California and federal companies that receive contracts for public works must pay their workers the prevailing wage. (Cal. Lab. Code § 1771). The prevailing wage is usually much higher than the rate companies pay their workers for non-government contract work. The prevailing wage is most commonly paid on construction related work. But many other kinds of government contract work such as tree-trimming, community projects, renovation, and other work may also be considered public works and require payment of the prevailing wage.
Unfortunately, many companies don’t pay the prevailing wage or the full prevailing wage when they’re supposed to. Workers often don’t know whether a job is subject to the prevailing wage. Or if they do know that they are working a prevailing wage job, they don’t know how much work they do should be paid at the prevailing wage rate. The prevailing wage rates are also hard to find and can be hard to understand, which makes them fertile ground for wage theft.
The California Department of Industrial Relations lists the prevailing wage rates for the state online at https://www.dir.ca.gov/oprl/2019-2/PWD/index.htm. Workers should receive the “Total Hourly Rate” listed on the applicable table. If the employer has certain kinds of benefits programs the rate is less, but many employers don’t have benefit plans that qualify.
If you believe you should receive the prevailing wage and aren’t or you aren’t sure if you’re getting the full prevailing wage, you should contact an experienced labor and employment attorney to determine your rights. The Law Offices of G. Samuel Cleaver has litigated multiple prevailing wage cases and offers free initial consultations on prevailing wage issues.