What is a Wage Determination?
A “wage determination” is the listing of wage rates and fringe benefit rates for each classification of laborers and mechanics which the Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor has determined to be prevailing in a given area for a particular type of construction (e.g., building, heavy, highway, or residential).
The Wage and Hour Division issues two types of wage determinations: general determinations, also known as area determinations, and project determinations. The term “wage determination” is defined as including not only the original decision but any subsequent decisions modifying, superseding, correcting, or otherwise changing the rates and scope of the original decision.
In accordance with the provisions of 29 CFR Part 1 and Part 5, the wage rates and fringe benefits in the applicable Davis-Bacon wage determination shall be the minimum paid by contractors and subcontractors to laborers and mechanics.
What is a General Wage Determination?
A general wage determination reflects those rates determined by the Wage and Hour Division to be prevailing in a specific geographic area for the type of construction described. General wage determinations and modifications and supersedeas decisions thereto, contain no expiration dates and are effective from their date of publication on the Wage Determination On Line (WDOL) web site at https://www.wdol.gov; or notice in the Federal Register, or on the date written notice is received by the agency, whichever is earlier. Effective September 26, 2005, the WDOL web site will be the official source for contracting agencies to use when obtaining wage determinations issued by DOL. If a contracting agency has a proposed construction project to which a general determination would be applicable, the published determination may be used by the contracting agency without consulting the Department of Labor, provided that questions concerning its use shall be referred to the Department of Labor.
What is a Project Wage Determination?
A project wage determination is issued at the specific request of a contracting agency (using a Standard Form (SF) 308); is applicable to the named project only; and expires 180 calendar days from the date of issuance unless an extension of the expiration date is requested by the agency and approved by the Wage and Hour Division. If such a determination is not used in the period of its effectiveness, it is void.
What are Supersedes Wage Determinations?
Supersedes wage determinations are issued annually to replace general wage determinations published on the Wage Determination On Line (WDOL) web site at https://www.dol.gov; or issued in the previous edition of the publication entitled General Wage Determinations Issued Under the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts. Supersedes wage determinations are “published” on the date of the notice of the supersedes wage determination published on WDOL or on the date the agency receives actual written notice of the modification from the Department of Labor, whichever occurs first.
What is a modification to a wage determination?
A modification to a wage determination is issued to update data in the original determination. Where a contract will be entered pursuant to competitive bidding procedures, a modification, notice of which is published on the Wage Determination On Line (WDOL) web site at https://www.dol.gov; or in the Federal Register less than 10 days before the opening of bids shall be effective unless the agency finds that there is not a reasonable time still available before bid opening to notify bidders of the modification and a report of the finding is inserted in the contract file. A modification to a general wage determination is “published” on the date of the notice of the modification published on WDOL or on the date the agency receives actual written notice of the modification from the Department of Labor, whichever occurs first. (For projects assisted under the National Housing Act, and for projects to receive housing assistance payments under section 8 of the U.S. Housing Act of 1937, dates other than bid opening apply. See Regulations, 29 CFR Part 1, section 1.6).
If a contract has not been awarded within 90 days after bid opening, modifications prior to award to a general wage determination in the contract shall be effective with respect to that contract unless the agency requests and obtains an extension of the 90-day period from the Wage and Hour Division.
How do I subscribe to General Wage Determinations Issued Under The Davis-Bacon and Related Acts?
Effective the Department of Labor adopted the Wage Determination On Line (WDOL) website at https://www.wdol.gov as the source for obtaining Davis Bacon Act (DBA) general wage determinations. Notice of future modifications and supersedes general wage determinations will be posted on WDOL. Archived versions of the DBA wage determinations that are no longer current may be accessed in the “Archived DB WD” database of WDOL for informational purposes only.
Are the General Wage Determinations available electronically?
Yes. Effective September 26, 2005, the Department of Labor adopted the Wage Determination On Line (WDOL) website at https://www.wdol.gov as the source for obtaining Davis Bacon Act (DBA) general wage determinations. Notice of future modifications and supersedes general wage determinations will be posted on WDOL. Archived versions of the DBA wage determinations that are no longer current may be accessed in the “Archived DB WD” database of WDOL for informational purposes only.
How do I obtain a wage determination for a construction project to be performed at a location not covered by a published determination?
