We have previously written about the Department of Labor’s effort to expand the scope of its regulatory and enforcement jurisdiction over government contractors against the wishes of Congress and even fellow federal agencies. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia struck down an attempt by the DOL to significantly expand the Davis-Bacon Act to apply to the construction of a Public-Private Partnership project. The Davis-Bacon Act requires that contractors on federal and DC government construction projects pay prevailing wages and fringe benefits to the workers on such projects. DOL sought to apply the Act to CityCenterDC, which is a mixed-use development on the site of the DC Convention Center. This project includes 60 retail stores, various private offices, approximately 700 residential units, and a 370-room luxury hotel. 
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On February 25, 2016, the Department of Labor proposed regulations requiring many government contractors to provide up to seven days of paid sick leave to employees. The proposal seeks to implement Executive Order 13706, which was
issued by President Obama on Labor Day last year. DOL estimates that the new regulatImage: www.flickr.com/photos/pyxopotamusions will provide paid sick leave to nearly 437,000 government contractor employees who had none before.

Here is a look at DOL’s proposal—

The basics

Application:  Government contractors and subcontractors working under covered contracts.

Covered Contracts:  (1) Davis-Bacon Act contracts; (2) Service Contract Act contracts; (3) concessions contracts; and (4) contracts offering services under leases and licenses associated with Federal property.

Affected Employees:  Employees performing work on covered contracts whose wages are governed by the DBA, SCA, or FLSA, as well as exempt employees.

Absences Covered:  Those absences resulting from:

  • Their own illnesses or other physical or mental health care needs, including preventive care.
  • The care of a family member or loved one who is ill or needs healthcare, including preventive care.
  • Purposes resulting from being the victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking, or to assist a family member or loved one who is such a victim.

No Credit:  Paid sick leave under the proposed regulations would not count towards meeting prevailing wage or fringe benefit obligations under the DBA or SCA.

Enforcement:  Complaints of non-compliance would be filed with the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division. There is an investigatory process and an administrative process for resolving disputed questions of fact and law. Contractors found to have violated the regulations may be subject to the withholding of funds, damages, and debarment.

Effective Date:  New or replacement contracts solicited by or otherwise awarded on or after January 1, 2017.
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Criminal charges for minimum wage violations are certainly rare. But the November 2015 indictment of electrical contractor Marcus Butler shows that they are possible. Mr. Butler faces jail time and heavy fines for allegedly making false certifications regarding $126,514 in Davis-Bacon Act wages on three HUD multi-family housing projects.

Given the rarity of criminal indictments for wage-and-hour violations, I infer that Mr. Butler’s alleged conduct was much worse than simply miscalculating the prevailing wage or losing track of some payroll records. But there is nothing in the indictment that would reveal the underlying aggravating factors that motivated it. The Government asserts simply that Mr. Butler participated in a “scheme” and that he “knowingly and willfully” overstated wages and benefits on his 61 separate certified payrolls (DOL Form WH-347).

It will probably be some time before we see whether this is case is the result of overreaching conduct by DOL and government attorneys (like another recent DOL case) or the application of the new Justice Department policy set forth in the Yates Memorandum on Individual Accountability for Corporate Wrongdoing. This new policy will almost certainly increase the number of criminal charges arising from ordinary non-compliance and administrative oversight. Husch Blackwell’s client alert on the Yates Memorandum is available here.

Either way, now is the right time for federal contractors to take on the task of reviewing and updating their own HR policies and practices.


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President Obama signed an Executive Order raising the minimum wage for employees of federal contractors on February 12, 2014. Our earlier entry on the issue discusses how a higher minimum wage will affect current contractors. It looks like more waiting will be required before the true impact will be known.

The Executive Order calls for the Secretary of Labor and the FAR Council to draft regulations and contract provisions implementing the new minimum wage and to publish them later this year. But the Executive Order also includes some useful guidance.

Here are the key takeaways—


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As part of the Obama Administration’s push to raise the minimum wage, the President announced during his State of the Union speech that he intends to issue an Executive Order raising the minimum wage for workers on federal contracts to $10.10 per hour. We’ll wait for the Executive Order itself before offering specific guidance on its requirements, but it’s not too early for contractors to begin thinking about how this might impact their business. Here are a few things to consider—

1.  The new minimum wage could apply to some current contracts.

The Obama Administration has asserted that the wage increase will apply only to new federal contracts—i.e., those awarded after the effective date of the Order. But the regulations implementing the prevailing wage requirements could mean that the $10.10 minimum will also apply to some current contracts.

The McNamara-O’Hara Service Contract Act requires contractors and subcontractors performing service contracts to pay their workers not less than the locally prevailing wage or the amount paid by the predecessor contractor under a collective bargaining agreement. The Department of Labor prepares wage determinations establishing the minimum wages and fringe benefits based on surveys of local prevailing wages or existing collectively bargaining agreements.

FAR provisions implementing the Service Contract Act contemplate that the prevailing wages may change during the course of a service contract. Under FAR 22.1007, the contracting officer is required to obtain and incorporate a new wage determination for modifications that extend the term of an existing contract or make a change in the scope of work “whereby labor requirements are affected significantly.” FAR 22.1007(b). A new wage determination is also required on the annual or biennial anniversary date of multi-year service contracts. FAR 22.1007(c). Depending on how the Executive Order implementing the new minimum wage is worded, the wage determination applicable to contract modifications or to multi-year service contracts could require current contractors to pay the new $10.10 minimum wage.


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Jurisdictional issues arising from disputes about wages and benefits required by federal minimum wage statutes like the Davis-Bacon Act and the Service Contract Act can be tricky. In some cases, the Department of Labor has exclusive power to resolve such disputes. In others, the dispute must be resolved by the contracting officer, with appeal rights available under the Contract Disputes Act. The ASBCA’s recent decision in Caddell Constr. Co., ASBCA No. 57831 (May 21, 2012) [pdf] helps determine which cases fall on either side of this line.

The case arose from an Air Force contract to build a new commissary and related site work at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The solicitation included two wage determinations—one for highway construction with low wage rates and another for building construction with much higher wage rates. Prior to bid, the agency told bidders to use the lower highway construction wage determination. During performance, the contracting officer required the contractor to pay wages according to the higher wage determination for building construction.

The contractor submitted a claim in accordance with the Contract Disputes Act. At the Board, the government moved to dismiss the appeal, arguing that such labor disputes are reserved to the Department of Labor. The Board denied the motion, holding that the Board has jurisdiction to hear disputes over wage issues “where there was an alleged mistake (mutual or unilateral) as to the applicability of the Davis-Bacon Act to appellant’s employees.” The Board concluded that it had jurisdiction to hear the contractor’s claim to recover additional wages paid to employees as a result of faulty wage rate information provided to bidders before submission of bids.

But why is this important?


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Once again a contractor covered by the Davis-Bacon Act has been penalized for not maintaining adequate payroll records. In Pythagoras General Contracting Corp. v. Dep’t of Labor, ARB Nos. 08-107 & 09-007, ALJ No. 2005-DBA-14 (Feb. 10, 2011) [pdf], the DOL’s Administrative Review Board upheld a determination to debar the contractor from getting any future federal contracts for up to three years and increasing the monetary penalty significantly.
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