Labor Standards Disputes, Administrative Reviews, Withholding

3-1 Introduction

What Happens When Things Go Wrong?

Even in the best of circumstances, things can go wrong. In a Davis-Bacon context, “things going wrong” usually means there’s a difference of opinion or a dispute about whether and to what extent underpayments have occurred. These disputes are usually between the contract administrator and one or more employers (the prime contractor and/ or a subcontractor). The dispute may involve something simple such as an additional classification request that is pending before the DOL; or something as significant as investigative findings following a complaint of underpayment. This chapter discusses some of what you may expect and what you can do to make your views known and to lessen any delays in resolving the problem or issue.

3-2 Administrative Review On Labor Standards Disputes

3-2 Administrative Review On Labor Standards Disputes.

As mentioned in the Introduction above, a dispute about labor standards and compliance can arise for a number of reasons. The labor standards clauses in your contract and DOL regulations provide for administrative review of issues where there is a difference of views between the contract administrator and any employer. The most common circumstances include:

  1. Additional classifications and wage rates. Additional classification and wage rate requests are sometimes denied by the DOL. An employer that is dissatisfied with the denial can request reconsideration by the DOL Wage and Hour Administrator. The employer may continue to pay the wage rate, as requested, until a final decision is rendered on the matter. When the final decision is known, the employer will be required to pay any additional wages that may be necessary to satisfy the wage rate that is established.
    1. Reconsideration. The DOL normally identifies the reasons for denial in its response to the request. Any interested person (for example, the contract administrator, employer, representatives of the employees) may request reconsideration of the decision on the additional classification request. The request for reconsideration must be made in writing and must thoroughly address the denial reasons identified by the DOL. Employer requests for reconsideration should be made through the contract administrator but may be made directly to the DOL. (See 2-2(d), and also DOL Regulations 29 CFR 1.8.) All requests initiated by or made through the contract administrator or HUD must be submitted through the HUD Headquarters Office of Labor Relations.
    2. Administrative Review Board. Any interested party may request a review of the Administrator’s decision on reconsideration by the DOL’s Administrative Review Board. DOL regulations 29 CFR Part 7 explain the procedures for such reviews. (See also 29 CFR 1.9.)
  2. Findings of underpayment. Compliance reviews and other follow-up enforcement actions may result in findings of underpayment. The primary goal in every case and at every step in this process is to reach agreements about who may have been underpaid and how much wage restitution may be due and, of course, to promptly deliver restitution to any underpaid workers. The contract administrator will usually work informally with you to reach such agreements. You will have an opportunity to provide additional information to the contract administrator that may explain apparent inconsistencies and/or resolve the discrepancies.

    If informal exchanges do not result in agreement, the final determination and schedule of back wages due will be presented to you in writing and you will be permitted 30 days in which to correct the underpayment(s) or to request a hearing on the matter before the DOL. The request for hearing must be made in writing through the contract administrator and must explain what findings are in dispute and the reasons. In such cases, HUD is required to submit a report to DOL for review and further consideration. All requests for DOLhearing must be submitted through the HUD Headquarters Office of Labor Relations.
    1. DOL review. The DOL will review the contract administrator’s report and the arguments against the findings presented in the hearing request. The DOL may affirm or modify the findings based upon the materials presented. You will be notified in writing by the DOL of the results of its review. If DOL concludes that violations have occurred, you will be given an opportunity to correct any underpayments or to request a hearing before a DOL Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). (See DOL Regulations 29 CFR 5.11 (b) and 29 CFR Part 6, Rules of Practice for Administrative Proceedings.)
    2. Administrative Review Board. Contractors and/or subcontractors may request a review by the Administrative Review Board of the decision(s) rendered by the DOL ALJ in the administrative hearing process. See DOL regulations 29 CFR Part 7 for more information about this proceeding.

3-3 Withholding

The contract administrator shall cause withholding from payments due to the prime contractor to ensure the payment of wages which are believed to be due and unpaid, for example, if wage underpayments or other violations are not corrected within 30 days after written notification to the prime contractor. DOL may also direct the withholding of contract payments for alleged wage underpayments. Withholding is considered to be serious and is not taken unless warranted. If withholding is deemed necessary, you will be notified in writing. Only the amounts needed to meet the contractor’s (and/or subcontractors’) liability shall be withheld.

3-4 Deposits And Escrows

In every case, we attempt to complete compliance actions and resolve any disputes before the project is completed and final payments are made. Sometimes, corrective actions or disputes continue after completion and provisions must be made to ensure that funds are available to pay any wage restitution that is ultimately found due. In these cases, we allow projects to proceed to final closing and final payments provided the prime contractor deposits an amount equal to the potential liability for wage restitution and liquidated damages, if necessary, in a special account. The deposit or escrow account is controlled by the contract administrator. When a final decision is rendered, the contract administrator makes disbursements from the account in accordance with the decision. Deposit/escrow accounts are established for one or more of the following reasons:

Remember, the prime contractor is responsible and will be held liable for any wage restitution that is due to any worker employed in the construction of the project, including workers employed by subcontractors and any lower-tier subcontractors. See 1-4, Responsibility of the Principal Contractor, and 2-8, Restitution for Underpayment of Wages.

