The Definitions and Boundaries of Davis-Bacon

The Davis-Bacon Act (March 3, 1931) ensures that “laborers and mechanics” on federal and D.C. public construction projects of $2,000 or more are paid the prevailing wage, that is, the wage that is being paid for similar work in the region. To help accomplish the purpose of the Act, Congress added “Davis-Bacon” prevailing wage provisions into other laws through which federal agencies fund and insure public construction projects. These are known as the “related Acts.” In addition to prevailing wage requirements, the Davis-Bacon and related Acts (DBRA) include other labor standards, all of which are administered and enforced by the Department of Labor, Wage, and Hour Division.

What is a Public Construction Project?

According to the regulation (29 CFR 5.1, et seq.), the work that is covered on a construction project includes any “construction, alteration and/or repair, including painting and decorating.” It also includes remodeling, installation of items that were fabricated elsewhere, manufacturing items to be used in the project, furnishing materials, and transportation between the site of work and a facility that is dedicated to the construction of the work like a tool yard.

A project is “public” when the work is done on a public building, done under the direct authority of a federal agency with the intent that it benefits the general public, done with funds from a federal agency, or the funds were acquired with the help of a pledge or guarantee from a federal agency.

Who is Included?

In order to be a part of the project and benefit from Davis-Bacon, your work must be done either at the work site, which is the physical location where the structure is being constructed, or at one of the other places that is dedicated exclusively, or nearly so, to the completion of the project, provided of course that this other place is near enough to the actual site. Examples include a job headquarters, tool yard, batch plant, or borrow pit.

Workers are not covered under DBRA if they work at a permanent home office, branch plant, fabrication plant, or even the tool yard, of a contractor (or subcontractor) that is not operating that location for the sole purpose of completing the project. Also, anyone who works for a materials supplier that was established as the materials supplier for the project even before bids were requested, do not qualify. Generally, permanent, previously established facilities are not covered.

The term “laborer or mechanic” refers to workers whose duties are manual or physical in nature, including machinery operators and tradesmen, as opposed to those who engage in mental or managerial tasks. Apprentices, trainees, and helpers also count. In some cases, watchmen and guards are even considered laborers. A working foreman is a laborer if he spends at least 20% of his time doing manual duties and he is not a professional (advanced degree holders like doctors, lawyers, scientists, etc.) or executive. People who engage in administrative, executive, or clerical work, especially professionals, are not laborers or mechanics.