The Federal agency funding or financially assisting the construction project requests a wage determination under the Davis-Bacon Act or any of the related prevailing wage statutes by submitting a Standard Form (SF) 308 to the following address:
U.S. Department of Labor
Wage and Hour Division
Branch of Construction Wage Determinations
200 Constitution Ave NW
Washington, DC 20210
In completing a SF-308, the agency must furnish:
- A sufficiently detailed description of the project to indicate the type(s) of construction involved. Separate attachments, if necessary for identification of the type of project, must be furnished.
- The county (or other civil subdivision) and State in which the proposed project is located.
The time required for processing requests for wage determinations varies according to the facts and circumstances in each case. An agency should anticipate that such processing will take at least 30 days.
Where can I obtain a copy of the General Wage Determination needed for a covered federal project?
General Wage Determinations should be obtained from the agency funding the project you will be working on. The contracting agency is responsible to furnish all interested parties involved on the project with the applicable wage determination. Subcontractors should request the applicable wage determination from the general contractor or the contracting agency.
Is the rate on the wage determination the minimum hourly rate?
Yes. The wage rate listed on the wage determination is the minimum rate that the contractor can pay its employees working on the project.
Can apprentices, trainees, and/or helpers work on a project covered by the Davis-Bacon or related Acts (DBRA), and what wage rates must they be paid?
Individuals who meet the following definition may be employed as apprentices on DBRA projects:
(a) A person employed and individually registered in a bona fide apprenticeship program registered with the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training, or with a State Apprenticeship Agency recognized by the Bureau,
(b) A person in the first 90 days of probationary employment as an apprentice in such an apprenticeship program, who is not individually registered in the program, but who has been properly certified to be eligible for probationary employment as an apprentice.
Trainees employed must be persons registered in a construction occupation under a program which has been approved in advance by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, as meeting its standards for on-the-job training programs and which have been so certified by that Administration.
Information on wage rates paid to apprentices and trainees is not reflected in Davis-Bacon wage determinations. Similarly, their addition through the additional classification procedure (conformance) is neither necessary nor appropriate. On projects funded by the Federal-Aid Highway Act, apprentices and trainees certified by the Secretary of Transportation are not covered by Davis-Bacon labor standards.
The proper wage rates to be paid to apprentices and trainees are those specified by the particular programs in which they are enrolled, expressed as a percentage of the journeyman rate on the wage determination. In the event employees reported as apprentices or trainees on a covered project have not been properly registered within the meaning of the Regulations and the contract stipulations, or are utilized at the job site in excess of the ratio to journeymen permitted under the approved program, they must be paid the applicable wage rates for laborers and mechanics employed on the project performing in the classification of work they actually performed. This applies regardless of work classifications which may be listed on the submitted payrolls and regardless of their level of skill.
Helper classifications may be issued in or added to a wage determination only where the (a) the duties of the helpers are clearly defined and distinct from those of the journeyman classification and from the laborer, (b) the use of such helpers is an established prevailing practice in the area, and (c) the term “helper” is not synonymous with “trainee” in an informal training program.
What wage rates must be paid to supervisory employees (foremen, superintendents, etc.) employed on a covered project?
The wage rates for bona fide supervisory employees are not regulated under the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts because their duties are primarily administrative or executive in nature rather than those of laborers or mechanics. However, such employees who devote more than 20 percent of their time during a workweek to mechanic or laborer duties are laborers and mechanics for the time so spent, and must be paid at least the appropriate wage rates specified in the wage determination. Employees who are bona fide executive, administrative, or professional employees as defined under the Fair Labor Standards Act at 29 CFR Part 541 are not covered by the Davis-Bacon Act.
What are Davis-Bacon Wage Surveys?
The Davis-Bacon and Related Acts (DBRA) require the payment of prevailing wages to laborers and mechanics employed on the site of the work of certain federal or federally assisted contracts for construction, alteration, or repair. For more information about the types of contracts covered by the DBRA, visit https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/govcontracts/dbra. The Davis-Bacon Act requires the Secretary of Labor to determine the prevailing wage and fringe benefit rates that are included in DBRA-covered contracts. To determine such rates, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) obtains and compiles wage rate information through a survey program conducted in accordance with the DBRA’s implementing regulations.
