Can my boss get around paying prevailing wages?

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Can my boss get around paying prevailing wages?

I am a low voltage electrician working on a military base job in GA. My boss made a few of us sign a piece of paper stating that we were not electricians. I believe he is reclassifying us as regular laborers to avoid paying us prevailing wages. Can he really do that? If I didn’t sign the paper I believe that I would have been in danger of losing my job.

Asked on September 16, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Florida

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

As a general matter, an employer is under no obligation to pay prevailing wages--an employer can pay anything he, she, or it wants. That, of course, is subject to change by contract, whether an employment agreement, union contract, or the contract between the employer and his client or customer (e.g. the military)--which includes the terms of any RFR or bid. The first question then is to confirm whether there is a contract requiring prevailing wages or not.

If there is a contract or agreement requiring this, it is enforceable. An employer cannot get around a plain contractual requirement just by calling people something other than what they are--though if the employees "voluntarily" sign something stating they are not (for example) electricians, that can complicate matters, or at least introduce a factual question to be cleared up (e.g. what are they actually? what did the employer know? were they coerced into signing? etc.).

If you feel that you were forced to sign something depriving you of wages to which you are entitled you should consult with an employment attorney about the matter--possibly in conjunction with similarly affected colleagues of yours. Good luck.


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