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How Do I Get My Prevailing Wages Money That My California Employer Didn’t Pay?

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Richard E. Donahoo - Employment & Labor - Super Lawyers

Answered by: Richard E. Donahoo

Located in Tustin, CADonahoo & Associates, PC

Tustin, CA
Phone: 714-953-1010
Fax: 714-953-1777

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Many construction projects in California are paid for with government funds. Such “public works” projects require that works be paid according to the minimum wage rates set by California’s Prevailing Wage Law. When contractors skirt our state’s prevailing wages in order to save a buck or be the lowest bidder, it leaves workers suffering the results of this race to the bottom. 

Fortunately, workers have options for making things right and getting the money they are owed for their work. California law allows for a private right of action when an employer fails to pay the legally required prevailing wages on public works projects. An attorney with experience in this niche area of employment law can help you pursue an action to recover funds from your employer or the project’s general contractor for your stolen wages plus interest, penalties, court costs and legal fees. 

When Do Prevailing Wage Requirements Apply And What Should The Wages Be? 

California’s Prevailing Wage Law requires that workers on public works projects be paid according to minimum wage rates for their trade or classification. These prevailing wage rates apply to workers such as carpenters, electricians, cement masons, ironworkers, hazardous materials handlers and more. 

If you’re not sure you were working on a public project or have questions about whether you were paid the correct wage for your role, reaching out to a knowledgeable attorney is the best way to clarify and assert your rights. 

What Is A Private Right Of Action? 

A private right of action is the means of enforcing prevailing wage requirements as spelled out in The California Labor Code. A private right of action can also be undertaken to enforce the rights of workers under the Davis–Bacon Act if the project in question involves federal funding. 

At its core a private right of action means enlisting the aid of an attorney to bring litigation on your behalf against an employer or general contractor who failed to pay you the prevailing wage for your job class. A private right of action can result in the recovery of the wages that you should have been paid – plus interest and penalties – as well as court costs and attorney fees. 

What Are Your Options When An Employer Is Not Paying Prevailing Wages? 

The bad news is that it’s common for employers to simply deny your assertion or attempt to argue that the project in question is not a public works project and thus prevailing wage laws are not applicable. The good news is that you don’t have to take their word for it; an experienced attorney can get to the bottom of it and assert your right to be lawfully compensated for your work on a public project. 

Whether your employer or the project’s general contractor simply failed to pay you appropriately, misclassified you in an attempt to get around the law, or deny that the project was a public project, one thing remains the same: you are entitled to be paid the prevailing wage for your work, and an attorney with prevailing wage experience can act on your behalf if you choose to pursue a private right of action.  In some cases, demonstrating a strong case can prevent the need to go to court; looking down the barrel of a losing case has a tendency to produce a fair settlement offer.

Our law firm is a well-known pioneer in establishing a private right of action as a very successful way for workers to recover wages that should have been paid to them under the prevailing wage law. This includes helping to set the enforcement standards in these matters through our work in numerous published court cases on the subject. 

We look forward to speaking with you about your prevailing wage case and helping you get the outcome you deserve.

Disclaimer: The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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