Prevailing Wage for Workers

Find out whether you should be paid prevailing wages, what you should be paid, and file a complaint.

Should I be paid prevailing wage?

To find out if you should be paid prevailing wage, answer the following questions:

Question 1: Is the project:

  • Funded by any taxpayer (public) dollars?

or

  • 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. If you are unsure, contact us or the awarding agency for guidance.

If you answered yes to either, proceed to question 2:

Question 2: Are you doing any construction, reconstruction, maintenance, or repair?

This work includes:

  • Building service maintenance (janitorial) contracts;
  • Landscape construction and grounds maintenance; and
  • Off-site work such as custom fabrication for the public works project.

If you answered yes to both questions 1 & 2, then your employer should pay you prevailing wage.

Note: In most cases, prevailing wages may not be applicable to design work (architects and engineers), software work, computer programming, and others.

If you answered no, then you are likely not on a prevailing wage project. If you need additional guidance, email us at pw1@lni.wa.gov.

See: How much should I be paid?

How much should I be paid?

The prevailing wage rate consists of wage, usual benefits, and overtime. Each of these will have an impact on how much you will be paid.

Wage

To find how much you should be paid on a public works project, you will need to know:

  • The type of work you are doing;
  • Where the work is taking place; and
  • The effective date of the contract.

Note: Your employer should post a “Statement of Intent to Pay Prevailing Wage” (Intent) at the work site. The Intent includes basic information about the project including the prevailing wage for each trade on the job.

Type of work

What is the work you are doing on the project? We call this a “scope of work” or “classification.” It is also known as trades and occupations.

It’s the work performed, not your title, that determines the classification.

You may be doing work under more than one classification. This means your employer must either track the time worked in each classification, or pay you the highest rate for all hours of work.

There are only two types of wage rates: journey level and apprentice. To be an apprentice, you must be enrolled in a state registered apprenticeship program. Trainees aren’t necessarily apprentices and if a trainee is not an apprentice, then they must be paid the journey level wage rate.

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 then does the work in another trade such as iron worker, they must be paid at the journey-level wage rate for an iron worker as they are not an apprentice for that trade.

In what county is the work taking place?

You need to know the county where you are working, and this includes any off-site work.

What does the date (effective date of the contract) have to do with how much I am paid?

The dates that affect the wage rate you are paid can be found on your employer’s Intent, which is generally posted on the job site. This effective date is the prime contractor’s bid due date, or if the contract is not awarded within six months of the bid due date, then it’s the contract award date. Whichever applies is the date to use when looking up your wage rate.

Note: Prevailing wage rates are published twice a year, so some rates may change during the year. However, the effective date for each public works project locks in that wage rate for the life of the project.

Once you know:

  • The type of work you are doing;
  • Where the work is taking place; and
  • The effective date of the contract.

Then you can look up wage rates to find out how much you should be paid.

Usual (fringe) benefits

Usual (fringe) benefits are employer 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 count as a credit toward the required hourly prevailing wages paid. Benefits required by law such as sick leave or industrial insurance cannot be included as a fringe benefit. For prevailing wage, fringe benefits include employer contributions for:

  • Health care
  • Pension
  • Vacation
  • Paid holidays
  • Apprenticeship training funds

For example: Your prevailing wage rate is $30 per hour. The employer contribution of fringe benefits totals $5 per hour. The wage rate you would receive is $25 per hour. So: $25 wage + $5 benefits = $30 per hour.

Note: Benefits paid to you in cash on the same or separate paycheck are not considered a fringe benefit. Such payments are considered part of your hourly wage.

Overtime

The following is a list of when you should be paid overtime:

  • Any hours worked over 8 hours per calendar day on one or more public works projects, 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. See example below:

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.

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.

How do i file a complaint?

If you feel you are not being paid the correct wage for the type of work you are doing, then you can file a worker complaint with L&I.

If you are unsure, or if you have never filed a previous wage complaint, see the Should I Be Paid Prevailing Wage? and How Much Should I be Paid? tabs.

There are several factors that impact how long it will take us to decide if we will accept the complaint, including:

  • Date received
  • Complaint validity
  • Completeness of complaint
  • Alleged violation(s) are under L&I jurisdiction

Prevailing wage investigations generally take 180 days to complete. Complex investigations may take longer. L&I will contact you when we complete the investigation and make a decision regarding your complaint.

Important: If you or your attorney have already filed a complaint about these wages in court, we cannot accept your claim.

To file a complaint, complete the Prevailing Wage Worker Complaint form (F700-146-000).

Related Resources

  • pw1@Lni.wa.gov
  • 1-855-545-8163
  • Fax: 360-902-5300

Mailing address

Washington State Department of Labor & Industries
Prevailing Wage Section
PO BOX 44540
Olympia WA 98504-4540

Location

7273 Linderson Way SW
Tumwater WA 98501