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What Does "Prevailing Wage" Mean?
A prevailing wage refers to the standard rate of a pay that an employee is typically paid within a specific line of work. This can also include other aspects, such as benefits, vacation, and overtime terms that are associated with that particular type of position. For instance, the prevailing wages for an entry-level construction job might be different from that of an entry-level drilling job.
Prevailing wages are industry-specific and are different from minimum wage rates, which are set by state and federal standards. The term "prevailing wages" applies largely to construction jobs, especially those involving contracted labor and government contracts. The term is also relevant for other aspects, such as certain work visa requirements.
How Are Prevailing Wages Determined?
Prevailing wages may be determined in a number of ways. For instance, they may sometimes be set by federal or state guidelines. Alternatively, they are often determined according to a number of factors, such as:
- Pay rates in similar fields
- Local pay standards
- Prior case law
- Geographic factors (such as cost of living in an area)
Some industries may have more set and formal standards for prevailing wages than other fields. For instance, newer industries that revolve around new technology might have less stable prevailing wage standards than older trades.
Lastly, the term "prevailing wages" is sometimes synonymous with the idea of a "union wage" (i.e., wage rates that are set by union negotiations with the management). Thus, prevailing wages often depend heavily on union laws.
I Have a Dispute over Prevailing Wage Rates. What Should I Do?
As mentioned, prevailing wages are sometimes considered guidelines and may not always be enforceable under state or local laws. However, disputes over prevailing wages can sometimes be an indication that wage and overtime pay laws are being broken or that employment standards are not being adhered to.
In such cases, you may wish to take steps such as filing with the human resources department or with a government investigatory agency. In more serious claims, a lawsuit may be needed in order to obtain back pay or other legal remedies.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Prevailing Wage Issues?
Prevailing wages can sometimes involve some fairly complex calculations. This is especially true if there have been large discrepancies between actual wages paid and the prevailing wage rate for a given job. You may need to hire an employment law attorney if you need help filing a case. Your attorney can help review documents, and can also represent you in court as needed.
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Last Modified: 09-16-2014 12:24 PM PDT
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