly included in bids for protection include the following:
- Mechanics and technicians
- Information technology (IT) workers
Expansion of the Law
As of January 1st, 2022, New York expanded its prevailing wage law. The new law will increase the types of construction projects subject to prevailing wage requirements. As a result, construction workers will be protected even more by New York’s law. Previously, only construction projects that benefited the public with a government entity as a party were subject to New York’s law.
Now, “covered projects” include projects paid for in part or in whole out of public funds. The public funds must account for at least 30 percent of the total project costs, and the costs of the project must be over $5 million. The new law expands the definition of a public entity. Under the new law, more construction projects will constitute public projects. As a result, more construction workers will be entitled to a prevailing wage.
Common Violations in New York
There are many misconceptions about New York’s prevailing wage laws. In most cases, businesses working on public works contracts don’t even inform their employees about the nuances of prevailing wage law. They may be concerned that the employees will use the laws against them to seek the fair wages and benefits that they deserve. Determining which laws that apply to your situation can be complicated.
The employment attorneys at Woods Lonergan can help you sort through the law and ensure that you are receiving the correct wages and benefits. Some of the most common violations by employers that are public contractors and subcontractors include the following:
- Failing to pay employees for the time they spent traveling for work
- Failure to provide required rest periods
- Requiring employees to work over 8 hours a day
- Requiring workers to work more than five days a week
- Incorrectly categorizing an employer as an impetus to pay him or her less money
- Failing to pay employees for working on a designated holiday
- Paying employees with cash off the books
- Misclassifying the employee to avoid paying
- Failing to pay an employee for overtime hours
- Failing to contribute to the employee’s employment benefits as required by the contract
- Failure to pay employees for time worked on designated holidays
Penalties for Violations
If you are an employee who should have been paid prevailing wages, it’s important to reach out to an attorney. You may be entitled to back pay for the difference between the wages you were paid and the prevailing wages of the location in which you worked. Employers who violate wage and hour laws face severe penalties. These penalties can be up to 25 percent of the combined total of the correct amount of wages, benefits, and interest due. The New York State Commissioner assesses interest for failure to pay until the employer makes restitution.
Discuss Your Case With a Prevailing Wage Attorney Today
In New York, employers must ensure that employers are paid prevailing wages for their labor. If you are an employee or business owner and have questions about New York’s prevailing wage law, the attorneys at Woods Lonergan are here to help. We help employees obtain the total compensation they deserve. Additionally, we help employers in prevailing wage disputes and with compliance. Contact us today to schedule your free initial consultation.