Question 1: Is the project:
- Funded by any public dollars (direct or indirect) for any portion of the project?
- A turn-key project? A turn-key project is private construction resulting from government agency agreement(s) to rent, lease, or purchase.
If you answered no to both, then you likely do not have a prevailing wage project and may not need to proceed. If you are unsure, contact us for guidance.
If you answered yes to either, proceed to question 2:
Question 2: Does the project include any construction, reconstruction, maintenance or repair?
This work includes:
- Building service maintenance (janitorial) contracts;
- Landscape construction and grounds maintenance;
- Small projects (no minimum dollar amount) such as maintenance and repairs including "small works" roster contracts;
- Off-site work such as custom fabrication for the public works project.
If you answered yes to both questions 1 & 2, go to: Bidding, Contracting, and Hiring Responsible Contractors.
Parties involved in public works contracts must include prevailing wage requirements in bid documents and contracts. The parties include:
- The Awarding Agency.
- The Prime Contractor.
- Subcontractors at all levels.
Items that must be provided in your bid and contract documents
Wage Rates – this could be done one of two ways:
- A printed list of the wage rates that identifies the effective date and the county in which the public works project is located.
- A link to the prevailing wage rates lookup page and also include the following information:
- Identify the exact wage publication date to use (the effective date).
- List the county in which the public works project is located (Note: Off-site work will use the rates for the county where that off-site work is performed).
- Provide a statement indicating a printed copy of the wage rates are available for viewing in your office.
- Explain that your agency will mail a hard copy upon request.
Retain a printed version of the rates as part of your records.
If you determine the project meets the definition of residential construction, you must state this in your bid and contract documents.
The Awarding Agency will be responsible for the difference between residential and commercial wage rates if you make the determination it was residential and it was not.
Note: In most cases, prevailing wages may not be applicable to design work (architects and engineers, for example), software work, computer programming and others. When prevailing wages are not required, employers do not need to file Intents and Affidavits. Contact us if you need guidance.
There is a bidding exception to emergency work but prevailing wage requirements still apply.
An emergency means unforeseen circumstances beyond the control of the awarding agency that either:
- Present a real, immediate threat to the proper performance of essential functions.
- Will likely result in material loss or damage to property, bodily injury, or loss of life if immediate action is not taken.
In the case of an emergency, tell the contractor this is a prevailing wage job. After dealing with the emergency, it will be necessary to ensure the workers were paid not less than the prevailing rate of pay and file the completed Intent and Affidavit forms.
Hiring Responsible Contractors
A prime contractor and subcontractors must be "responsible bidders" to bid on a public works project. They must meet these requirements, including but not limited to:
- Valid Unified Business Identifier (UBI) (Dept. of Revenue).
- Current contractor's registration or licensing as required.
- Industrial insurance coverage for employees.
- Not currently debarred from bidding on a project that involves prevailing wage.
- Must attend L&I training on Public Works and Prevailing Wage Law unless a contractor has been in business for 3 or more years and has completed 3 or more public works projects.
Note: Create a "My L&I" account to sign up for the Awarding Agency Portal. You can check the status of the items above for multiple contractors at the same time with the portal.
Go to: Starting the work and paying contractors.
To meet the state's prevailing wage requirements, there are forms that must be filed and approved by L&I before any payments are made.
The awarding agency cannot make any payments for work by a contractor or subcontractor until their Statement of Intent to Pay Prevailing Wages (Intent) form is submitted to and approved by L&I.
Check for approved Intents. Contractors should file the Intent immediately after the contract is awarded and, if possible, before work begins. You as the awarding agency have the option of creating the information for the project through your Awarding Agency Portal.
Alternate Filing Process – Combined Intent/Affidavit forms - Two options: Up to $2,500 Small Works, & Limited Public Works up to $50,000
Two choices of combined Intent to Pay and Affidavit of Wages Paid forms may be used, when appropriate, at the option of the public awarding agency:
- $2,500 or less (including tax) combined Intent/Affidavit form. No form filing fee.
