Generally, prevailing wages are hourly wages, benefits, overtime, and job promotions that most workers earn within a certain industry. The term encompasses all aspects of compensation given a worker for the labor he or she performs in public works projects. All prevailing wages are not the same, but they are within a range for particular trades and occupations.
New Jersey first established a Prevailing Wage Law in 1913. Since that time, the law has evolved, but its purpose remains the same – to give contractors competing for government contracts a consistent range for calculation of labor costs in the bidding process. Public construction projects can tend to destabilize a local construction industry without established prevailing wages for workers in the trades involved.
How You Are Affected by Prevailing Wages Rates
If you are a worker in the state of New Jersey and your occupation is covered under Prevailing Wage Law, your employer is required to post a notice and you will see it. The law states, “All contractors and subcontractors performing public work for a public body shall post the prevailing wage rates for each craft and classification, including the effective date of any changes to the rate, in a prominent and easily accessible place at the site of the work or at such places that are used by employers to pay workers their wages.”
If you suspect that your employment is covered under the NJ Prevailing Wage Law, and you do not see a posting, you may want to contact an employment law attorney. Bear in mind, prevailing wages rates are established at the time a contract is awarded, and they may change prior to or during the course of a project.
You may discover that some employers and agencies seem to ignore the law. Public works projects are not always closely monitored, so unscrupulous contractors may avoid their obligation to compensate employees fairly. Compensation includes the provision of health care and pension benefits to all workers, both union and non-union.
Current prevailing wage rates are posted by the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Specific prevailing wage rates for individual public works projects are available as well.
Federal construction projects in the state of New Jersey fall under the Davis-Bacon Act, enacted in 1931, which set the example for states and counties to follow in establishing and expanding their Prevailing Wage Laws. New Jersey laws are broad in scope. An article about prevailing wages for workers involved in community housing stated, “The state does not differentiate between residential and commercial development when setting rates, so wages tend to be higher for less skilled workers.”
If you have moved to New Jersey from another state or you are just beginning to work in an industry covered by the Prevailing Wages Act in New Jersey, it may be wise to contact an employment law attorney to make sure you understand your rights, or to discuss problems regarding your compensation by an employer.
If you are working in New Jersey now and you are certain your employer is not following the law, an employment law attorney can help you get compensated fairly.
John J. Zidziunas & Associates can provide you with expert help in your New Jersey employment law matters and advise and represent you in court. Contact us for a 30-minute consultation at no charge, by email or by calling 973-509-8500.
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