A prevailing wage describes a minimum wage for tax-funded construction projects which include highways, schools, roads, etc. This prevailing wage is determined by the location of the construction site as well as the type of work that the construction worker performed.
Over 75 years ago, Congress passed the Davis-Bacon Act which created prevailing wage laws. These set of laws were established to prevent experienced and qualified skilled workers from being undercut by cheap labor in federal construction projects. States are permitted to pass their own laws similar to the Davis-Bacon Act. As a result, Tennessee has passed its own to protect workers on state construction and cleanup projects. However, some subcontractors may not pay workers according to the law. If you were paid as an unskilled worker even though you performed skilled work, you are entitled to recover your rightfully earned wages. We encourage you to speak with an experienced Tennessee prevailing wage attorney at The Higgins Firm.Underpayment of Prevailing Wage
As mentioned, two factors determine the amount of a prevailing wage: 1) the county in which the work is performed, and 2) the type of the work that the construction worker performed. The second factor is involved with the majority of prevailing wage underpayments.
Subcontractors commonly mislabel the type of work performed by an employee in order to pay less than the required amount. A subcontractor may use the label of an unskilled laborer or general laborer rather than a skilled worker thereby underpaying the worker. Some of the tasks performed by a skilled worker may include operating heavy machinery, roofing, painting, and bricklaying. The employer must pay the appropriate hourly prevailing wage for any period of time that the skilled work was performed. An unskilled or general laborer may perform helping tasks, light construction, demolition work, or cleanup on a work site under Tennessee’s prevailing wage law.Have You Been Paid Appropriately?
The distinction of the type of work performed can greatly affect the amount that the worker is paid. A skilled laborer typically can earn more than twice the amount of what a general laborer will earn. The ratio of unskilled laborers to skilled laborers can be a good indicator as to whether you and other workers are being paid appropriately. Typically, a construction site should have more skilled laborers than unskilled laborers.
An employer may incorrectly label a worker as an “independent contractor” as a means to avoid paying the prevailing wage. However, if your boss or superior provided your tools, told you when to arrive, and paid you by the hour, you likely should have been paid a prevailing wage accordingly. If this has happened to you, then you likely are entitled to the amount that you should have earned under the law.
Under Tennessee law, if a worker performs more than one type of work, he or she must be paid the applicable prevailing wage for the time spent working in each classification. An employer must separately track the hours spent by each employee performing each job, and report the hours separately for the payroll. If the employer does not, the employee must be paid at the highest rate for all of the hours that the employee worked that week.
If you believe that you have not been paid appropriately for the work that you performed, contact The Higgins Firm. Our attorneys will help you recover the wages that you rightfully earned.