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?