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Understanding the prevailing wage law in California

Workers in the San Diego area might not fully understand the various laws and terms that govern how they are supposed to be treated by their employer. Just because workers might have specialized jobs, low-wage jobs or the workers might not be fully conversant in English does not diminish the importance of these laws.

One law that might be unfamiliar is the prevailing wage law. This is based on public works projects and is an hourly rate that is paid. It refers to workers who are taking part in a particular craft, type of work or classification. If there is not a single rate that is paid to the majority of workers, then there will be a single or modal rate based on the rate that is paid to the greater number of workers.

With prevailing wage, the idea is to make certain that getting a public works contract is not contingent on paying an employee lower wages and making it easier to bid less and get the contract. The bidders must pay the same wage when there is a public works contract they are pursuing. Under the law, the workers cannot be paid less than the general prevailing rate per day that is paid to all workers who are employed on a public works project.

The determination of the prevailing wage is made by the California Department of Industrial Relations. It hinges on the craft, classification or the type of worker who is doing the job. This goes county by county in the state and it covers the whole area. These will be issued two times every year in late February and late August. The special prevailing wage determination goes into effect if there is a type of job that is not covered by general determination. If that is the case, there can be a special prevailing wage determination. This request must be made 45 days before the date of the bid advertisement.

Workers who are employed in a public works project and are doing a particular job that falls under prevailing wage laws need to know their rights. If a company is not paying its workers in accordance with the applicable minimum wage, they can seek compensation for the violations to the wage and hour law. An experienced attorney can help workers with a wide variety of issues related to employment law.

Source: CA.gov, “Frequently Asked Questions – Prevailing Wage,” accessed on May 10, 2016


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