Prevailing Wage

(Minimum Wage for Government-Funded Building and Highway Projects)

Federal and Tennessee prevailing wage laws provide a minimum wage for tax-funded construction projects (including highways, schools, etc.). Prevailing wages are determined by the construction site’s county and by the type of work the construction worker performed. If a subcontractor paid you an unskilled labor wage for skilled work you did, even part-time skilled work, you are entitled to recover the money you should have made by working with a TN prevailing wage lawyer.

Prevailing wage laws were created over 75 years ago with the passing of the Davis-Bacon Act, which set the minimum various skilled labor would be paid in order to prevent cheap labor from undercutting experienced, qualified labor in federal construction project.

Tennessee is among 31 states with its own “mini” Davis-Bacon laws. These prevailing wage rates protect Tennessee workers on construction and cleanup projects and ensure they are fairly paid, though not all subcontractors follow the law.

Illegal Wage Pay on State/Federal Projects

Prevailing wage laws are based on two factors: 1) the county where the work is performed, and 2) the type of work performed. Most prevailing wage underpayments in Tennessee come under #2 when subcontractors mislabel their employees’ type of work performed so they can pay less than the prevailing wage.

In Tennessee, the most common way subcontractors underpay is labeling a skilled worker as unskilled laborer or general laborer. Skilled work includes operating heavy machinery (including forklifts, cranes, etc.), roofing, painting, and bricklaying. If you performed skilled jobs at any period of your employment, your employee must pay you the appropriate hourly prevailing wage for this skilled work.

Under Tennessee prevailing wage laws, a general laborer may only perform helping tasks, light construction, and demolition work, like scaffolding or cleaning a work site.

Earn What Your Work Is Worth with The Higgins Firm Prevailing Wage Attorneys

An unskilled laborer typically earns less than half what skilled labor makes. A good judge for whether you and others were paid for the work you did is to think about the ratio of general labor to skilled labor. At most construction sites, there should be more skilled laborers than unskilled labor working.

If your boss labeled you an independent subcontractor (“not an employee”) but told you when to show up, provided your tools, and paid you by the hour for tax-funded construction or similar work, you worked for him or her and are most likely entitled to the prevailing wage’s backpay (the money you earned but were not given).

Also, as the purpose of Davis-Bacon laws is to make sure cheap labor does not lower wages for a state’s construction workers, all laborers—even undocumented workers—must be paid at minimum the prevailing wage for their skilled and unskilled work.

The Tennessee Division of Labor Standards states:

“Employees who perform more than one classification of work must be paid the applicable prevailing wage rate for the time spent working in each classification. It is the employer’s responsibility to track separately the hours spent by each employee doing each job classification, and to report them separately on the certified payroll. If this is not done, the employee should be paid for all hours worked at the highest rate the employee earned that week.”

If you believe you performed skilled work and were not paid the federal or Tennessee prevailing wage, contact The Higgins Firm. Our attorneys have worked hundreds of these cases throughout Tennessee to make sure his clients’ prevailing wage claims are settled quickly. Contact us online or call us at 800-705-2121.