The wage rate information collected through WHD surveys is used to publish “general” wage determinations. General wage determinations are published on the Wage Determinations Online (WDOL) website, at www.wdol.gov, and reflect those rates determined by WHD to be prevailing in a specific geographic area, typically a county, for the type of construction described, i.e., building, residential, highway or heavy construction. If there is a general wage determination applicable to a DBRA-covered project, the contracting agency may incorporate the wage determination into the contract without consulting the Department of Labor.
Do I have to receive a letter to participate in the survey?
You do not need to receive notification from WHD to participate in the survey. All interested parties, including all contractors who worked on construction projects within the survey parameters in the areas being surveyed, are encouraged to participate. If you do not receive a letter, you can fill out WD-10s electronically or contact the regional wage specialist for a notification letters and paper WD-10s. The electronic WD-10 can be found at www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/programs/dbra/wd-10.
If I do not work on federally funded construction projects, should I participate in the survey process?
Yes. Contractors that do not work on DBRA construction projects should still participate in the survey process, and any usable data they submit within the survey parameters will be used in establishing prevailing wage and fringe benefit rates. Wage surveys are contractors’ chance to help ensure that the rates WHD publishes most accurately reflect prevailing wage rates, and contractors that do not work on DBRA construction projects have a particular incentive to participate in the survey process to the extent that the wage rates published on DBRA wage determinations may affect the labor markets in which such contractors participate. Moreover, data on projects that are not subject to a DBRA is used exclusively to determine prevailing wage rates for building and residential wage surveys unless such data is insufficient to determine a prevailing wage rate.
How are prevailing wage rates calculated?
The following basic rules apply to calculation of prevailing wage rates:
Basic hourly rate. The prevailing wage is the wage paid to the majority (greater than 50 percent) of the workers in the classification on similar projects in the area during the relevant period. If the same wage is not paid to a majority of workers in the classification, then the prevailing wage is the weighted average wage rate. See 29 C.F.R. § 1.2(a)(1).
Fringe benefit rate. If more than 50 percent of the workers in a single classification are paid any fringe benefits, then fringe benefits prevail. In determining the amount of prevailing fringe benefits, WHD follows the same rules set forth above with respect to calculation of prevailing hourly wage rates, i.e., the prevailing fringe benefit rate is the rate paid to the majority (greater than 50 percent) of the workers in the classification who received at least some fringe benefits on similar projects in the area during the relevant period. If the same fringe benefit rate is not paid to a majority of such workers, then the prevailing rate is the weighted average fringe benefit rate. See 29 C.F.R. § 1.2(a)(1).
I am the owner of the construction project. How can I participate in the Davis-Bacon wage survey?
You may provide WHD with the name and contact information of the general or prime contractor and/or subcontractors that worked on the project so that WHD may contact these contractors directly about participating in the survey. This information should be provided as early on in the survey process as possible.
I am a prime/general contractor and I subcontract for all of the project work. How can I participate in the Davis-Bacon wage survey?
You may provide a list of your subcontractors, including their contact information, for each of your projects so that WHD may contact the subcontractors directly about participating in the survey. This list should be provided as early in the survey process as possible.
In order to submit wage data for a survey, must the underlying work have been performed within the survey time frame?
No. The survey time frame is the period in which the projects must have been active. The work performed by a company on such projects could be before or after the survey time frame. However, the data submitted must reflect work already performed before the data submission cut-off date.
I have a large number of workers, can I average my wage rates?
WHD may not accept average wage rates as these would skew the results of the wage survey calculations. You should report the individual wage rate and fringe benefit for each of your workers. (See example below)
1 @ $10.00
1 @ $10.50 plus $26.00 weekly Health Insurance
2 @ $ 9.50
1 @ $10.30
Do I report forepersons and/or apprentices?
You should report any foreperson who is performing manual labor on the project more than 20 percent of the time. Forepersons who do not spend more than 20 percent of their time performing manual labor on the site of the work do not need to be reported. Those employees in a bona fide apprenticeship program also do not need to be reported for the survey. WHD does not issue wage rates for forepersons or apprentices.
How should wage data be reported for operating engineers on the WD-10 Form?
