Turning Back the Clock: DOL Proposes Previous Davis-Bacon Prevailing Wage Definition

Clock with water illustration

The proposal is meant to modernize the law and “reflect better the needs of workers in the construction industry and planned federal construction investments.”

April 19, 2022
David Chidlaw & Carina Novell - Sheppard Mullin Construction & Infrastructure Law Blog

On March 11, 2022, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) proposed reverting the definition of “prevailing wage” under the Davis-Bacon Act to a definition used over 40 years ago. According to the DOL, the proposal is meant to modernize the law and “reflect better the needs of workers in the construction industry and planned federal construction investments.”[1]

Brief History Lesson

The Davis-Bacon Act was enacted in 1931 and requires the payment of locally prevailing wages and fringe benefits on federal construction contracts. The law applies to workers on contracts in excess of $2,000 entered into by federal agencies and the District of Columbia for the construction, alteration, or repair of public buildings or public works.[2]

From the 1930s to the early 1980s, the DOL used the following three-step process to define prevailing wage:

  1. Any wage rate paid to a majority of workers.
  2. If there was no wage rate paid to a majority of workers, then the wage rate paid to the greatest number of workers, provided it was paid to at least 30 percent of workers (i.e., the “30 percent rule”).
  3. If the 30 percent rule was not met, the weighted average rate.

Reprinted courtesy of David Chidlaw, Sheppard Mullin and Carina Novell, Sheppard Mullin
Mr. Chidlaw may be contacted at dchidlaw@sheppardmullin.com
Ms. Novell may be contacted at cnovell@sheppardmullin.com



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