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The Davis-Bacon Act, passed in l931, was the first federal wage law to provide prevailing wage protection to non-government workers. It requires the payment of prevailing wages and fringe benefits to laborers and mechanics employed by contractors and subcontractors engaged in federal construction projects.


The act covers all contracts over $2,000 which call for the construction, alteration and/or repair, including painting and decorating, of public buildings or public works, as well as other construction work financed from federal funds under statutes containing Davis-Bacon provisions. All covered contracts must contain a wage determination issued by the Secretary of Labor.

Types of covered work include construction of federal buildings, dams, highways, subways, sewer treatment plants and airports. Covered workers include all laborers and mechanics whose duties are manual or physical in nature as distinguished from mental, managerial, administrative, or clerical.

Apprentices and trainees may receive less than the applicable rate on the wage determination when individually registered in a bona fide program registered with the Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration, Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training, or in the case of apprentices, with a state apprenticeship agency recognized by the Bureau.

Prevailing Wage Rate

This is the rate of wages and fringe benefits paid to a majority (i.e., more than 50%) of workers in the classification on similar construction jobs in the area, or where there is no majority, the average wage rate paid.

"Building" and "residential" wage deter- minations for construction normally are based on data from similar privately financed construction in the area, and would not include wages paid on other Davis-Bacon projects unless there are insufficient data from similar private construction projects.

Wage data from both private and Davis-Bacon projects are used in making wage determinations for heavy and highway construction projects.

Wage data from metropolitan areas are not used in making wage determinations for rural areas, and vice versa.


Under the Contract Work Hours and Safety Act, payment of not less than one and one-half times the basic rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek is required on federal projects.


In case of violation: -- the contracting agency can withhold sufficient funds to compensate underpaid employees;
-- a contractor can be debarred for violations for a three-year period.

For more information... Contact the nearest office of the Wage and Hour Division office, listed in most telephone directories under U.S. Government, Department of Labor, Employment Standards Administration.

This is one of a series of fact sheets highlighting U.S. Department of Labor Programs. It is intended as a general description only and does not carry the force of legal opinion.

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