New Jersey is one of many states that have taken steps to protect the rights of workers in certain career fields by establishing prevailing wage laws. State laws have been implemented to address concerns associated with government contractors and subcontractors accused of exploiting their workers at the expense of taxpayers. In general, the New Jersey Prevailing Wage Act combats unfair labor practices by establishing a prevailing wage for workers who support public works.
Under the Prevailing Wage Act (PWA), the rate at which a worker must be compensated is determined by the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development and is based on collective bargaining agreements (CBA) in the area in which the work is performed. The Commissioner issues prevailing rate tables that are available from the state. Each county has a unique table specified for their needs. Each table lists various types of jobs and experience levels along with an associated rate of pay for each specific classification. Wage payments are based upon experience and county. For example, a general laborer in Middlesex County will be paid less than a site foreman. Workers in other career fields may have different applicable rates. Rates are subject to change, so it is important that workers stay informed in order to ensure that they are being paid the correct amount.
In order to be covered by the PWA, a worker must typically be working under a covered contract. Typically, a qualifying contract must be valued at $2,000 for non-municipalities and $15,000 for municipalities. Contractors wishing to receive these types of contracts must register with the state and pay applicable registration fees before being eligible.
In order to enforce the PWA, the New Jersey Division of Wage and Hour Compliance may conduct routine site visits of projects being performed by public contractors. The penalties an employer may face for violating the PWA are not insignificant. An employer who violates the PWA can be subject to fines of up to $1,000. Furthermore, a willful and continued violation can result in imprisonment of up to 90 days.
Combined with other state laws, the PWA provides an employee working for a government contractor with significant rights. For instance, if an employee has not been paid the appropriate rate and files a complaint, the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA) prohibits the employer from retaliating against the employee. Furthermore, both the PWA and the NJ Law Against Discrimination (NJ LAD) prevent an employee from being paid an unfair wage on the basis of any of his protected characteristics, such as race, gender or age.
Although the PWA intends to protect workers’ rights, specific wage tables may be difficult to interpret. There are many different types of workers and determining which job description properly describes a worker’s job may be confusing. Furthermore, workers may not be able to keep up with changes to the rate tables. An experienced lawyer can help you understand these complexities and help protect your rights in the event that your employer has violated the PWA. Contact The Mark Law Firm, LLC to discuss the Prevailing Wage Laws, N.J.S.A. 34:11-56.25 et seq. New Jersey State Prevailing Wage Act. We can provide you with an explanation of your obligations and rights and guide you through your options. If you need a dedicated firm and diligent representation, contact The Mark Law Firm, LLC.