Public Works Contracting: What you need to know

California law generally defines “public works” as the erection, construction, alteration, repair or improvement, demolition or installation done of any public structure, building, road, or other public improvement of any kind performed under public contract and paid for in whole or in part out of public funds. (Public Contract Code §1101, Labor Code § 1720(a)(1)) Public works includes construction activities and certain maintenance activities too.

Workers employed on public works projects in California must be paid no less than the state prevailing wages if the cost of the work exceeds $1,000. (Labor Code §1771) However, the requirement for payment of state prevailing wages is preempted by federal regulation when the work is being performed at public housing sites using federal funds. If the federally funded work at the public housing site involves a construction contract valued in excess of $2,000, then the workers employed on the project must be paid no less than the wage rates set forth in the Davis-Bacon Act, as approved by the U.S. Department of Labor. If the federally funded work at the public housing site involves a contract for “maintenance” work, then the workers employed on the project must be paid no less than the wages set forth in the wage rate decision approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). All Laborers and mechanics employed on a Public Works project must be paid prevailing wages.

HACLA will determine and identify public works activities and all applicable wage determinations in its solicitations. Questions regarding labor compliance should be directed to the Labor Compliance Administrator at LaborCompliance@hacla.org.

Contracting Requirements
Compliance Requirements