Can my boss get around paying prevailing wages?

UPDATED: Sep 16, 2011

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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


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 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.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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