Introduction to Public Works
Public works law requires private construction contractors to pay prevailing wages to their workers and requires the construction contractor to follow public works law when working on a project funded by a public entity. A public entity can be the State of California, or any public agency such as a county, city, school or a special district. Prevailing wages are due, in most instances, if the project costs more than $1,000, and involves the following construction work: new construction, alteration, demolition, installation, repair and maintenance. Contractors must make an attempt to hire apprentices when the total project costs exceed $30,000.
Public Works Projects
The agency awarding the contract for a public works project must notify DIR within five days of awarding the contract. This requirement applies to all public works projects that are subject to the prevailing wage requirements of the Labor Code, regardless of size or funding source.
- Use the searchable database of public works projects to look up projects in the State of California.
Public Works Enforcement
The Labor Commissioner’s Office enforces public works labor laws, including prevailing wage requirements, and issues civil wage and penalty assessments when contractors fail to pay the correct prevailing wage. Contractors can be prevented (debarred) from bidding or working on public works projects for up to three years when the contractor intentionally violates public works law. When wage theft and other criminal activity are found, the Labor Commissioner’s Office works with district attorneys’ offices around the state to pursue misdemeanor or felony charges including imposing jail time.
Appeals, Labor Compliance Programs, and Prevailing Wage Rate Determinations
The DIR Director’s Office conducts hearings on appeals to prevailing wage assessments levied by the Labor Commissioner.
The Director’s Office also oversees approved Labor Compliance Programs such as those of Caltrans, the City of Los Angeles, Los Angeles Unified School District and the County of Sacramento, which enforce prevailing wage compliance on their own projects.
The Director’s Office of Policy, Research and Legislation (OPRL) help contractors and public agencies identify projects that are subject to public works law. OPRL also helps determine the proper construction craft or classification rate that the contractors must pay their workers.