Maryland Prevailing Wage Law (state)
The Maryland Prevailing Wage Law provides that construction workers on certain state and state-assisted projects are entitled to the locally prevailing wage, which is comprised of a basic hourly rate and fringe benefits rate. Examples of covered projects include school construction, affordable housing projects, and public roads.
Frequently asked questions
What is the Maryland Prevailing Wage Law?
The Maryland Prevailing Wage Law, enacted in 1945, was designed for the benefit of blue-collar construction workers. The law prevents cut-throat bidding in public procurement from eroding local area wages and benefits. The law protects wages and benefits by requiring that contractors and subcontractors on certain state and state-assisted projects pay construction workers at least the locally going rate, known as the prevailing wage.
Which projects does the law cover?
The Maryland Prevailing Wage Law applies to construction projects valued at or above $500,000 if either of the following criteria are met:
- The State is the contracting public body, or
- The contracting public body is a political subdivision, such as a county, and the State funds 50% or more of the project (except for school construction, which only requires State funding of at least 25%)
Examples of covered projects include school construction, wastewater treatment plants, court houses and other public buildings, roads, etc.
Source: MD Code, State Fin. & Proc. Art., §§17-201, 17-202
Which workers are entitled to the prevailing wage?
Construction workers (e.g., plumbers, carpenters, painters, operating engineers, insulators, sheet metal workers, ironworkers, electricians, laborers, etc.).
Can employers pay apprentices and helpers less than the prevailing wage?
Apprentices. Contractors are only allowed to pay less than the prevailing rate to apprentices in registered apprenticeship programs. Generally, such apprentices must be paid and utilized in accordance with their apprenticeship program. Apprentices who are not in a registered program, must receive the prevailing wage.
Helpers. Some employers on covered projects classify workers as “helpers” or “trainees” in order to pay them less. The Maryland Prevailing Wage Law prohibits this practice. Such workers must receive the prevailing wage rate that corresponds with the work they perform.
Source: MD Code, State Fin. & Proc. Art., §§17-201(b)(3), 17-205
What is the prevailing wage?
Prevailing wage rates refer to the hourly wage and fringe benefit rates that the Maryland Department of Labor (MDOL) establishes by county, for each classification of worker, based on survey data it collects every year from construction projects in the area. MDOL issues prevailing wage rates for each of the state’s 23 counties and for Baltimore City.
How can I find out whether I am being paid the proper prevailing wage?
The law requires contractors on covered projects to post prevailing wage rates in a prominent and easily accessible place on the job site. Contractors who fail to post wages are subject to a penalty of up to $50 per day. If you are working on a covered project and the contractor has failed to post the prevailing wage rates, FFC-MAR can help you determine whether you are being paid the proper rate. For assistance, please contact us.
Source: MD Code, State Fin. & Proc. Art., §§17-208, 17-209, 17-219
What should I do if my employer is not paying me the proper prevailing wage rate?
The Maryland Prevailing Wage Law gives workers two options: (1) You may file a complaint for backpay with the Maryland Department of Labor’s Prevailing Wage Unit, or (2) you can take your complaint straight to court and request backpay, double or treble damages, and attorney’s fees. Moreover, if you take your case to court and your employer is unable to pay, you may hold the general contractor on the project accountable.
Source: MD Code, State Fin. & Proc. Art., §17-224; S.B. 300, MD. General Assembly Session 2019 (to be codified at §17-224)
What if my employer retaliates against me?
It is unlawful for an employer to fire, threaten or otherwise retaliate against an employee for having filed a complaint alleging prevailing wage violations, or for participating in an investigation by the Maryland Department of Labor. If a contractor or subcontractor retaliates, the affected employee may file a lawsuit. If the employee prevails, the court shall order the employer to (1) reinstate the employee or provide the employee restitution; (2) pay the employee an amount equal to three times the amount of back wages and fringe benefits calculated from the date of the violation; and (3) pay attorney’s fees and other costs.
Source: MD Code, State Fin. & Proc. Art., §17-224(g) & (h)
Are independent contractors entitled to the prevailing wage?
Some employers misclassify their workers as independent contractors to avoid paying federal and state taxes, worker’s compensation, overtime, and other benefits that employees are entitled to.
Under Maryland law, however, workers in the construction industry are presumed to be employees, and the burden is on the employer to show otherwise. Also, an employer who classifies an individual as an independent contractor must provide a written notice, in both English and Spanish, explaining what that classification means.
If you believe that you are an employee who has been misclassified as an independent contractor, the Maryland Workplace Fraud Act gives you two options: (1) You may file a complaint with the Maryland Department of Labor’s Worker Classification Protection Unit, or (2) you may take your complaint straight to court and request treble damages and attorney’s fees. For assistance with your complaint, please contact us.
Source: MD Lab. & Empl. Art., §3-901 et seq.
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