Examining the Legal Aspect of Prevailing Wage in Washington State

Most people know what minimum wage is because it’s mandated by law and affects so many people. But not everyone has heard of prevailing wage — and it’s important to understand, whether you’re an employer or employee.

Prevailing wage is defined as the “hourly wage, usually benefits, and overtime paid in the largest city in each county, to the majority of workers, laborers, and mechanics performing work in the same trade or occupation.” The Washington State Department of Labor & Industry (“L&I”) establishes the prevailing wage for each trade and occupation in the working on public works projects. Its goal is to protect employees from earning less than the local standard wage.

Workers affected by prevailing wage standards

All contractors involved in public works projects — those funded by local and/or state governmental entities — are mandated by law to pay the prevailing wage to employees  who work on, for example, state office buildings or county roads. In essence, this is guaranteed pay, and not on the minimum side either.

By law, if you hire workers in any of these professions for a publicly funded job project, you must pay them the prevailing wage as established by the L&I.

  • Brick masons
  • Carpenters
  • Boilermakers
  • Drywall applicators
  • Flaggers
  • Glaziers
  • Ironworkers
  • Painters
  • Plasterers

The Department of Labor & Industry is also responsible for handling workers’ compensation, safety compliance and other legal aspects of employer representation in Washington. What L&I does is research all the average pay and benefits given to any of these professions or trades in the largest city of the county where work is being conducted. Whatever amount they come up with would be the prevailing wage for the workers of any particular job requiring state or local funding.

If you’re involved in a public works project, seek advice and guidance from a qualified lawyer from the offices of Adelstein, Sharpe & Serka LLP.

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