- Limited Public Work: $2,501 to $50,000 (including tax) combined Intent/Affidavit form. $80 filing fee to L&I.
File the combined form online through L&I's Awarding Agency and Contractor portals. The online system checks that the contractor is in good standing with L&I and verifies the wage rate used is at least the prevailing rate of wage for the classification the contractor will use. Please note: paper copies of the combined forms are no longer accepted.
Limits on use of the alternative combined form filing options:
- The public awarding agency accepts liability for unpaid wages. See RCW 39.12.040(2).
- No subcontractors are allowed.
- The project must be paid for in a single payment.
- No dividing or phasing of projects for ongoing work. The law prohibits breaking the project into units or phases to avoid the maximum dollar limit.
- No payment may be made to the contractor until the form is approved by the public agency.
Go to: Review intents and certified payroll reports (if requesting)
During the project, you as the awarding agency should review Intents as they are filed. Failure to review the Intents can lead to delays in closing out a project and releasing money that has been retained.
You can also review certified payroll reports filed by contractors. This can be a good compliance tool and may help you catch errors early on in the project.
Sign in to your Awarding Agency Portal to review intents and affidavits, request and review certified payrolls, and manage your projects.
Review intents and certified payroll reports for the following:
- The type of work being done.
- Where the work is taking place.
- The effective date of your contract.
- Detailed information for certified payroll reports.
Type of work
Which trades and occupations ("scopes of work" or "classifications") will be used?
It's the work performed, not the title of the employee, that determines the classification. See the Trade – Scopes of Work page for a description of the classifications.
Note: There are journey level and apprentice wage rates. Trainees aren't necessarily apprentices and if a trainee is not an apprentice, then they must be paid the journey level wage rate. To be an apprentice, the employee must be enrolled in a state-approved apprenticeship program.
State registered apprentices can be paid reduced prevailing wage rates on public works projects within the appropriate prevailing wage classification. All other employees are paid full journey level prevailing wages.
For example: An apprentice carpenter doing carpenter work will be paid at an apprentice wage rate. If the same worker does work in another trade, such as ironworker, then they must be paid at the journey level wage rate for ironworker. Report each apprentice on the affidavit.
The contractor or subcontractor is responsible for using the correct classification. Contractors must use the classification that best fits the work being performed. Remember, a single employee may be doing work under more than one classification. This means the employer must either track the time worked by the employee in each classification, or pay the highest rate for all hours of work. See Trade - Scopes of Work for a description of the trade and occupation classifications.
In what county is the work taking place?
Use the wage rates for the county in which the job site is located for the on-site work. For off-site fabrication or work, use the county in which the off-site work is performed. Contractors may list multiple counties on their paperwork. Look up Wage Rates.
What date do I use to decide the effective prevailing wage rate(s)?
The effective date for prevailing wage rate(s) is the date the prime contractor's bid is due, or if the contract is not awarded within 6 months of the bid due date, then use the contract award date. Subcontractors will use the same effective date as the prime contractor. Use the effective date in the Look up Wage Rates page.
Are there exceptions to the effective date?
- Contracts awarded outside a bid process use the date the contract was signed.
- Janitorial contracts require annual wage updates after the initial contract effective date.
- Job Order Contracts use the issue date of each work order.
- Public Utility Districts (PUD) unit-priced contracts use the issue date of each work order.
- Cities and port districts unit-priced contracts use the beginning date for each contract year and are updated in future contracts.
- For the construction phase effective date, General Contractor/Construction Manager (GC/CM) uses the date of the Maximum Allowable Construction Cost (MACC) negotiated agreement. The pre-construction, design contract award date is used for any construction work that precedes the MACC.
- Design-Build uses the award date of the construction contract.
What are usual (fringe) benefits?
Usual (fringe) benefits, are contributions included as part of the prevailing wage. Employers are not required to provide these benefits, but when they do, the amounts paid by the contractor counts as credit toward the prevailing wages paid. Benefits required by law such as sick leave or industrial insurance cannot be included in the usual (fringe) benefits. For prevailing wage, usual (fringe) benefits include employer contributions for:
- Health care.
- Apprenticeship training funds.
