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Division of Labor Standards Enforcement
Public works enforcement at DIR

The Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) administers and enforces the public works requirements found in sections 1720 through 1815 of the Labor Code.  The State of California has regulated employment practices on public works construction projects since the 19th Century, and the basic standards that govern how prevailing wages are determined and enforced have been in place since 1931.  The purpose of prevailing wage laws has been summarized by our state Supreme Court as follows:

“. . . The overall purpose of the prevailing wage law … is to benefit and protect employees on public works projects. This general objective subsumes within it a number of specific goals: to protect employees from substandard wages that might be paid if contractors could recruit labor from distant cheap-labor areas; to permit union contractors to compete with nonunion contractors; to benefit the public through the superior efficiency of well-paid employees; and to compensate nonpublic employees with higher wages for the absence of job security and employment benefits enjoyed by public employees.” (Lusardi Construction Co. v. Aubry, 1 Cal.4th 976 at 987 (1992).)

Several parts of DIR are involved in the administration and enforcement of prevailing wage laws. Through the Division of Labor Statistics and Research (DLSR), the Director of the Department of Industrial Relations determines and publishes the prevailing wage rates payable for different crafts and work classifications in each part of the state.  Upon request, the Director also determines whether specific projects or work activities are covered by prevailing wage requirements.

The Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE), headed by the State Labor Commissioner, enforces prevailing wage requirements by investigating complaints and issuing civil wage and penalty assessments against contractors and subcontractors who violate those requirements.  In addition, the Compliance Monitoring Unit (CMU), discussed in greater detail below, actively monitors and enforces compliance with prevailing wage requirements on an ongoing basis on state bond-funded and other specified projects.

The Division of Apprenticeship Standards (DAS) administers and enforces specific requirements governing the employment of apprentices on public works projects, including the duty of contractors to notify and request the dispatch of apprentices from training programs and to employ registered apprentices on public works projects.

The DIR Legal Unit assists the Director in researching and drafting coverage determinations and also by providing hearing officers to hear contractor appeals from enforcement determinations made by either the DLSE or the DAS.  The Director also approves and, with DLSE’s assistance, oversees Labor Compliance Programs (LCPs), which are used by other public agencies to monitor and enforce prevailing wage requirements on their own public works projects.