2-4 Davis-Bacon Definitions


Before we discuss how to complete the weekly payroll forms, we need to review a couple of definitions. These definitions can help you understand what will be required of you:

  1. Laborer or mechanic. “Laborers” and “mechanics” mean anyone who is performing construction work on the project, including trade journeymen (carpenters, plumbers, sheet metal workers, etc.), apprentices, and trainees and, for CWHSSA purposes, watchmen and guards. “Laborers” and “mechanics” are the two groups of workers that must be paid not less than Davis-Bacon wage rates.
    1. Working foremen. Foremen or supervisors that regularly spend more than 20% of their time performing construction work and do not meet the exclusions in paragraph 2 below are covered “laborers” and “mechanics” for labor standards purposes for the time spent performing construction work.
    2. Exclusions. People whose duties are primarily administrative, executive or clerical are not laborers or mechanics. Examples include superintendents, office staff, timekeepers, messengers, etc. (Contact the contract administrator if you have any questions about whether a particular employee is excluded.)
  2. Employee. Every person who performs the work of a laborer or mechanic is “employed” regardless of any contractual relationship which may be alleged to exist between a contractor or subcontractor and such person. This means that even if there is a contract between a contractor and a worker, the contractor must make sure that the worker is paid at least as much as the wage rate on the wage decision for the classification of work they perform. Note that there are no exceptions to the prevailing wage requirements for relatives or for self-employed laborers and mechanics.

    For more information about working subcontractors, ask the contract administrator or your HUD Labor Relations Field Staff for a copy of Labor Relations Letter LR-96-01, Labor standards compliance requirements for self-employed laborers and mechanics. Labor Relations Letters and other helpful Labor Relations publications are available at HUD’s Labor Relations web site (see the list of web site addresses in the Appendix).
  3. Apprentices and trainees. The only workers who can be paid less than the wage rate on the wage decision for their work classification are “apprentices” and “trainees” registered in approved apprenticeship or training programs. Approved programs are those which have been registered with the DOL or a DOL-recognized State Apprenticeship Council (SAC). Apprentices and trainees are paid wage rates in accordance with the wage schedule in the approved program.

    Most often, the apprentice/trainee wage rate is expressed as a series of percentages tied to the amount of time spent in the program. For example, 0-6 months: 65%; 6 months - 1 year: 70%; etc. The percentage is applied to the journeyman’s wage rate. On Davis-Bacon projects, the percentage must be applied to the journeyman’s wage rate on the applicable wage decision for that craft.
    1. Probationary apprentice. A “probationary apprentice” can be paid as an apprentice (less than the rate on the wage decision) if the DOL or SAC has certified that the person is eligible for probationary employment as an apprentice.
    2. Pre-apprentice. A “pre-apprentice”, that is, someone who is not registered in a program and who hasn’t been DOL- or SAC-certified for probationary apprenticeship is not considered to be an “apprentice” and must be paid the full journeyman’s rate on the wage decision for the classification of work they perform.
    3. Ratio of apprentices and trainees to journeymen. The maximum number of apprentices or trainees that you can use on the job site cannot exceed the ratio of apprentices or trainees to journeymen allowed in the approved program.
  4. Prevailing wages or wage rates. Prevailing wage rates are the wage rates listed on the wage decision for the project. The wage decision will list a minimum basic hourly rate of pay for each work classification. Some wage decisions include fringe benefits which are usually listed as an hourly fringe rate. If the wage decision includes a fringe benefit rate for a classification, you will need to add the fringe benefit rate to the basic hourly rate unless you provide bona fide fringe benefits for your employees.
    1. Piece-work. Some employees are hired on a piece-work basis, that is, the employee’s earnings are determined by a factor of work produced. For example, a Drywall Hanger’s earnings may be calculated based upon the square feet of sheetrock actually hung, a Painter’s earnings may be based upon the number of units painted. Employers may calculate weekly earnings based upon piece rates provided the weekly earnings are sufficient to satisfy the wage rate requirement based upon actual hours, including any overtime, worked. Accurate time records must be maintained for any piece-work employees. If the weekly piece rate earnings are not sufficient, the employer must recompute weekly earnings based upon the actual hours worked and the rate on the wage decision for the work classification(s) involved.
  5. Fringe benefits Fringe benefits can include health insurance premiums, retirement contributions, life insurance, vacation and other paid leave as well as some contributions to training funds. Fringe benefits do not include employer payments or contributions required by other Federal, State or local laws, such as the employer’s contribution to Social Security or some disability insurance payments.

