Awarding Authorities Play Key Role in Prevailing Wage Compliance

The Foundation for Fair Contracting of Massachusetts announces a new Public Construction Watch column designed to recognize Massachusetts municipal and state awarding authorities who demonstrate accountability for compliance with public construction laws.

Awarding authorities must receive, maintain and review certified payroll records to ensure prevailing wage compliance. Section 28 of the same law provides construction workers with “right of action” against a city or town for debt recovery.
Awarding Authorities can also prevent prevailing wage violations by challenging bids that are significantly below the average bid price. An irresponsibly low bid can trigger a preliminary hearing where the contractor must demonstrate how it will complete the project and comply with state laws. Based on findings of fact, an awarding authority may reject a low bid as long as the determination is not made in an arbitrary, capricious or illegal manner. The process could easily prevent delayed or unfinished projects and save hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars.

FFCM assists awarding authorities to identify and correct violations of the law before involving state enforcement agencies and resources. Our staff targets public projects throughout the Commonwealth, monitors bidding, collects and reviews certified payroll records, mails to workers and tracks cases to resolution. Potential bid irregularities or certain types of wage and certified payroll record violations are reported directly to the responsible town, city or state awarding authority for corrective action. Since 2010, FFCM has transmitted over 200 cases of alleged violations.

The Foundation works closely with responsive authorities to ensure that contractors paid with public tax dollars are accountable for compliance. Awarding authorities have required contractors to pay their workers restitution for missed “step” increases, submit certified payroll records weekly, resubmit non-compliant records with requisite complete and accurate information, or make other adjustments. This kind of enforcement by awarding authorities sends a clear message to all stakeholders that cheating workers, shortchanging taxpayers and undercutting law abiding contractors will not be tolerated.

The Foundation salutes the following Awarding Authorities for their cooperation and commitment to compliance and fair contracting:

Risking My Job By Asking for Overtime?

Dear Compliance Man,

I’m a construction worker and since I’ve worked for my boss I’ve never seen overtime. There are times when I’ll work well over 40 hours and not get overtime. Isn’t this illegal?

You’re probably thinking: why don’t you just say something to your boss? I guess I never had the courage, but I’m meeting with him today and I’m going to say something about all of this. I’m nervous, but this is my life and I work very hard for my living and I just want what’s mine. If it turns out that I’m being ripped off can I get back pay?

–Shorted in Sturbridge

Dear Shorted,

Thanks for writing. Your suspicions are right on the money. You should be getting at least time and a half your regular hourly rate anytime you work more than 40 hours in a week. The good news is that you can get some of that money back by filing a claim for overtime under either the federal or state minimum wage laws.

As you prepare to file your claim, it’s a good idea to try to assemble as much documentation as you can–pay stubs, your own notes about when and where you worked–anything that shows a history of your employer breaking the law. Keep in mind that there is a statute of limitation for overtime claims, meaning that you have to file your claim within a certain period of time, two years for overtime claims, three years for prevailing wage claims. Also, under state law, you may be entitled to triple damages if it’s determined that your employer’s violations were “intentional.” In addition, if you make a claim under state law and it is successful, you’re also entitled to collect attorney’s fees. Both the federal and state statutes prohibit retaliation against you because you file a claim for overtime wages due under the law.

If this sounds confusing–and legal matters almost always are–give us a call at 1-877-507-3247. We’d be happy to help you prepare your claim.

Good luck!

For more commonly asked Compliance Man questions, visit the Compliance Man archives. Send your question to

What Exactly is the FFCM and What Can It Do For Me?

Dear Compliance Man,

I recently received a letter from you people in the mail. It had my name, the company I’ve been working for and the project we’re working on. Then it had the amount of money I guess I’m supposed to be making, but what I am getting is a lot less than that. So I have two questions. First of all, how did you get my name, and second, how do I get the amount of money that I should be getting?

–Real confused in Reading

Dear Reading:

Thanks for writing! The Foundation For Fair Contracting of Massachusetts sends out tens of thousands of letters like the one you describe to workers just like you.

State law requires that contractors who get public money to work on construction projects—roads, libraries, schools, fire stations, etc—submit payroll records to the cities and towns that employ them. These records include your name and the amount that your employer says that you’re earning. In our capacity as a ‘watchdog’ group, we show you that number so you can check it against what you’re really making—the amount that shows up on your paycheck each week.

Now, for the second part of your question. If there is a difference between your personal bottom line and what your boss says you’re making, you’ll want to file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office.

For more information on how to do just that, give us a call at 1-877-507-3247, email us at, or fill out this electronic form.

For more commonly asked Compliance Man questions, visit the Compliance Man archives. Send your question to

Payments Are Perpetually Late

Dear Compliance Man:

My boss has a habit of paying us late. Is there anything we can do?

–Overdue in Otis

Dear Overdue:

Your boss may be late with the checks, but he’s on time when it comes to breaking the law.

Under Massachusetts law, late payment of wages is NOT allowed. Chapter 149, Section 148 of the state’s general code says that workers like you MUST be paid every two weeks. Employers who fail to deliver the checks on time are breaking the law and can be sued for back wages.

If you think you may have a case, call us at  1-877-507-3247, email us at, or fill out this electronic form. It’s free and confidential.

For more commonly asked Compliance Man questions, visit the Compliance Man archives. Send your question to


Compliance Man FAQs

In every Wage Watch issue, Compliance Man answers your questions about your rights as a public construction worker. And plenty of questions there are—I get letters, phone calls and e-mails from workers just like you almost every day.

While I love hearing from you (keep the questions coming!), many of the queries are very similar. So this issue, I’ve revisit some of the topics that seem to come up over and over again. Here’s a look:

“What is the FFCM and why are you sending me a letter?”

The FFCM monitors public construction projects all over the state, making sure that contractors who receive public money are paying their workers the prevailing wage. The Foundation for Fair Contracting sends out thousands of letters a year to public construction workers, informing them of what they are entitled to.

“So does that mean that my employer is cheating me?”

Look carefully at the letter and you’ll notice that we have included information about the rate recorded by your employer and other important issues like job classifications and overtime. Check the information in the letter against your pay stub. If things don’t match, there may be a problem.

“My boss is paying me less than the prevailing wage. Is there anything I can do?”

Yes! The FFCM is here to help you get back any money that you might be owed and works with the Attorney General’s office to make contractors like yours aware of their legal obligations to their employees. Our monitors will help you determine how much money you’re owed and assist you in filing a claim with the AG’s office.

One guarantee: the key to a strong case lies in good record keeping. If you think that you are being cheated on the job, start keeping track of the work you’re doing and how much you’re being paid for it ASAP. We can send you a logbook to help you keep track.

“I’m worried that there is something fishy going on with my pension plan—but my employer discourages me from asking questions.”

Under federal law, your employer is required to provide you with a copy of what’s called the Summary Plan Description (SPD), including information on what your plan provides and how it operates. You are also entitled to receive annual financial reports, individual benefit statements and other pension-related documents. Failure to provide such information could result in a penalty for your employer.

If you have pension problems, give us a call at  1-877-507-3247, email us at, or fill out this electronic form

For more commonly asked Compliance Man questions, visit the Compliance Man archives. Send your question to