The DOL Issues Final Rule “to Modernize the Davis Bacon Act.”
Under the Davis-Bacon Act, construction companies are required to pay a federally-set prevailing wage and benefit rate to employees performing work on federal contracts or subcontracts. The U.S. Department of Labor, which enforces the Act, has issued a final rule that drastically revises contractor obligations. According to the DOL’s press release, the revised rule:
- Creates new efficiencies in the prevailing wage update system and makes sure prevailing wage rates keep up with actual wages which, over time, would mean higher wages for workers.
- Returns to the definition of “prevailing wage” used from 1935 to 1983 to ensure prevailing wages reflect actual wages paid to workers in the local community.
- Periodically updates prevailing wage rates to address out-of-date wage determinations.
- Provides broader authority to adopt state or local wage determinations when certain criteria are met.
- Issues supplemental rates for key job classifications when no survey data exists.
- Updates the regulatory language to better reflect modern construction practices.
- Strengthens worker protections and enforcement, including debarment and anti-retaliation provisions.
The construction industry, however, notes that these changes have a significant negative impact on contractors and subcontractors. Among the issues identified by the Association of Builders and Contractors, a national construction industry trade association, are the following:
- Lowers the definition of “prevailing wage” to a wage paid to at least 30% of workers in a locality, down from 50%.
- Allows the DOL to adopt state or local prevailing wage rates as DBA wage rates.
- Makes DBA requirements effective by “operation of law,” meaning even if a federal agency fails to include DBA clauses in a contract, contractors are still required to pay prevailing wages.
- Adds new anti-retaliation provisions to DBA contracts.