prevailing wages

What is Prevailing Wage?
Illinois Prevailing Rate laws and the Federal Davis-Bacon Act provide
protection for the State’s construction industry, workers and contractors alike, by:

  • Ensuring that skilled construction workers are paid at least the wages and benefits
    that “prevail” in their area.
  • Ensuring that predatory contractors will not have an incentive to underbid established
    businesses by using unskilled or low-skilled workers brought in from other parts of the country
    who are willing to work for less than the local labor is paying.
  • Acting as a guardian of the public interest by ensuring that the buildings, roads andschools
    built with public money have the benefit of being constructed by contractors who use highly
    trained and skilled workers.

The Federal Davis-Bacon Act and/or the Illinois Prevailing Wage Act requires all
contractors and subcontractors to pay construction employees the wages, benefits and overtime
rates that are specified by the contract for the project on which work is being performed.

The wages and benefits required to be paid can differ from project to project depending on:

  • whether it is a federal project or a state or local taxpayer financed project
  • the classification of work performed, and
  • the location (county) of the project

The actual contract documents for each separate project will specify the exact wages and benefits to
be paid for the location where the project is constructed.

What are the specific laws?

Illinois Prevailing Wage Act (217-782-1710)

Requires contractor and subcontractor to pay laborers, workers and mechanics employed on public works
projects, no less than the general prevailing rate of wages (consisting of hourly cash wages plus fringe
benefits) for work of similar character in the locality where the work is performed. Violators must pay
workers the difference between the wage paid and the prevailing wage and may be subject to 20% penalties
and 2% punitive damages. A contractor or subcontractor found to have violated the Act on two occasions may
be barred from public works projects for two years.

  • It is the policy of the State of Illinois that all workers employed performing similar work on public
    works projects within the same locality shall be paid the same prevailing hourly rate.

  • All bid specifications shall list the specified rates to all laborers and workers. If the Department of
    Labor revises the prevailing rate of hourly wages to be paid, it will apply to the contract. The contractor
    and each subcontractor will be notified of the revised rate.

  • An employee may not be punished (discharged, disciplined or discriminated against) for filing or instituting
    a proceeding resulting from the administrative or enforcement of this Act, or for offering any evidence of any
    violation of this Act.

Click here for a PDF full-text version of the law.

Davis-Bacon Act

The Davis-Bacon Act states that prevailing wage rates must be paid to workers on federal public works
projects that are in excess of $2,000.

A Federal public works project is any contract in excess of $2,000 that is entered into for the actual
construction, alteration and/or repair, painting and decorating, financed in whole or in part from federal

Click here for a printer-friendly version of the Davis-Bacon Act from the United States Department of Labor.

Copeland Anti-Kickback Act

The Copeland Anti-Kickback Act makes it punishable by a fine up to $5,000 and/or by imprisonment up to
five years to induce any person working on a federally funded or assisted construction project to give up
any part of the compensation to which they are entitled under the Davis-Bacon Act or any other related Acts.

Click here for a printer-friendly version of the Copeland Anti-Kickback Act from the United States Department of Labor.

How does prevailing wage affect me?

If you are a construction worker who is not a member of a labor union, it is understandable that you may
believe that you do not have any protections in the work place, since there is no contractual agreement with
your employer. And while it is recognized that many labor laws would not exist today without labor unions,
the laws apply to both union and non-union workers.

First, you need to know and understand the classification of work you are doing. Once you know your
classification you will be able to understand what your prevailing wages and benefits are.

  • Each separate craft classification requires a certain basic wage rate and fringe benefits for that particular trade.
  • Each trade has a specific title. What an employee’s title was when they were hired is not important, what type of work performed is!
  • Work may be performed that falls under another classification than what an employee was hired for.
  • If this is the case, the pay may be higher for the craft work being performed.
  • If so, the worker must be paid the higher wages and fringe benefits for any time worked in a craft classification calling for a higher rate.

Classification is an area where violations can easily occur. To increase profits, workers are often misclassified at a lower wage and benefit package than is required for the actual classification of the work they are performing. To keep this from happening, know and understand the classification of work being performed! REMEMBER, WHAT YOUR TITLE WAS WHEN YOU WERE HIRED IS NOT IMPORTANT, WHAT TYPE OF WORK YOU PERFORM IS!

Information on this site should NOT be considered as legal advice.

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