Is Prevailing Wage an Option?

May 6, 2011

Q: We are bidding on a school project and the GC has asked us to provide two separate bids: one in which we comply with prevailing wage (Davis-Bacon) and one where we don’t. Is that a legitimate request?

A: Oh, my! Well, my gut reaction tells me that this isn’t even legal. The Davis-Bacon Act isn’t an option; it’s a federal law on projects where federal funding is being used on a public works job. But, as I think this through, perhaps the owner (or school board) is contemplating whether to use a federal grant to help with the construction or remodeling costs. If the cost of abiding by the mandate is greater than the grant, perhaps they would turn down the federal funding. Maybe you can track this down by determining if any funding is provided by a federal grant.

Or, it could be that the city or county is weighing whether to implement a prevailing wage provision or PLA on their own and, for some reason, don’t want to make that decision until they have the pricing differential in hand. Another possibility is that some states imposed a prevailing wage on projects over a certain dollar amount. Maybe this job is bordering on the threshold of that amount and they don’t want to rebid if it goes over. Perhaps the funding is coming from a federal source with different stipulations attached.

In any case, I would be very cautious here. The DOL has been hiring part-time accountants whose sole purpose is to validate the certified payroll on these projects and they don’t mess around. Make darn sure you know exactly what you are getting into on any prevailing wage job. –CW

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