WH-347/348 Prevailing Wage
Determinations Online

By Verne Waldow
Senior Investigator Advisor for the Department of Labor,
Wage-Hour Division, 
Retired

Prevailing Wage Determinations Online

Warning to Contractors about the WDOL website

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Sometimes Federal Agencies purposely omit the Wage Determination from the bid package and advise contractors to search for it on wdol.gov.

Sounds simple. But don't be fooled.

The Prevailing Wage Determinations Online website is filled with pitfalls that could negatively affect your contract profitability.

Sometimes governmental agencies require more than they should from a contractor by shifting agency responsibilities to the contractor

An example of this is the omission of the proper prevailing wage determination from the bid package.

Agencies are required to include the proper wage determination in a bid package so that contractors know what wages have to be paid before they bid on the contract.

But now, as a "cost saving measure", some agencies have directed contractors to go to a website, wdol.gov, and pick the proper wage determinations online for that project.

The unfortunate result has been that contracts are being let with incorrect wage rates. If the error isn't quickly caught, inevitably some of the wages are incorrectly paid and back wage liabilities may occur for the employer.

What I found while investigating a complaint about some underpaid welders

I remember getting a call from an employee who felt that welders were being underpaid for work at a government project.

When I went to the construction firm to investigate, I asked for a copy of the bid package which would contain the wage determination for the project.

Investigator on your jobsite or in your office?

If a Wage Hour Investigator shows up at your establishment, he's probably not there by chance. In about 90% of my investigations I already had information that indicated there was a "wage hour problem".

Verne Waldow - Senior Investigator Advisor, Retired

When I found the wage determination, I discovered it was an SCA wage determination meant for Service Contracts, not a DBRA wage determination for a construction project.

When I asked the employer what his source was for the wage determination, he told me that he had been instructed by the contracting agency to go online and get it at the prevailing wage determinations online  (wdol.gov) website.

He said that he had done his best to get the right wage determination, but had found the process very confusing.

The proper wage determination was obtained and the difference in wages calculated. Surprisingly there were no back wages due.

However ... I found that the employees had been overpaid by a total of $11,000!

It is the agency's responsibility to pick proper prevailing wage determinations online

The point is that getting the correct wage determination from wdol.gov is not an easy task.

There are factors to be considered that the average contractor does not know about (such as what the construction type is ‹ residential, building, heavy, or highway and the bid origination date, which is critical for determining the wage).

As mentioned above, it is the agency's responsibility to pick the proper wage determination. The contracting agent has the knowledge and ability to pick the right one.  

What to do if the bid package you receive from an agency does not have a wage determination in it

  • Call the contracting agent and ask him to e-mail a copy of the correct wage determination
  • Document your call and keep the e-mail
  • If he is "too busy" ask him to e-mail you the proper wage determination number that should be used in the project - this number will help you to find the correct wage determination
  • Document that the agency gave you the wage determination (how much to pay per hour) and/or the wage determination number.
  • Keep everything in an easy-to-locate file should it be needed

Good documentation of your communication will help you to establish the facts in the event of a dispute.

Protect your hard-earned profits.  Don't allow them be undermined by an incorrect wage determination that isn't your responsibility.

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About the Author: Verne Waldow is a Senior Investigator Advisor for the Department of Labor, Wage-Hour division, Retired. For more than 30 years he worked for the US Dept. of Labor, specializing in investigations of Government Construction Contracts under the Davis Bacon Act (DBA) and the Davis Bacon and Related Act (DBRA). During the last two years of his employment he was promoted to Senior Investigator Advisor.
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