  1. Where the partieshave agreed toamounts of wagerestitution that are due but the employer hasn’t furnished evidence yet that all of the underpaid workers have received their back wages, e.g., some of the workers have moved and could not be located. The amount of the deposit is equal to the total gross amount of restitution due to workers lacking payment evidence. As these workers are paid and proper documentation is provided to the contract administrator, amounts corresponding to the documented payments are returned to the depositor. Amounts for any workers who cannot be located are held in the deposit/escrow account for three years and disposed as described in 2-8(f) of this Guide.
  2. Where underpaymentsare suspected oralleged and aninvestigation hasnot yet been completed. The deposit is equal to the amount of wage restitution and any liquidated damages, if applicable, that are estimated to be due. If the final determination of wages due is less than the amount estimated and placed in the escrow account, the escrow will be reduced to the final amount and the difference will be returned to the depositor.

    If the parties agree to the investigative findings, the amounts due to the workers will be paid by the employer. As these workers are paid and proper documentation is provided to the contract administrator, the gross amounts corresponding to the documented payments are returned to the depositor.
    1. If the employer is unable to make the payments to the workers, e.g., lacks the funds necessary, the contract administrator may make disbursements directly to the workers in the net amounts calculated by the employer. The amounts withheld from the workers for tax deduction will be returned to the employer as payments to workers are made. The employer shall be responsible for reporting and transmitting withholdings to the appropriate agencies.
    2. If the employer is not cooperating in the resolution, the contract administrator shall make disbursements to the workers in accordance with the schedule of wages due. Amounts for unfound workers will be retained as described above (See 2-8(f) and 3-4(a)).

      If the parties do not agree and an administrative hearing is requested, the escrow will be maintained as explained in 3-4(c), below.

      Remember, if you have any questions or need assistance concerning labor standards requirements help is always available. Contact the contract administrator for the project you’re working on or the HUD Field Labor Relations staff in your area.
  3. Where the partiesare waiting forthe outcome ofan administrative hearing that has been or will be requested contesting a final determination of wages due. The deposit shall be equal to the amount of wage restitution and liquidated damages, if applicable, that have been determined due. Once a final decision is rendered, disbursements from the escrow account are made in accordance with the decision.

3-5 Administrative Sanctions

Contractors and/or subcontractors that violate the labor standards provisions may face administrative sanctions imposed by HUD and/or DOL.

  1. DOL debarment. Contractors and/or subcontractors that are found by the Secretary of Labor to be in aggravated or willful violation of the labor standards provisions of the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts (DBRA) will be ineligible (debarred) to participate in any DBRA or Davis-Bacon Act contracts for up to 3 years. Debarment includes the contractor or subcontractor and any firm, corporation, partnership or association in which the contractor or subcontractor has a substantial interest. Debarment proceedings can be recommended by the contract administrator or can be initiated by the DOL. Debarment proceedings are described in DOL regulations 29 CFR 5.12.
  2. HUD sanctions. HUD sanctions may include Limited Denials of Participation (LDPs), debarments and suspensions.
    1. Limited Denial of Participation. HUD may issue to the employer a limited denial of participation (LDP) which prohibits the employer from further participation in HUD programs for a period up to one year. The LDP is usually effective for the HUD program in which the violation occurred and for the geographic jurisdiction of the issuing HUD Office. HUD regulations concerning LDP’s are found at 24 CFR 24.700-24.714.
    2. Debarment and suspensions. In certain circumstances, HUD may initiate its own debarment or suspension proceedings against a contractor and/or subcontractor in connection with improper actions regarding Davis-Bacon obligations. For example, HUD may initiate debarment where a contractor has been convicted for making false statements (such as false statements on certified payrolls or other prevailing wage certifications) or may initiate suspension where a contractor has been indicted for making false statements. HUD regulations concerning debarment and suspension are found at 24 CFR Part 24.

3-6 Falsification Of Certified Payroll Reports

Contractors and/or subcontractors that are found to have willfully falsified payroll reports (Statements of Compliance), including correction certified payroll reports, may be subject to civil or criminal prosecution. Penalties may be imposed of $1,000 and/or one year in prison for each false statement (see Section 1001 of Title 18 and Section 231 of Title 31 of the United States Code).

Remember, if you have any questions or need assistance concerning labor standards requirements help is always available. Contact the contract administrator for the project you’re working on or the HUD Field Labor Relations staff in your area.



Consulting Services We Provide

  • Review public works preconstruction contracts
  • Monitor DIR contractor/subcontractor certified payrolls
  • Audit labor classification for each worker employed
  • Review DIR pre-DAS 140/142 submissions
  • Review CAC training fund contributions form CAC-2
  • Review DIR Fringe Benefits Statement PW-26
  • Monitor DIR wage determinations
  • Audit fringe benefits allowances
  • Review DIR holiday payment requirements
  • Audit DIR travel & subsistence requirements
  • Caltrans Labor Compliance
  • County of Sacramento Labor Compliance
  • City of Los Angeles Labor Compliance
  • Los Angeles Unified School District Labor Compliance
  • Federal Davis-Bacon Project Monitoring
  • Federal DBE Implementation & Review
  • Federal FAA AIP Goal Setting
  • DIR & Davis-Bacon Training
  • DIR Civil Wage Penalty Review
  • Local-Hire Review (e.g., San Francisco)
  • Skilled and Trained Workforce

Give us a call to discuss your labor compliance requirements.

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