SUMMARY OF PREVAILING WAGE LAW CHANGES FROM 2015 WIS. ACT 551
1. Municipal projects are exempt from state prevailing wage law.
Public works projects by local governmental units are exempt from state prevailing wage beginning in 2017. This exemption includes counties, cities, villages, towns, and school districts and on all types of projects, including, but not limited to, roads, water and sewer projects, and schools and other buildings. As a result of this, no required state wage rates will be established on these projects. There will be no threshold for wage rates.
2. State public works projects remain covered.
State prevailing wage law still applies to projects of public works by the state, state agencies, and institutions of higher education (i.e., UW System). The single trade threshold of $48,000 and the multiple-trade threshold of $100,000 was not changed by Act 55.
3. The DWD has no enforcement authority over the remaining state prevailing wage laws.
Act 55 stripped the DWD of all investigatory and enforcement authority over the remaining state prevailing wage laws. Instead, the Department of Administration (DOA) has enforcement authority over non-highway state public works, and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WDOT) retained enforcement authority over state highway projects. The DOA has not yet begun the rule making process, so it is unclear who will issue prevailing wage determinations and how prevailing wage complaints will be processed.
4. Federal wage rates may apply to a municipal project but only if federal money is used to assist in paying for the project’s construction and only if a federal law requires that federal wage rates apply.
At the present time, no single governmental agency has been assigned to track the flow of federal money to state and local projects.
5. Investigations by third parties were restricted.
If a third party is investigating a violation, they must identify (in writing) who they are, who they work for, that they have NO affiliation with the DOA or DWD and who is paying for the investigation. The ability of a third party to investigate contractor compliance with wage laws was restricted by removing several tools previously available to them.
6. Contractor penalties were weakened.
Contractors are no longer required to file affidavits of compliance. The mandatory penalty, 100% liquidated damages for all non-highway public works projects, was repealed. This means that a contractor only has to back pay the employee what he owes them. Debarment is no longer a penalty for contractors that fail to comply with prevailing wage laws.
1All changes described on the text are effective as of January 1, 2017. Until January 1,
2017, all current prevailing wage laws remain in place.