Example: To calculate prevailing wage that includes usual benefit costs:
The prevailing wage rate is $30 per hour. The employer's usual benefits total $5 per hour. The wage rate paid to the employee is $25. The wage and benefit calculation is $25 wage + $5 benefits = $30 per hour.
Note: Cash fringe benefits paid to the employee on the same or separate paycheck is not considered a fringe benefit, such payments are considered part of the employee's wage.
Other items to consider
State and federal projects
For projects where both the state prevailing wage law and the federal Davis-Bacon and related acts apply, contractors must comply with both laws. For contractors, this involves meeting the most demanding pay requirement of the two laws and completing the required paperwork for each law.
When do contractors pay overtime?
- Any hours worked over 8 hours per calendar day on a public works project requires overtime pay.
- If a valid 4/10 work agreement is in place, then overtime is paid after 10 hours are worked in a calendar day.
- Any hours worked over 40 hours per week.
- For additional overtime requirements, check the overtime, holiday and note language, which can be found in the Look up Wage Rates page. These requirements may include specific situations, such as work on a holiday or work on Sundays or during certain hours of the day.
When must supervisors or foremen get paid prevailing wage?
Supervisors and foremen need to get paid prevailing wage for time doing "hands-on" work within a work week if:
- 50% or more of their time is spent doing hands on-work, they must be paid the prevailing wage rate for all hours they work that week, including the hours performing their supervisory duties.
- 20% but less than 50% of their time is spent doing hands on work, they are only paid the prevailing wage for those hours worked.
Does an owner/operator get paid prevailing wage?
No. While owner/operators that meet the specified requirements are exempt from paying themselves the prevailing rate of wage, they are still required to complete all necessary paperwork, including the Intent and Affidavit forms.
Certified payroll report requirements
Contractors are required to keep accurate payroll records for all work on a public works project for 3 years from the date you accept the public works project as completed. If requested, contractors must file certified payroll report records with L&I and you as the awarding agency within 10 days. You can request and view these records within your Awarding Agency Portal.
Certified payroll report records must include the following:
- Employee name.
- Trades and occupations Including journey level and apprentice workers.
- Straight time rate (actual rate of wage paid).
- Hourly rate of usual benefits.
- Hours worked including overtime hours worked each day and week.
- All executed 4/10 work agreements.
- All itemized deductions taken from gross wages.
Note: To be certified, the payroll records must include the state affirmation page. The affirmation page is a signed statement that the contractor is adhering to the Washington State Prevailing Wage Law and includes correct and complete information.
Go to: When the work is done
Other documents must be filed. These include:
- The Affidavit. The "Affidavit of Wages Paid" states all the work a contractor has done on the project and the rates paid. Confirm whether the prime contractor and all subcontractors have filed their required forms in your Awarding Agency Portal.
- If your project includes apprenticeship utilization requirements, you may review the Affidavit forms to view the apprentices who worked on the project to verify your requirements were met. Some agencies require contractors to file weekly certified payroll reports. If the contractors file certified payroll reports, you can verify your requirements are being met during the project.
- Retainage Release
- On public works projects costing $35,000 or more, including tax, public agencies must withhold 5% of the contract amount until it is demonstrated that all the contractors on the project have paid the appropriate prevailing wages and state taxes, including workers' compensation and unemployment insurance premiums. A certificate of release of retainage is issued by the State Department of Revenue (DOR), Employment Security Department (ESD), and L&I. You may file a Notice of Completion of Public Works Contract (F215-038-000) to request the retainage be released, using the Awarding Agency Portal.
- Unless a lien is filed, after you receive a certificate of release of retainage from all three agencies and after L&I approves all the Affidavits, you may release the contract retainage to the Prime Contractor.
Note: You can use your Awarding Agency Portal to verify all Intents and Affidavits are filed along with the Notice of Completion.
Warranty work is additional work on the same public works contract. Here is what you need to know:
- Prevailing wages are still required.
- The original Intent on the contract is still effective.
- A new affidavit will be required (if the affidavit had already been filed) to report on the new total hours of work.