2014 Offers Significant Changes to Prevailing Wage Law
A number of bills signed by Governor Brown in 2013 and effective January 1, 2014 relate to prevailing wages in California. One notable bill (AB 1336) provides new tools to crack down on wage and benefit theft in California's underground economy. Employers who provide services or construction work for the government or public entities must pay the prevailing wage, which is usually significantly higher than the minimum wage. Contractors who fail to pay employees correct wages on public works will be less likely to get away with it thanks to AB 1336.
How AB 1336 Changes Prevailing Wage Law – Change #1
Existing law requires the Labor Commissioner, if the commissioner or his or her designee determines after an investigation that there has been a violation of the public works provisions, to issue a civil wage and penalty assessment to the contractor or subcontractor, or both. The assessment is required to be in writing, describe the nature of the violation and the amount of wages, penalties, and forfeitures due, and include the basis for the assessment. The assessment is required to be served not later than 180 days after the filing of a valid notice of completion in the office of the county recorder in each county in which the public work or some part thereof was performed, or not later than 180 days after acceptance of the public work, whichever occurs last. If the assessment is served after the expiration of the 180-day period, but before the expiration of an additional 180 days, and the awarding body has not yet made full payment to the contractor, the assessment is valid up to the amount of the funds retained.
As of January 1, 2014, the 180-day deadline has been extended to 18 months allowing time for workers to come forward and make back wage and benefit claims when they are less vulnerable to retaliation. This extension in the statute of limitations also allows more time for investigation by state and private entities often overwhelmed by the volume of wage theft cases.
How AB 1336 Changes Prevailing Wage Law – Change #2
Amendments to the California Labor Code provisions governing access to certified payroll records contained in AB 1336 will assist groups working to crack down on the underground economy. There are two key provisions in the bill that will help prevailing wage compliance groups and trust funds assure that workers get the proper wages and fringe benefits.
First, joint LMCCs established by unions and contractors to enforce prevailing wages will have access to names and addresses of the workers reported on certified payroll records submitted by contractors under Labor Code section 1776.
Second, Taft-Hartley trust funds will have access to names addresses and the last four digits of the workers' social security number so they are able to match trust payments to workers accounts to assure that each hour worked on a public works job gets credited to the worker who earned it. Currently, there are many instances of wage theft that involve payroll records that do not report all the hours an employee is actually working. Providing the names of the employees will allow the LMCCs to properly follow-up and determine if the payroll records are fraudulent.
How AB 1336 Changes Prevailing Wage Law – Change #3
Finally, AB 1336 requires, among other things, the court, in an action on prevailing wages, to award restitution to an employee for unpaid wages, plus interest, from the date the wages became payable. The bill also adds remedies in the form of liquidated damages equal to the amount of unpaid wages owed, and would authorize the imposition of civil penalties only against an employer that failed to pay the prevailing wage to its employees, injunctive relief, or any other appropriate equitable relief.
AB 1336 clearly outlines additional time, information accessibility, and remedies to ensure that workers on public works projects get paid the wages and benefits they have earned. If you feel you have not been paid the wages you are justly owed, the lawyers at Kingsley & Kingsley can help.
Questions about AB 1336 or other California Wage and Employment Laws?
Don't hesitate to contact leading California employment lawyers from Kingsley & Kingsley located in Encino, CA. Take advantage of a free initial consultation to discuss your specific case by calling us toll-free at (888) 500-8469 or clicking here to contact us regarding your case.