    Note that the total hourly wage rate paid to any laborer or mechanic (basic wage or basic wage plus fringe benefits) may be no less than the total wage rate (basic wage or basic wage plus fringe benefits) on the wage decision for their craft. If the value of the fringe benefit(s) you provide is less than the fringe benefit rate on the wage decision, you will need to add the balance of the wage decision fringe benefit rate to the basic rate paid to the employee. For example, if the wage decision requires $10/hour basic rate plus $5/ hour fringe benefits, you must pay no less than that total ($15/hour) in the basic rate or basic rate plus whatever fringe benefit you may provide. You can meet this obligation in several ways: you could pay the base wage and fringe benefits as stated in the wage decision, or you could pay $15 in base wage with no fringe benefits, or you could pay $12 basic plus $3 fringe benefits. You can also off-set the amount of the base wage if you pay more in fringe benefits such as by paying or $9 basic plus $6 fringe benefits; as long as you meet the total amount. The amount of the base wage that you may off-set with fringe benefits is limited by certain IRS and FLSA requirements.
  6. Overtime. Overtime hours are defined as all hours worked on the contract in excess of 40 hours in any work week. Overtime hours must be paid at no less than one and one-half times the regular rate of basic pay plus the straight-time rate of any required fringe benefits.
  7. Deductions. You may make payroll deductions as permitted by DOLRegulations 29 CFR Part 3. These regulations prohibit the employer from requiring employees to “kick-back” (i.e., give up) any of their earnings. Allowable deductions which do not require prior DOL permission include employee obligations for income taxes, Social Security payments, insurance premiums, retirement, savings accounts, and any other legally-permissible deduction authorized by the employee. Deductions may also be made for payments on judgments and other financial obligations legally imposed against the employee.

    Referring, again, to our example above where the wage decision requiring a $15 total wage obligation ($10 basic wage plus $5 fringe benefits) was met by paying $9 base wage plus $6 fringe benefits: Note that overtime rates must be based on one and one-half times the basic rate as stated on the wage decision. In the above example, the employer must pay for overtime: $15/hr ($9 basic + $6 fringe) plus $5 (one-half of $10, the wage decision basic rate) for a total of $20 per hour.
  8. Proper designation of trade. You must select a work classification on the wage decision for each worker based on the actual type of work he/she performed and you must pay each worker no less than the wage rate on the wage decision for that classification regardless of their level of skill. In other words, if someone is performing carpentry work on the project, they must be paid no less than the wage rate on the wage decision for Carpenters even if they aren’t considered by you to be fully trained as a Carpenter. Remember, the only people who can be paid less than the rate for their craft are apprentices and trainees registered in approved programs.
    1. Split-classification. If you have employees that perform work in more than one trade during a work week, you can pay the wage rates specified for each classification in which work was performed only if you maintain accurate time records showing the amount of time spent in each classification of work. If you do not maintain accurate time records, you must pay these employees the highest wage rate of all of the classifications of work performed.
  9. Site of work. The “site of work” is where the Davis-Bacon wage rates apply. Usually, this means the boundaries of the project. “Site of work” can also include other adjacent or virtually adjacent property used by a contractor or subcontractor in the construction of the project, like a fabrication site that is dedicated exclusively, or nearly so, to the project.

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