WI Construction Update: Changes to Prevailing Wage Law Have Arrived

For contractors completing public construction, it is important to be familiar with prevailing wage laws. Failure to pay prevailing wages, and submitting documents to government agencies based on such a failure, may constitute violations of state or federal false claims laws. 2015 Wisconsin Act 55 made significant changes to state prevailing wage law that became effective January 1, 2017. What follows is a brief summary of the changes.

Local Projects

First, prevailing wage requirements were eliminated outright for local projects (i.e. schools, towns, municipalities, to name a few). Notably, however, daily and weekly hour limits remain in place. Workers are confined to 10 hours per day or 40 hours per week at regular pay. They may be permitted or required to work in excess of those amounts, provided that they are paid 1.5 times their normal hourly rate.

State Highway / Agency Projects 

Second, wage and hour requirements are still in place for all state highway and agency projects and for any projects using federal funds. But, for state single – trade projects with completion costs under $48,000 and state multi – trade projects with completion costs under $100,000 prevailing wage rates are not required. State highway and bridge projects have no threshold; prevailing wage rates will apply to all projects.

The changes from 2015 Wisconsin Act 55 apply prospectively. That is, projects where a request for bids was issued or a contract was entered into before January 1, 2017 remain subject to previous prevailing wage rate laws.

Calculating Prevailing Wage Rates

Finally, the state will no longer calculate its own prevailing wage rates. Instead, all rates will be taken from the federal rates provided in the Davis-Bacon Act. 40 U.S.C. 3142. This effectively eliminates the state versus federal rate analysis under which state and federal rates were compared and the higher rate applied to workers.

Prevailing wage oversight at the state level is transitioning from the Department of Workforce Development to the Department of Administration/Division of Facilities Development. For more information visit the DOA’s website.

This document is intended for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for consultation with a licensed legal professional in a particular case or circumstance.

For additional information on this topic, please reach out to Carlson Dash directly.