Data for operating engineers needs to be reported by piece of equipment used on the project, e.g., Backhoe Operator, Bulldozer Operator, Loader Operator, etc. You should report the number of workers operating each piece of equipment on the project and the wage rate paid to each worker.
How should wage data be reported for ironworkers on the WD-10 Form?
Data for ironworkers needs to be reported by type of work performed on the project, e.g., structural, reinforcing, ornamental, etc. You should report the number of workers performing each type of work on the project and the wage rate paid to each worker.
How should wage data be reported for laborers on the WD-10 Form?
Data for laborers needs to be reported by type of work performed on the project, e.g., pipe layers, cement mason tender, general labor, etc. You should report the number of workers performing each type of work on the project and the wage rate paid to each worker.
If it is believed that the rates on a wage determination are not accurate, can the wage determination be appealed?
Yes. Any interested person requesting reconsideration of a wage determination or of a ruling regarding application of a wage determination to a specific construction project should present their request in writing accompanied by supporting data or other pertinent information to the Wage and Hour Division. The Wage and Hour Division should respond within 30 days or notify the requestor within this time frame that additional time is needed.
An “interested person” is considered to include, without limitation:
(1) Any contractor, or an association representing a contractor, who is likely to seek or to work under a contract containing a particular wage determination, or any laborer or mechanic, or any labor organization which represents a laborer or mechanic, who is likely to be employed or to seek employment under a contract containing a particular wage determination, and,
(2) Any Federal, State, or local agency concerned with the administration of a proposed contract or contract containing a particular wage determination issued pursuant to the Davis-Bacon Act or any of its related statutes.
If reconsideration of a wage determination has been sought and denied, an appeal for review of the wage determination or its application may be filed with the Adminstrative Review Board, U.S. Department of Labor, Room S-4309, 200 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20210. Requests for review of wage determinations must be filed, and any new wage determination resulting from the appeal must be issued, before contract award or start of construction where there is no award (or under the National Housing Act, before the date of initial endorsement, or the beginning of construction, whichever occurs first; or under Section 8 of the U.S. Housing Act of 1937, before the date of the housing assistance payments agreement, or the beginning of construction, whichever occurs first).
The Wage Appeals Board (now the Administrative Review Board) was established by the Secretary of Labor in 1963 to decide, at its discretion, appeals concerning questions of fact and law related to final decisions of the Wage and Hour Division concerning:
- Controversies over the payment of prevailing wage rates, overtime pay, or proper classifications;
- Wage determinations issued under the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts;
- Debarment cases arising under 29 CFR Part 5;
- Cases involving the assessment of liquidated damages under the Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act;
- Appeal of any other final decision under 29 CFR Part 1, Part 3 or Part 5.
The Administrative Review Board consists of three members, one of whom is designated chairman. The members are appointed by the Secretary of Labor and majority vote of the Administrative Review Board is necessary for a decision, except that a decision to hear any appeal may be made by one member. The Board can act as fully and finally as the Secretary of Labor concerning the matters within its jurisdiction. The rules prescribed in 29 CFR, Part 7, “Practice Before Wage Appeals Board”, govern the proceedings of the Board.
How do workers on a construction site know that a project is covered by the Davis-Bacon Act? How do they know the prevailing wage to which they are entitled?
The wage determination (including any additional classifications and wage rates conformed) and a Davis-Bacon poster (WH-1321) must be posted at all times by the contractor and its subcontractors at the site of the work in a prominent and accessible place where it can be easily seen. The WH-1321 poster may be obtained at no charge from offices of the Wage and Hour Division. In the absence of such posted information, any person who wants to determine if the project is covered should contact the federal agency funding or assisting the project or the Wage and Hour Division. Multi-year construction contracts that contain option provisions by which a contracting agency may unilaterally extend the term of the contract require inclusion of a current wage determination at the time the option is exercised. (In contrast, in situations where a contractor is given additional time to complete original contract commitments, the wage determination in that contract applies).
As the contracting officer/Federal agency representative, what is my obligation when the wage determination(s) applicable to a construction project contains multiple wage schedules (for different counties and/or types of construction?
It is the responsibility of the contracting officer/Federal agency representative to advise contractors which schedule of prevailing wages shall be applied to the various construction items in the bid specifications. Because of the complexities in the application of multiple schedules, the contracting officer should consult with the Wage and Hour Division to resolve any questions.