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Definition and summary of the 1931 Davis Bacon Act labor law.
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What Is the Davis Bacon Act of 1931?

History, updates, and compliance for the Davis Bacon Act

The Davis Bacon Act of 1931 is a federal law that requires all on-site employees be paid fair wages, benefits, and overtime (also known as the “prevailing wage”) weekly while working on government-funded construction, alteration, or repair projects at a minimum threshold of $2,000. 

Recent Updates

The Davis Bacon Act has been modified since it was enacted by Congress in 1931. It’s critical to follow the updates because there are important implications for organizations that take on government-funded construction work. Here are the latest updates to be aware of.

What is the Davis Bacon Act of 1931?

Davis Bacon Act 2017
January 30, 2017 - An attempt to repeal the prevailing wage provisions of the Davis Bacon Act was introduced by Rep. Steve King (R-IA). Rep. King asserted that the provisions not only inflate wages, thus increasing taxpayer costs, but they also give unionized firms an advantage over nonunionized contractors bidding on government-contracted construction projects. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

Davis Bacon Act 2016
March 23, 2016 - Currently sitting with the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, the Adjusting Davis Bacon for Inflation Act, introduced in September 2015 by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC), moved to increase the minimum threshold that requires prevailing wages be paid from $2,000 up to $50,000. 

Davis Bacon Act 2015
July 16, 2015 - A previous attempt to repeal the Davis Bacon Act was introduced in July 2015 by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). The bill — referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions — not only sought to repeal the Act, but also render null and void any state that also held wage requirement (or a “Little Davis Bacon Act”) for government-funded construction projects. 

February 13, 2015 - Rep. Steve King’s (R-IA) previous attempt to repeal the Davis Bacon Act was introduced in February 2015. It has since been referred to the House Committee on Education and Workforce. Similar to Sen. Lee’s attempt to repeal, this would also repeal any state’s Little Davis Bacon Act. 

Compliance With the Davis Bacon Act

1. Certified Payroll - Certified payroll is essential for Davis Bacon compliance (and avoiding costly Davis Bacon violations) because they are mandatory on almost all government-funded construction, alteration, or repair projects. Certified payroll reports are submitted weekly on Federal WH-347 forms and include information about each on-site employee and a statement of compliance. 

For more on certified payroll, read The Ultimate Guide to Certified Payroll

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2. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) - Complying with the Davis Bacon Act and submitting certified payroll reports are dependent on how employees are classified. Under the FLSA, the benefits and overtime a worker makes determine his or her classification. Classifying employees correctly will ensure employee information is recorded correctly on weekly certified payroll reports. Using the right construction time clock can help contractors keep adequate records for FLSA compliance.

For more on employee classification, check out the latest FLSA regulations. 

Certified payroll is essential for Davis Bacon compliance.

Davis Bacon Act Summary

Davis Bacon Act Definition: The Davis Bacon Act is a federal law that mandates on-site workers be paid certain wages, benefits, and overtime (also known as “prevailing wage”) on all government-funded construction, alteration, and repair projects. The bill was enacted by Congress in 1931, and in 2013 President Barack Obama signed the Streamlining Claims Processing for Federal Contractor Employees Act, which passed authority of the Davis Bacon Act to the United States Department of Labor. 


Davis Bacon Act Applicability: The Davis Bacon Act is applicable to all on-site employees working on government-funded construction, alteration, and repair projects. According to the Davis Bacon Act, “workers” are further defined by their trade and classification as not only “laborers” and “mechanics,” by also as carpenters, electricians, plumbers, ironworkers, flaggers, craftsmen, welders, concrete finishers, longshoremen, power equipment operators, and helpers. 


Davis Bacon Act and the Department of Labor: There have been over 119,000 reported violations of the Davis Bacon Act over the last 32 years, according to the United States Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. Though there are several ways to violate the Davis Bacon Act, the most common by far is failing to pay the prevailing wage. As a result, over $197 million in back wages have been paid to employees working under the Davis Bacon Act. Construction was the worst affected industry, followed by waste management and remediation services and the manufacturing industry. 
 

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