Prevailing Wage Law

In Massachusetts, the payment of prevailing wages in public works contracts is governed by the Prevailing Wage Law (Chapter 149, Section 26 to 27G of the Massachusetts General Laws). The law requires contractors and subcontractors working on public works projects to pay all oftheir workers on those projects at the prevailing wage rate. That means the employer must pay the higher rate, no matter what.

If you believe you are working on public projects, and you believe you are receiving less than the prevailing wage, an experienced Boston prevailing wage attorney may be able to help. The attorneys at Gordon Law Group, LLP are frequently cited among the best employment lawyers in the nation. Based in Boston, they represent construction workers, laborers, concrete haulers across the country and are committed to holding contractors and subcontractors accountable for paying below the prevailing wage.

Public Works Projects

The Prevailing Wage Law protect all workers on public works projects. Public works projects are typically construction, reconstruction, alteration, repair, demolition, or maintenance of any building or other structure that is owned, used, or occupied by the state, city, town or any public authority. These often include fire stations, roads, sidewalks, schools, town halls, libraries, police stations – in short, public roads, buildings and other facilities.

Who Sets the Prevailing Wage Rate?

The prevailing wage rate is set by the Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards (DLS) and is updated annually. The DLS sets the rates every year for each occupation in a particular area based upon the rate currently being paid to those in the trades. The prevailing wage laws also requires employers provide certain prevailing benefits, too, such as paid time off, health insurance and pension benefits.

Why is There a Prevailing Wage Law?

The Prevailing Wage Law is meant to ensure that workers on public works projects in Massachusetts are paid a fair and reasonable wage and have access to benefits that are typical for their trade or occupation. This is particularly important for skilled tradespeople, such as electricians, plumbers, and carpenters, as well as for unskilled laborers, who often have few other options for employment.

The Prevailing Wage Law also ensures that contractors and subcontractors who perform work on these projects do not receive an unfair advantage over other contractors and subcontractors who perform similar work. This helps to level the playing field for contractors and subcontractors and ensures that workers on public works projects are paid a fair and reasonable wage.

Record Keeping Requirements

The Prevailing Wage Law requires contractors and subcontractors to keep accurate records of the hours worked and the wages paid to each worker. The records must be available for inspection by the Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards. The law also requires contractors to post a notice at the job site indicating the prevailing wage rate for each trade or occupation involved in the work. This helps to ensure that workers are aware of the prevailing wage rate and that they receive the proper rate of pay.

Protections Against Retaliation

Importantly, the laws requiring prevailing wage payments also prohibit retaliation against employees who complain – internally or externally – about unlawful age discrimination. The laws even protect those who complain on behalf of their colleagues or who testify in a lawsuit. For example, if an employee complains that they or other workers are not receiving proper wages, they may be protected from adverse employment action too. This is when hiring a Boston prevailing wage attorney may prove critical, to make sure the internal or external complaint is proper and well-documented.


A contractor or subcontractor who fails to pay its workers the prevailing wage rate can face significant consequences, including fines, penalties, and the loss of the right to perform work on public works projects in the future.

In addition, employees who are not paid the prevailing wage rate are entitled to recover their damages, too. Those include:

Back pay: The employee is entitled to recover the difference between the prevailing wage rate and the amount they were actually paid, including any overtime pay they may have been entitled to under the prevailing wage rate.

Damages for lost benefits: If the employee was entitled to receive certain benefits under the prevailing wage rate, such as health insurance or paid time off, they may be entitled to recover damages for any benefits they lost as a result of not being paid the prevailing wage rate.

Interest: The employee may be entitled to recover interest on the amount of back pay and lost benefits they are awarded.

Triple damages: In some cases, the employee may be entitled to recover liquidated damages, which are damages that are predetermined by law and are designed to compensate the employee for the harm they have suffered as a result of the contractor or subcontractor’s failure to pay the prevailing wage rate. In Massachusetts, employers who fail to pay their employees the prevailing wage rate, must pay those employees triple the pay they missed.

If you believe you are working on public projects, and you believe you are receiving less than the prevailing wage, or if you’ve been retaliated against for speaking up for yourself or a co-worker, you need a knowledgeable Boston prevailing wage attorney in your corner. Gordon Law Group, LLP is well-versed in the prevailing wage laws and has a track record of success bringing suit against all types of contractors and subcontractors in Boston and beyond. The firm represents workers on public jobs in all and at all levels, from carpenters to laborers, from haulers to loaders, and from plumbers to electricians. We are among the best employment lawyers around, and we are committed to advocating for employees’ rights.

Failing to pay the prevailing wage on public projects is illegal and should never be tolerated. Holding contractors and subcontractors accountable sends a powerful message and can protect other employees from experiencing the same types of pay loss in the future. If your employer has failed to pay you the prevailing wage or has retaliated against you for speaking up, contact Gordon Law Group, LLP today to schedule a consultation.

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