Am I required to pay prevailing Wage?

Answer the following questions for guidance

Question 1:

Is the project:

  • Funded by any public dollars (direct or indirect for any portion of the project)?


  • A turn-key project, a private construction resulting from government agency agreements 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 the awarding agency or L&I for guidance.

If you answered yes to either, go 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.
  • Contractors subcontracting out all work.

If you answered yes to both questions 1 & 2, the project requires:

  • Paying prevailing wage.
  • Filing the Intent and Affidavit.
  • Keeping payroll records, and submitting Certified Payroll Records if requested.

If you answered no, then you likely do not have a prevailing wage project. If you need additional guidance, contact the awarding agency offering the contract.

In most cases, prevailing wages may not be applicable to design work (architects and engineers), software work, computer programming and others. When prevailing wages are not required, you do not need to file the Intent and Affidavit unless requested by the awarding agency. Contact us if you need guidance.

See: State requirements to bid on a prevailing wage project

State Requirements to bid on a prevailing wage project

Contractors and subcontractors must be a responsible bidder to bid on a prevailing wage project.

You must meet these requirements, including but not limited to:

Go to: Identify the required prevailing wage rate to pay employees

Identify the required prevailing wage rate to pay employees

To find the correct wage rate for employees for a public works project, you will need to identify:

  • The type of work being done.
  • Where the work is taking place.
  • The effective date of your contract.

Type of work

Which trades and occupations, (called "scope of work" or "classifications") will you be using?

It's the work performed, not the title of the employee, that determines the classification.

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 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 the work in another trade, such as iron worker, then they must be paid at the journey-level wage rate for iron worker.

Report each apprentice on the Affidavit.

As the contractor, you are responsible for using the correct classification. You need to 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 the Scopes of Work page 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. You can list multiple counties on your 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 prime contractor's bid due date, or if the contract is not awarded within six 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 our Look up Wage Rates tool. Prevailing wage rates are published twice a year, so some rates may change during the year.

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.

For further clarification

What are usual (fringe) benefits?

Usual (fringe) benefits are contributions included as part of the prevailing wage. Employers are not required to provide these usual (fringe) benefits, but when they do, the amounts paid by the contractor count 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.
  • Pension.
  • Vacation.
  • Holidays.
  • Apprenticeship training funds.

For example: The prevailing wage rate is $30 per hour. Your usual benefits total $5 per hour. The wage rate you would pay is $25. So: $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. This involves meeting the most demanding pay requirement of the two laws and completing the required paperwork for each law.

When do I 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 Look up Wage Rates. These requirements may include specific situations, such as work on a holiday or work on Sundays or during certain hours of the day. See example below.

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 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.

See: Required documents for doing the work

Required documents for doing the work

To meet the state’s prevailing wage requirements, there are steps you must take to get paid:

  1. Use these instructions to sign up, or log in to My L&I to access your Contractor Portal. This will allow you to file required forms and manage certified payroll records.
  2. File the Intent. The “Statement of Intent to Pay Prevailing Wages” should be filed immediately after the contract is awarded and before work begins. The intent must be filed online through your Contractor Portal in My L&I. To complete this filing, you will need the basic information about the project – such as the who, what, where, and when of what’s involved.
  3. Post the Intent. For contracts over $10,000, the approved Intent needs to be posted on the jobsite. If the approval is pending, the complete listing of applicable prevailing wage rates should be posted until the Intent is approved.

Note: The agency administering the contract cannot make any payments to contractors until the Intent form is submitted and approved by L&I.

File Certified Payroll

As of January 1, 2020, weekly certified payroll reports are required to be filed online with L&I at least once a month for all public works projects. This change affects all public works projects including those that are in progress and all new ones moving forward. Please note, contractors can be penalized for failing to file.

View these training videos or read our step-by-step instructions to learn how to access and file certified payroll online today.

In 2019, the legislature passed ESSB 5035, adding this requirement to the prevailing wage laws within chapter 39.12 RCW – check out the new RCW 39.12.120 to learn more.

Certified payroll report records must include the following:

  • Employee name.
  • Address.
  • 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 state Prevailing Wage Law and includes correct and complete information.

Keep track of payroll

Accurate payroll records need to be kept for all work on a public works project. These records must be kept for three years from the date the awarding agency accepts the public works project as completed.

See: When the work is done

When the work is done

Other documents must be filed. These include:

  • The Affidavit. The Affidavit of Wages Paid states the work you have done on the project and the rates paid. File the Affidavit in your Contractor Portal in My L&I.
  • Check on your subcontractors. Determine whether all subcontractors have filed their required forms through your Contractor Portal in My L&I.

This completes the responsibilities and obligations you as a contractor have with L&I in working on a project requiring prevailing wage.