In 1963, the New Jersey legislature passed the New Jersey Prevailing Wage Act, N.J.S.A. 34:11-56.25 to -56.46. (the “PWA”). The express stated public policy of the PWA is:
to establish a prevailing wage level for workmen engaged in public works in order to safeguard their efficiency and general well-being and to protect them as well as their employers from the effects of serious and unfair competition resulting from wage levels detrimental to efficiency and well-being.
N.J.S.A. 34:11-56.25. New Jersey courts have described the purpose of the PWA as: “[t]he prevailing wage rate is a minimum wage rate and is unquestionably designed to protect union contractors from underbidding on public work by their non-union competitors who conceivably would have the advantage of paying their labor nonunion wages.” Cipparulo v. David Friedland Painting Co., Inc., 139 N.J. Super. 142, 148 (App. Div. 1976).
Simply stated, the PWA is designed to set a minimum wage on public projects that non-union contractors must pay their non-union employees so that union employees are not put at a disadvantage. The prevailing wage rate varies from county to county in New Jersey and depends on an employee’s craft or trade (i.e. carpenter, plumber, general laborer, etc.).
The public body that awards a public contract must specific the prevailing wage rates in the public contract for the specific locality of the project and for each craft or trade. N.J.S.A. 34:11-56.28. In turn, the contractors and subcontractors performing the public work must post the prevailing wage rates for each craft and classification involved in prominent and easily accessible places at the site of the work or at such place or places as are used by them to pay workmen their wages. N.J.S.A. 34:11-56.32.
The PWA provides for a private cause of action against the employer, including class actions, on behalf of all workmen who were paid less than the prevailing wage they were entitled to by the employer. N.J.S.A. 34:11-56.40. A prevailing employee is entitled to “the full amount of such prevailing wage less any amount actually paid to him or her by the employer together with costs and such reasonable attorney’s fees as may be allowed by the court”. Ibid. An employee has six (6) years to file such a lawsuit. Troise v. Extel Communications, Inc., 345 N.J. Super. 231, 234 (App. Div. 2001), aff’d 174 N.J. 375 (2002).
Contact a New Jersey Employment Lawyer
If you are an employee and believe you have worked on a public project and have not been paid the prevailing wage rate by your employer, you may very well have a viable and lucrative claim under the Prevailing Wage Act. Immediately contact the attorneys at The Sattiraju & Tharney, LLP in Princeton, New Jersey at (609) 722-7039 for a free consultation. We fight for workers’ justice under a litany of employee-rights statutes including the PWA.